Where are the PM’s priorities, right now?

Anwar Ibrahim seems to be more interested in politics than economics as there is very little economic progress since he became PM.

(FMT) – The world is currently totally captivated with the conflict in the Middle-East. Israel and Palestine have spent decades waging war with each other, and the perennial struggle centres around who that land belongs to.

History is often “curated” in such a way that each of the protagonists claim the ultimate right to exist there. Both sides have their vociferous supporters around the world.

Malaysia has neither diplomatic relations with, nor recognises Israel, and has consistently supported the Palestinian struggle. Our government as well as local non-governmental organisations (NGOs), have time and again channelled sizeable aid to the Palestinian people.

Now, a few days ago, the prime minister proposed that our government pledge a considerable sum to the newly-launched Palestine Humanitarian Fund under the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs). Aside from this, it was also reported that Malaysian charities have collected 50,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid worth about RM7 million for Palestinians in Gaza.

Of course, universal human values dictate that in times of need, humanity must rise up and offer a helping hand to those displaced by conflict, and come to their rescue. It is heartwarming that the Malaysian people, once again, have risen to the occasion, and offered Palestinians the necessary aid to assuage their hardship.

But our task this time is to make sure that the aid is channelled correctly, and reaches those in need. We cannot forget that the Palestinian Ambassador to Malaysia dropped a bombshell a few years ago that donations raised by Malaysian NGOs had failed to reach them.

Last week, the parliamentary committee on international relations and international trade made a rather abstruse suggestion. They proposed that we should send a team to the Rafah crossing to vet Gaza refugees, and bring them to Malaysia.

Additionally, Wong Chen, the chairman of the bipartisan committee, a stalwart in the PM’s own PKR party, said the committee commended the government’s pledge to donate RM100 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The push back from Malaysian citizens was ferocious. The two most common retorts were to remind the government that we ourselves are fraught with a stumbling economy, so they should really prioritise taking care of Malaysians first. And, the second rejoinder is the argument that before we bring in refugees, we need to make sure that we treat all Malaysians equally without discrimination.

Both these responses are fair points.

The PM has gone on the offensive for the Palestinian plight, and taken his “roadshow” worldwide. He was in Saudi Arabia a few days ago at the all Asean and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit, and he made this his main agenda.

He has also gone on record to say that Malaysia is aware and expects repercussions from Western countries for championing the Palestinian cause, but regardless, he will continue to highlight the plight of the Palestinian people on the international stage.

Later, speaking to a 16,000-strong rally in Kuala Lumpur, the prime minister revealed that he had received many attacks and criticism from the international community for his stance. At the same time, he also said he received many threats over his support for Palestine. “But I’ll tell you – you picked the wrong person,” the prime minister thundered out.

Since then, apparently, his security detail has been increased.

Our prime minister’s courage in the face of these threats is hugely impressive. To stand in solidarity with the oppressed against the oppressor, and to put himself in personal peril is laudable. But isn’t it logical that before one goes on the international stage, and speaks up on issues like this, the priority of a “less-than-one-year-in-office” leader, should be his sterling performance in his own country?

Currently, we are a fragmented nation with deep seated dissatisfaction based on religious and racial undertones. This government stood on a platform of reforms, but seems to have climbed down from its reform podium for political expediency.

This move to stall reforms is often attributed to the fact that the prime minister’s coalition could not secure the mandate it needed. But to continue to pander to the religious right wing, the parochial elements in the country, and filling up the federal cabinet with the compromised, is just mind-boggling. And on top of it, the eagerly anticipated and much needed cabinet reshuffle has yet to materialise.

A few days ago, the ringgit’s pitiful slide continued unabated as it breached the RM3.50 mark against the Singapore dollar, hitting an all-time low. Our nation’s currency has collapsed to levels last seen when Malaysia was entangled in the Asian Financial Crisis, some 25 years ago. Ironically, this happened when our current PM was the finance minister.

The prime minister and his crew seem to be more interested in politics than economics. There is very little real economic progress in the past 11 months, since they came into power.

So, while it is statesman-like to roar on the international stage, collectively we need to ask; where are your priorities right now, Mr. Prime Minister, sir?