Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Beware of the more refined Tajuddins in our midst

It is our duty as voters to stay vigilant against sweet promises and pleasing rhetoric and match them against politicians' track records, regardless of which side of the divide they are from.

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The sacking of Tajuddin Abdul Rahman as chairman of Prasarana Malaysia Bhd on Wednesday was a welcome relief. Since his appointment last year, the Pasir Salak MP had been courting controversy due to his publicly known run-ins with his own senior management. It was finally his unprofessional conduct in the aftermath of the LRT rail mishap that saw Tajuddin’s swift exit from the Prasarana board.

As we cheer the departure of the boorish politician from a plush job indirectly funded by taxpayers, one wonders how many more Tajuddins there are in our midst. For the longest time, GLC political appointees like Tajuddin have projected themselves as undertaking a “national service” for the people.

In truth, such appointments are often treated as stepping stones for personal political career advancements, if not the key to a warchest. The same applies not just to those who hold top GLC or statutory board posts, but many other sweet-talking operatives whose ultimate aim is to climb the political ladder.

Tajuddin may be easy to spot and hence called out due to his tactless demeanour. But what about those who share Tajuddin’s traits but are more polished or even backed by a team of spin doctors to project a predetermined public persona?

Take ex-prime minister Najib Razak. He has been riding high with his Bossku phenomenon, pressing on all the right buttons, purportedly speaking up for the people, positioning himself as a future prime minister.

Of late, one of his pet topics has been the government’s ballooning public debts. Riding on his stature as ex-finance minister, he expressed “concerns” over the supposed RM115.53 billion debts incurred by the government and whether the country could afford to service the loans.

But Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz came out to clarify that the national debt as of May was only at RM99.3 billion, and not as alleged by Najib who resorted to some numbers-massaging. In fact, some RM42.3 billion of the national debt was attributed to 1MDB, SRC and Strategic Energy Resources Sdn Bhd.

In other words, Najib, who accused the government of irresponsible borrowings, had during his administration, contributed the largest chunk of the current national debts, including government guarantees!

In total, the government’s legacy debts stood at around RM40 billion, of which RM15.5 billion had been paid, according to Zafrul’s social media post. Just the outstanding loan of RM24.5 billion alone would have been enough for the government to buy Covid-19 vaccines between seven and eight times over!

Just as Tajuddin’s “caring for commuters and the public” persona was betrayed by his unprofessional conduct during and after Tuesday’s media conference, Najib’s political posturing about national issues such as the country’s debts does not jive with his track record.

Put another way, Najib is not that different from Tajuddin, although the former is more refined and polished, but no less deceptive and requires more effort to see through the duplicity and word-play.

There’s an abundance of such characters in our political theatre, some more easy to spot than others. It is our duty as voters to stay vigilant against sweet promises and pleasing rhetoric and match them against the politicians’ track records, regardless of which side of the divide they are from.

It is when we let our guard down that we end up with leaders whom we think are the light at the end of the tunnel, when they are in fact that of an oncoming train on a deadly collision course that will derail our nation-building efforts.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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