To avoid more gaffes, ministers to learn to speak sensibly


(TMI) – Datuk Seri Najib Razak has directed mandatory media training for his ministers to prevent more missteps that have made his administration a laughing stock among Malaysians, sources said.

The prime minister’s second term has been marked by “foolish” remarks from several ministers that spawned Internet memes and jokes detrimental to Putrajaya’s image, the sources told The Malaysian Insider.

“The prime minister wants ministers to undergo media training to avoid repeatedly delivering foolish remarks,” said a source on the condition of anonymity.

 “We do not want Putrajaya’s image spoilt because of statements given by ministers like Ku Nan and Hasan Malek,” the source added.

The source was referring to Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hasan Malek’s reminder that people should be thankful for having “sincere” leaders who “prioritise people’s needs” above all else, as quoted by Umno mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia.

This came on the heels of Putrajaya’s move to cut subsidies to reduce its fiscal deficit and back-to-back hike in prices that left the rakyat feeling the pinch of the rise in cost of living.

Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor had also come under fire for telling off property owners in Kuala Lumpur who complained about a hike in assessment rates.

“You want me to revaluate your property at 0.1% for 21 years? It does not matter to me… up to you.” He had admonished the media over the issue, telling them: “I don’t know why people like to spin this issue out of control. You should tell the rakyat that this is good for them,” he had said.

Putrajaya’s economic czar, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar is also remembered for his advice to the people a few months ago to stop eating chicken if the prices were too high and to use alternative roads if they did not want to pay toll on highways, when he spoke of impending hike in toll rates.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Najib was unhappy that such statements by ministers had only served to portray Putrajaya in an unfavourable light.

A minister confirmed that Najib had given the directive during the cabinet meeting on Wednesday that ministers are to undergo a course and seminar on how to deal with the media.

The minister was quick to add that it is common practice for cabinet members to attend trainings, seminars and courses, and that it is not because of their shortcomings.

“Courses for ministers are always there and everyone has to attend those that involve our KPI. There are many other things that require our attendance from time to time as part of developing our knowledge,” the cabinet member said.

“In the (cabinet) meeting, we only discussed matters that needed action to be taken. But there is no special notice for the directive,” the minister added.

Minister Datuk Hassan Malek also confirmed the media training and said it would be done soon.

“Any time soon, We have to upgrade our media presentation,” he said without wanting to be drawn on it further.

Putrajaya has received much criticism from the public and the opposition over its stream of subsidy rationalisation that began in September 2013.

While economists lauded Putrajaya’s move to cut subsidies to reduce its fiscal deficit, the hike in prices drew negative responses from the people who felt the immediate effects of the rising cost of living.

Last month, a survey by University of Malaya Centre of Democracy and Election (UMCEDEL) showed that ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) could risk losing more support at the 14th general election if it does not address the rising cost of living.