Monday, February 10, 2014

'When Ministers Slip Up', Malaysian Digest, 7 February 2014

MALAYSIA'S politicians are really one-of-a-kind. They sure know how to colour Malaysian political scene, making it vibrant and interesting to witness. This is very likely especially when they utter things that shouldn't be uttered.
And when they slip-up, their words will easily be turned into a joke in social networking sites and overtime, this has resulted in some thinking that a person has to be ‘less than intelligent’ to be a minister.
What better example to give other than the recent 'kangkung' issue? The issue came about following a speech given by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and it has become the highest trending and most watched viral video in social networking sites.

The unfortunate 'kangkung' incident was widely criticised, ridiculed by many and even used as a joke to insult the government's leadership.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin rose and attempted to 'save' the PM's 'kangkung' comment. He expressed in his Twitter account, "Don't make a fuss about the 'kangkung' issue. PM was simply giving an example that not all things' prices go up. There are many factors that can cause the hike. Be rational".

But Najib isn't the only one, you see. They are other cabinet ministers who have made remarks that left all of us cringing, hoping for a miracle or a time machine so we could tell them, "Don't say it because it hurts!".

Now, lets break it down to some examples, shall we?
1) Minister of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Hasan Malek once said, "If the price of chicken is expensive, do not eat chicken."

2) Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar also said, road users can choose to use other common roads if they think the toll increase is too high. "For those who think it's too expensive, they can choose not to use the road."THE recent 'kangkung' issue has become the highest trending and most watched viral in the social network.Pic:Pic:kongsiblogspotTHE recent 'kangkung' issue has become the highest trending and most watched viral in the social network.Pic:Pic:kongsiblogspot

3) Federal Territories Minister, Tengku Adnan Ku Mansor also made an unimpressive remark with "Don't buy a house if the prices go up."

Perhaps the ministers have their own reasons for making the statements whether it was intended for certain parties or uttered as a joke. Unfortunately, the effects were disastrous to the extent that it became a degrading issue and there was even a remix, auto-tuned song made from it.

People are wiser, and combined with the current technology, we are more aware of every speech made by the ministers.

Is there a more effective mechanism that needs to be done before a minister issue a statement? And if the minister 'slip up', who should be responsible and what can be done to cover the mistake?

Political analyst Professor Dr Ahmad Atory Hussain thinks the absence of a spokeperson in the government's communication system is the cause for the ministers' statements being manipulated.

He did not rule out that the information provided are not as efficient since it was released directly by the minister.

"For example, in foreign countries, they have a personal spokesperson representing the minister in presenting information and this can prevent any mistakes on the info given by the minister.

"There are also cases where communications between them is not very effective. However, the officers and government leaders need to be more alert. Do not simply voice their opinions," he told Malaysian Digest (mD).

Not Doing Their Job

ATORY:The entrusted officer did not do his job and homework./Pic:Sinar HarianATORY:The entrusted officer did not do his job and homework./Pic:Sinar HarianAll speeches and testimonies by the ministers would be considered as naive and less intellectual if influenced by their emotions or without first verifying the facts.

Atory commented and criticised the officer responsible for providing information and explanations to the minister as negligent.

"The entrusted officer did not do his job and homework.

"Each government officials and advisers must be careful when giving information or advice to the minister or the prime minister himself," he said to mD.

It should be view-based

When contacted, he suggested that all the information provided to ministers should be studied and reviewed in advance.

"For example, the issue of kangkung, it became a big issue but the slip up was inadvertent because he (Najib) is also human.

"The officer responsible should come forward and give the real statement despite the fact that it may reveal his weaknesses and negligence. This is to ensure that it will not continue to be misinterpreted," he said.

He added that, prior to any statement made, the officer has to make sure that every fact and figures are correct. This is to avoid the informant or speaker from being seen as 'less than intelligent'.

Media Training Is Essential

According to a source's portal report, the Prime Minister has made media training as mandatory to his Cabinet ministers to avoid any irrational statements that may cause his administration from becoming a joke among Malaysians.

Political analyst Assoc Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian views it as a rational proposal to ensure that the information presented by the minister can be accepted and understood by all.

"The proposal is acceptable and even encouraged to add to the skill of the minister in communicating with multiple parties and allows them to be ready to face any unexpected questions and avoid from being too emotional," he said.

He added that the effort is not something that would reveal the weakness of our leadership, but it is a process to be prepared from any attacks.

Avoid Provocation

Circumstances which can trap themselves must be avoided by the minister so that the statement made is not manipulated and provoked by specific parties, he said to mD.SIVAMURUGAN:The minister should also respond with sincerity. He might put himself in a spot if the statement highlighted has been manipulated. That is why emotional statements were made/Pic:Malaysian InsiderSIVAMURUGAN:The minister should also respond with sincerity. He might put himself in a spot if the statement highlighted has been manipulated. That is why emotional statements were made/Pic:Malaysian Insider

Provocations can come from anyone seeking answers and the minister must be careful in handling the pressure.

"The minister should also respond with sincerity. He might put himself in a spot if the statement highlighted has been manipulated. That is why emotional statements were made," he added.

Unfiltered Information and Questions

Dr. Sivamurugan did not rule out the possibility that the officer assigned to prepare a speech did not check and filter the information provided before it was presented by the minister.

"Information and questions need to be filtered and censored before giving any answers.

He suggested that all ministers come prepared in order not to give any chance for the information being ridiculed.


Meanwhile, a statement from a source who declined to be named, said the minister was in a state of control when he was 'ambushed' by a variety of questions.

He said the minister may have given a spontaneous answer, when he should be patient.

"The minister has to face all sorts of situation and people, especially when it involves a hot issue. There is a possibility of an error or word slip ups.

"The best way is to do careful planning and be prepared in every press conference they attend," he said.

MPs Immunity

Under Article 63 of the Constitution, MPs are given immunity when they speak in Parliament, but it is not an absolute immunity in nature but has certain restrictions.

Referring to the restrictions, there are four main thing that are not allowed and they are the special rights of the Malays, Bahasa Melayu as the national language in Article 152, the Malay rulers in Article 181 and lastly the, anything that are included in the definition of sedition under the Sedition Act 1948.

Legal action will be taken against any member of Parliament who touched on Article 153, 152, 181 and sedition under the Sedition Act.

Each speech and word spoken by the ministers will be scrutinised and weighed to see whether it will have a positive or negative impact.

However, will the ministers and leaders continue to be labeled as unintelligent and will they continue to make mistakes in their leadership? We'll just have to wait and see.

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