How should a responsible and competent Consumer Affairs Minister respond to claims and evidences of dangerously contaminated and harmful products? One would reasonably expect, at the very least, for the Minister to order a complete and thorough independent examination of the products and investigation of its suppliers and manufacturers. But lo and behold, not only was such a response and action not forthcoming, the esteemed Minister of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism, YB Ismail Sabri Yaakob released an outrageous statement on his Facebook page attacking the Member of Parliament who raised this issue, YB Tony Pua, alleging that the DAP’s agenda in this issue of dangerous contaminated products being sold in Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) stores is to undermine the Bumiputera suppliers, Bumiputera customers and Bumiputera operators.
To say that this response by the Minister is shocking is not all the truth, as sadly we, Malaysians have been subjected to such statements for too long by too many Ministers and even a certain former Prime Minister that we are not unduly surprised by it. But that does not mean that we are to accept it. This reckless and downright disgusting response by the Minister is yet another example of what playing the race card is all about. Instead of actually investigating the claims and uncovering the truth of the matter, he responds by turning it into a racial issue. How is an unsafe, 1Malaysia-branded milk powder deemed a Bumiputera issue? Isn’t this rightfully an issue which affects the Malaysian consumer, regardless of race, religion, creed, language, and economic class? Is the Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia a store ‘by Bumiputeras, for Bumiputeras only’? Our esteemed Minister and the Prime Minister owe us all an explanation.
Playing the race card has been the norm for Barisan Nasional, a political coalition of race-based parties as its chief components. This incident clearly demonstrates how a race card is played. We need to also understand why a race card is played. In the classic board game of Monopoly, during the course of play, a player may land in jail. The easiest way to get out of jail is to use a “Get Out of Jail for Free” card, if the player has one. In the monopoly of Barisan Nasional rule, every BN politician seems to have an endless supply of this ‘get out of jail’ card in the form of a race card. Every time they’re exposed for fraud, corruption, mismanagement or abuse of power, a race card is used and a lifeline is given.
I once had the opportunity to be in a discussion with the Opposition Leader of South Africa. He understood the problem of playing the race card as South Africa has had its fair share of racism. He shared with us in that discussion that an efficient government delivery system is an effective combat against the race card as he reasoned that when people are satisfied with the services and conduct of the government, race naturally becomes immaterial.
Therefore in drawing from this assertion, the “race-card playing” environment is prevalent in situations where delivery systems are failing and conduct of government is dubious. And this is indeed true in Malaysia. When the Consumerism Ministry protects the business and not the consumer, and when the Consumerism Minister turns a blind eye to product safety and keeps dangerous products on the shelves without due investigation but instead chose to act by opening a can of racism worms, we are witnessing a complete breakdown in the delivery system of yet another ministry and further evidence of a corrupt government which is now finding itself with the “Go to Jail” card with every turn of play. It’s time we end this monopoly and get rid of the player who cheats with the race card. -The Rocket