Commentary Politics

The YBs of Malaysia……

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Written by Aziz Hassan

April 25, 2018.

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary

TRYING to read what’s in the mind of a Malaysian politician is never easy, more so when it’s time for a general election, as is the case now.

It can bring the best and worst out of these breed of people, who under normal circumstances declare their unwavering support and loyalty to the party and leadership. The worst in some of them surfaces when they are no longer selected by the party as candidates but the ones who truly adhere to best practices accept the leadership’s decision in good faith and throw their weight behind the successor.

Those who think they are still wanted by the people but not by the party have been known to quit immediately, contest as independents and get trounced. There also are those who chose to close the party’s election operations centre or stage a small protest to greet the arrival of a party leader at an airport, all kinds.

There was the story some years ago of how a senior state Umno leader who drove something like six hours to Kuala Lumpur to appeal to party bosses to reinstate his name as a candidate. The reasons were never made public but he did get his wish, contested and lost, only to be appointed to a position overseas where the perks alone would make most people grin from ear to ear for about three years.

This time, Umno’s Datuk Puad Zarkashi, made a director-general of the Special Affairs Division in 2015, has decided to quit as of today after not being selected to contest in the Batu Pahat parliamentary which he won in 2008 but lost in 2013.

Party deputy president Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi recently said that Puad had to accept the reality that Batu Pahat Umno was losing ground but Puad understandably doesn’t agree and made his views known in a public statement. Could be a politically suicidal move this one, unless Puad opts to quit the party. What he hasn’t said is whether he will contest in Batu Pahat as an independent.

He can of course argue that Umno has been unfair to him because another candidate, Kelantan’s Datuk Awang Adek Hussin is selected to again contest the Bachok parliamentary seat he had lost in 2008. Maybe party members in Bachok want Awang Adek. Or maybe Umno can’t find anyone better and has decided to take a risk with Awang Adek, the way it risked with Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim who contested the Baling parliamentary seat in 2008 and received only 44.10 per cent of the votes to lose by 7,613 only to be chosen again in 2013. This time he did much, much better by getting 53.17 per cent of the votes to win by 5,185.

So there are no fixed reasons that influence a party’s selection and those who understand this but don’t know the thinking behind each decision can’t be moaning and groaning.

A few days ago there was also the case of PKR’s Gan Pei Nei who was in tears after being dropped from defending her Rawang state seat. She claimed to have been told by party president Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail that she was not chosen due to a poison pen letter. If this indeed was the reason it was most unfair and uncalled for.

The people also do wonder at times why someone who already holds a good job with a decent salary would want to sacrifice all that to become a fulltime politician.

Firstly the remunerations are not that bad and if you are based in a small town, you are in the high income bracket. The ones with the best deals would be the assemblymen in Perlis, Malacca and Negri Sembilan, especially those appointed as executive councilors because their constituents are considerably less than the rest of the country, their geographical area of responsibility is also much smaller and the cost of living lower.

There is also the pension which you are qualified to receive in full after serving only 36 months and on reaching 55 years old. A gratuity is also paid, there’s the insurance scheme and medical service at government hospitals is free. And if you happen to be in the area, there’s always the clinic at Parliament.

The public adulation, special treatment at events and being called YB (Yang Berhormat) or equivalent to the Right Honourable in places like Britain can mean a lot for many politicians. It definitely is a big thing in Sarawak.

I remember well the night when waiting at a party’s operations centre for the state election results in 1983. In came a result and a man picked up the phone to call his friend.

“Hello James, Edward sudah jadi YBlah….”

That’s how much it means for some people.

 

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.