Malaysia’s kangkung index

by Mohd Ariff Sabri

Ungku Aziz had his sarong index. To those not old enough to remember, Ungku Aziz was once the vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaya and is the father of the present governor of Bank Negara. He has always been a keen social and political observer and his views can be rapier sharp as they are acerbic. To the establishment that is.

On the recent kangkung-gate faux pas committed by an insensitive PM, Ungku Aziz penned down the following verses:

Pucuknya angkuh memanjat bukit,
tak sedar akar terendam air parit,
rakyat mengeluh lelah dan sakit,
sedikit diberi banyak diungkit.

Pucuknya angkuh memanjat bukit,
Tak sedar akar diair parit,
Bagaikan melepas anjing tersepit,
Dah jadi pemimpin , rakyat digigit.

When researching into the issue of poverty, Ungku Aziz came up with sarong index – a measure of the level of poverty. The level of poverty can be measured by the number of sarongs a person has. When Ungku Aziz did his poverty study in Kuala Kemaman many years ago, many people there had only one sarong. People were very poor.

Najib, the man who some alleged did not complete his degree at Nottingham has his “kangkung” index. As long as a family can still afford 1 kilo of kangkung (water spinach) they are not poor. Maybe now, we can have kangkung as the medium of exchange. I kg of kangkung for 5 kg of rice. 2 kg of Kangkung to pay toll at Duke.

If people are poor, they can always shop at Kedai 1Malaysia. They can use roads with no tolls. They can eat less sugar. If meat is expensive, eat fish. And if fish is expensive, insects are now gourmet food. If they are still not happy, they can migrate elsewhere.

But where can the 3.4 million Umno members migrate to? Azeez Raheem, Rizal Merican and KJ may qualify to go back to India. The Chinese can go back to China. The Malays can go back to Sumatra or Java. The Orang Asli? Where will they go?

Where is the leadership in this country? We have a leader who has no courage to lead. We have no doubt, the PM and his ministers all have physical courage. They are always surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards.

Even with bodyguards, one’s physical wellbeing is not guaranteed. The bodyguard who failed to protect Kamalanathan should be sacked for failing in his duty. Kamalanathan should now realise, he is in the company of manic people in Umno.

Our leader has no moral courage. I was told after delivering his speech at the recent Umno general assembly, Najib patted himself on the back and said, that was a good speech. He told that to a former Umno deputy president who responded by feigning agreement. Of course it was a good speech because Najib did not have balls to go against the current.

He was just being a bigger sounding board to the manic urges of the Umno crowd- kill, everyone opposing Umno in sight. He was speaking in a hall packed with his devoted fans and the ladies are “orgasm-ing” at the sight of his red lips. He was playing to the gallery and this is a clear indication of a lack of leadership courage.

Lee Iacocca some time ago wrote a book titled “Where Have All the Leaders Gone?” We might as well ask the same question. We all must be outraged at the bunch of clueless bozos in Putrajaya who are taking this country over the cliff. Najib thinks we are sailing in a Star Cruise ship – asking us to stay the course. This is our country he is talking about, not a cruise ship owned and operated by the gambling behemoth in which his grandfather had interests in.

On courage, Iacocca said:

“A leader must have COURAGE. I’m talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn’t courage. Tough talk isn’t courage. George Bush comes from a blue-blooded Connecticut family, but he likes to talk like a cowboy. You know, my gun is bigger than your gun.

“Courage in the twenty-first century doesn’t mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk. If you’re a politician, courage means taking a position even when you know it will cost you votes. Bush can’t even make a public appearance unless the audience has been handpicked and sanitized. He did a series of so-called town hall meetings last year, in auditoriums packed with his most devoted fans. The questions were all softballs.”

We have our own George Bush junior in Putrajaya.

This is the courage to take a different position in the face of popular mood and perception. It is the courage to persevere in the face of shame and personal scandal. Winston Churchill said, without courage all other virtuous personal traits are gone.

Najib has none of that. Instead he chose to insult and mock the people by pointing out the price of kangkung has gone down. So that Najib knows, that a long time ago in Indonesia, a close cousin of the water spinach known as genjer was a symbol of abject poverty. In Malaysia so that he knows, kangkung was once the vegetable consumed by poor people.

Because Najib has not showed leadership we have acute racial tensions stirred up by Umno zealots, religious schisms also stirred by Umno and dire economic problems also the result of the government’s incompetence and its cronies rapacious greed. Like my colleague Charles Santiago rightly pointed out, these issues are the answer to Umno’s survival. These are the rehashed issues of the 4R’s: race, religion, rulers and riots. All designed to instil fear in the hearts and minds of our citizens. A leader, who allows these to build up unmitigated, is a useless leader.

Many people are now hurling curses at Najib. Remember when he ‘haram jadah’ Felda settlers who opposed his policies but came to take the RM15,000 windfall? The same term is being used against him now. What goes around, comes around. The chickens have come back to roost.

Mohd Ariff Sabri is the MP for Raub. He blogs at sakmongkol.blogspot.com

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