My late maternal uncle who was a Mentri Besar of my home state of Negeri Sembilan have been derided in jest by some as one of the most 'stupid' of all former MB's in the country. Why? Well, perhaps because he was an honest and upright gentleman of the 'old school' and who didn't make any money while in office. Although he was a reasonably well-off general practitioner (he was one of the early pioneer Malay medical doctors) before he entered politics, he died almost a forgotten man some years ago in an ordinary kampung bungalow in a low-cost housing area in Seremban, my hometown.
Now compare this with the recent hoo-ha in the mass media over the 4-storey 'palace' (photo) being built by a local politician in Port Klang.
I must confess that I had a hand in helping this man rise to his present 'exalted' status by awarding him his first small contract for the supply of 'berthing and unberthing' gangs for ships in Port Klang, more than 20 years ago. A former railway gate-keeper turned businessman, he was a brash and a bit naive young man then. I was quite aghast then at the way he was aggressively pursuing his political ambitions and the dubious methods he used to get the required political patronage and be in the 'good books' of his party elders.
But at least then he was honest enough to admit to me privately. He said, "Capt, I am a coolie. I didn't go to school and memang kurang ajar. So how else to make it to the top?"
In retrospect, I guess he was absolutely right. The man just didn't know any better and can hardly be faulted since he didn't get to go to Oxford.
And if everybody else amongst the cerdik pandai politicians are also doing it and getting away with it, then dammit sirs, why not him indeed ...
Samad Ismail : Of Friends & Foes
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