When ruling politicians arrive in new cars

WE have been here before; which is why it is disturbing to know that politicians are still inclined to not take the less-trodden path of refraining from acquiring expensive official cars, especially amid economic hardship.

The recent Toyota Vellfire purchases for current ministers are testimony to such inclination.

These vehicles appear to be status symbols of political power and success of politicians who have reached the height of their careers. That said, it is more form over substance in the case of underperforming ministers.

What makes the Vellfire purchases especially catch public attention and concerns is because they happened at a time when many Malaysians are suffering under the weight of economic slowdown, following the pandemic, and national coffers are almost sucked dry.

The contradiction is too vulgar.

Worse, the expensive acquisition occurred when we are told that our national debt level has spiked to RM1.35 trillion.

However, this does not mean that the government does not need to be financially prudent under normal circumstances as this still involves taxpayers’ money.

Putrajaya’s justification of choosing a Vellfire over a Proton Perdana by insisting that it can save RM2.80 a month in lease costs only invited chuckles and cynicism among the people.

After all, there are other cheaper vehicles to consider if a change is necessary because of, say, the high maintenance costs of old vehicles.

The Perikatan Nasional government is not the only administration that has such yearning.

Pakatan Harapan (PH), too, pondered a change in official cars during its 22-month administration. It balked at the idea after the public got wind of it and subsequently settled for the Proton Perdana.

However, PH’s Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow got himself a gleaming RM458,000 Mercedes S560e as his new official car, and the public brickbats to go with it. In January, he apologised for his impropriety in the midst of suffering brought about by the pandemic.

About two years ago, poverty-stricken Kelantan witnessed Menteri Besar Ahmad Yakob driving a new RM600,000 Mercedes S450L AMG, while state excos also flaunt their new Benzes.

The state has the highest proportion of people in poverty in the country at 11.6%, compared with the national average of 3%. Of the 11.6%, 2% are in absolute poverty.

In other words, getting such expensive cars in the face of people’s poverty is simply immoral.

Kedah also faced a Vellfire controversy last year, which initially implicated Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Noor.

However, government-owned Syarikat Air Darul Aman Sdn Bhd (Sada) later clarified that it bought the vehicle for its management. Sanusi is Sada chairman.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is hoped that ruling politicians will be more prudent when spending taxpayers’ money in future, especially when money is tight.

Acquiring expensive cars in the face of economic challenges poorly reflects on the sense of priorities of political leaders in governing the country.

It is time to change priorities, not cars. TMI

Authorities disrupted Pakatan meet in Malacca over SOP ‘breach’, Fahmi claims

PKR communication director Fahmi Fadzil said the officers entered the room without any warning and took photographs of the meeting.

He added the PH leaders were shocked when police and officers opened the door of the meeting room at the La Crista Hotel to check on the meeting and if it had followed SOP. 

“A few officers whom I was made to understand were from MOH and police had barged in and took photos of us having a meeting,” the Lembah Pantai MP said in a press conference in Parliament today. 

“I am not sure if this would happen at a Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional meeting. Do the MOH and police dare to barge into (their meeting) to snap photos?” he asked. 

“To me this is a form of intimidation, which should not have taken place,” he added. 

He questioned why some parties are targeted and are subjected to stricter SOP compared to other parties.

The Malacca polls are on November 20, but the strict Covid-19 SOP set and enforced by the authorities has put all the parties on the backfoot.

The Election Commission had previously said the only form of physical campaigning allowed is speeches via speakers from moving vehicles at fixed times and with a police permit.

All physical gatherings are banned. This means that there can be no ceramah, door-to-door campaigns nor walkabouts.

Candidates and their parties are allowed to open only one operations centre per seat.

Those who violate the rules will be subject to the Elections Offences Act 1954.

Recounting another incident, he said party members were not allowed to wear party T-shirts when making door-to-door walkabouts to distribute leaflets.

“When they broke for lunch at the restaurant and were not on walkabouts or doing party work, they were told to remove their badges. Is this fair?

“What is the rationale of barring people from wearing party logos? Can we campaign or not? Can we wear (party outfits) or not? Is this an election or something else?” he asked.

Fahmi said the SOP was ridiculous and problematic as it was drafted by those who are not on the ground.

“They made the decision from the meeting table.”

He then urged the National Security Council to go down to the ground to see what is going on.

“What is the virus are we fighting? Democracy or Covid-19? This is the big question that has to be answered,” he said.

“Democracy is not the virus, but Covid-19. So do not enforce SOP in a way where it oppresses and presses the election machineries of contesting parties,” he said.

Fahmi said the SOP must be reviewed and corrected, and called for an end to all forms of intimidation. TMI