The politics of hypocrisy 

Free Malaysia Today 

If we were to have a law governing good taste, it should provide for the punishment of hypocrites who denounce other hypocrites. Certainly, no political organisation in Malaysia has a monopoly on the hypocrisy business, but if we had a device to measure hypocrisy, it would show that Prime Minister Najib went way ahead of his competitors with his recent comment about the pay rise for members of the Selangor state assembly.

What can be more hypocritical than an accusation of hypocrisy that comes from someone who has yet to give a plausible explanation for the wasteful ways not only of his administration and party, but even his wife? He probably thinks the Malaysian public is gullible enough to swallow Shahidan Kassim’s justification of her use of the official executive jet. That’s bad taste upon bad taste.

The way the BN papers went to town with Najib’s outburst makes one wonder whether they have only now learned that hypocrisy happens in Malaysian politics. The rest of us know that it is one of the defining characteristics of political discourse in this country. Listen, for instance, to Umno leaders when they denounce DAP for having only Chinese interest at heart. Often enough, they would in the same speech assert Umno’s credentials as a champion of Malay interests and ignore the reality that one of its bedfellows is an all-Chinese party.

As for the Selangor pay rise, we don’t know exactly how to react to Khalid Ibrahim’s explanation that he wanted the assemblymen to dedicate themselves to their duties and not seek other sources of income. Should we admire him for his candor or curse him for his audacity? How much does an assemblyman need to satisfy his greed? The current salary is already enough to inspire envy in the average Malaysian. And would Khalid care to explain how the assemblymen have been supplementing their income in the last five years? After all, Pakatan Rakyat is all for transparency.

Rather than give piecemeal responses to knee-jerk reactions, Khalid must explain to Selangor citizens how the extra expense incurred in the pay hike would translate into a better quality of life for them, manifested, for instance, in cleaner rivers or a reduction in poverty, thanks to well-paid and hard-working assemblymen. A man of his corporate and political experience should not find it too hard to provide a comprehensive explanation.