THE least a politician can do is to admit he is in the wrong if a mistake has been committed. Denials won’t help. Finding excuses is futile; instead, take responsibility.
These are simple gestures of integrity. Forget about the notions of being a visionary, one who inspires and the ability to influence. For many politicians, those are textbook traits which are almost impossible to emulate.
People will understand. They are not looking at you with contempt for acknowledging your weakness. No one is superhuman. Politicians are not perfect. After all, we are fully aware that only politicians do what politicians do.
Joining a durian party. Eating at a warung. Test driving a car. Mocking an incident that caused injuries to countless people at a media conference. Travelling abroad during the movement control order. Attending a religious ritual involving a newborn baby at a celebrity’s house.
Caught in the act, it is impossible to deny it. In a world of social media, nothing is secret, everything is there for everyone to see.
Politicians who fail to admit their mistakes will forever be at the lowest rung of the political respectability.
But sadly, many will survive. In fact, adored and elevated. Little wonder the public is disillusioned with the entire system. Never before are politicians being looked at with so much scorn as they are now.
You don’t need a survey or poll to know the respectability index for politicians has plummeted to the lowest level ever. Many are apprehensive that even if Parliament is reconvened, the quality of debate and the shouting matches will drown the real issues affecting the rakyat today.
We are living in a dangerous time now. The pandemic is killing lives and livelihoods. People are suffering. Industries and companies are decimated. No amount of financial incentives – real or otherwise – will change that.
We started well but admittedly, at this stage, we are performing dismally. The number of infected people is staggering. Perhaps at the rate things are, we will breach the one million people-infected mark in less than three months.
We are not looking for miracles. We are looking for leaders with a strategy to take us out of this impasse. A good strategy comes from a well-coordinated, well-thought-out and people-friendly policies, concocted collectively by the best brains in various expertise and disciplines.
This is not about political consideration alone. Decisions to be made should be based on science, too.
The stakeholders who are industry players and the business community at large must be engaged. The voices of business guilds and associations must be heard, too.
Hawkers and small retailers should not be ignored, too. They know what kind of help they need.
The SMEs are badly affected. If these companies go down, millions are affected.
According to the World Bank in its latest Economic Monitor report, Malaysian SMEs will fare worse than those in Indonesia and Vietnam in facing the pandemic. That is only the tip of the iceberg.
There are loads of complaints from various sectors about how they suffered. It is not just about the money promised but where the money goes to.
We have lost track of Mak Cik Kiah now simply because the one-off much-publicised help was not helping her in the long run. Many of her clients can’t even afford to buy her pisang goreng.
Let’s get real. We have a problem. We need a multi-pronged effort to fight the pandemic.
Our people are in a state of pandemic fatigue. We can’t go on from one lockdown to another.
When there is so much uncertainty, incoherence and despair in the air, we can’t move far.
When there is massive distrust in what the government is doing, we will encounter problems. We know there is a massive communication gap in disseminating information. Information is not entrusted to the ministry responsible. Too many cooks are producing half-baked broths.
On the other hand, if people believe that there is a situation of “antara dua darjat” (rich and poor) and that of the almost untouchable cluster “kayangan” (elite), we can’t expect people to have renewed confidence in the government.
Some politicians are already casting aspersion on a netizen’s initiative – the raising of “bendera putih” (white flag). If you can‘t help the needy, let the rakyat help each other.
Johan Jaaffar is a journalist, editor and for some years chairman of a media company, and is passionate about all things literature and the arts. And a diehard rugby fan. The views expressed here are entirely his own.