Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jessie Ooi: Vindictive or Victim?

Much has been made over the Selangor MCA Beliawanis Chief Jessie Ooi in light of her outburst against the Penang Chief Minister during the televised Chua-Lim Debate on Saturday last week. Although the debate is now history, her one-minute of fame has now given more her more notoriety than all of her previous public appearances put together.

She was not the only culprit for that evening, especially when MCA members began throwing highly charged and loaded questions against YAB Lim Guan Eng, who remained calm despite receiving tirade after tirade from the floor. However, Jessie Ooi received the spotlight not just by the aggressive nature of the question, but the content of it. The question remains as to whether it was a legitimate question out of genuine concern for the rakyat or was it completely senseless and she should have done better by keeping quiet?

"I am half a penangnite"

When one introduces oneself as half a penangnite, would one reasonably imply from that statement that she wanted to bring up an issue concerning Penang state? I do not want to go into how she is "half a penangnite", but Jessie Ooi in her own defence said that her question was misinterpreted by the public and the press. She wanted to question Lim Guan Eng as to why the Selangor State government had not reduced assessment rates (cukai pintu) when they have promised to do so. This is indeed a legitimate question, albeit posed to the wrong person and off-topic, but if it were in fact the crux of the question, why do you want bring up an irrelevant issue?

Furthermore, she would know that there are many other people who would want to ask questions and her time would most certainly be limited. If she wanted to give a ceramah and bring up all these issues, that would be perfectly fine in her own time. But to basically spend her time to ask about the MPPP towing cars after 10:30pm in Lebuh Pantai in Penang, can we reasonably expect to believe she intended to talk about assessment rates?

It is fine to be passionate about issues and it is fantastic that as a member of the Selangor state opposition, she should ask about the lack of follow-through in the policies of the state government. However, to go on a "shiok-sendiri" rant about an unrelated issue hardly does her justice. In all fairness, does that mean that Pakatan Rakyat representatives do not rant when they ask questions? Of course they do, and they do so often. However, if you want to prove to the people that you are more capable of governing, do not use the "they can do it, so why can't I?" excuse to justify raging and ranting on national television.

So let me rephrase and pose the question she failed to ask, to the Pakatan Rakyat State Government:

"The Selangor State Government has made a manifesto promise to lower assessment rates in the state in order to reduce the Rakyat's burden. However, despite these promises, the MCA is concerned with the lack of implementation of this promise. How does the Selangor State Government intend to address this issue?" 

Is this alright, Jessie?

Lack of Parking

Now let us come back to the question she did ask. Here is the transcript of her question below:

"CM Lim Guan Eng, I am half a penangnite. You just said that you want to reduce the people's burdens. Secondly, you have earned a lot of money. I want to say that you have been misleading the people. Cukai Pintu is going up and the cost of living is going up. Also at 10:30pm, I witnessed it twice. Despite there being no cars on the road, you have asked your enforcement officers to tow cars away, causing bloody fights. How do you intend to solve these kind of problems? Is this what you call reducing the people's burden?"

Yes, she had mentioned assessment rates. But why did she make an issue out of cars being towed in Penang? Of course every government wants to reduce the burden on the people, but the rule of law must be upheld. So what if it is 10:30pm at night? It is not uncommon in KL to receive summons for illegal parking at night! If it is Barisan Nasional policy to issues summons and tow cars only during the day, why not put it in their manifesto? Or is this Jessie Ooi's personal opinion? 

The MPPP has reacted by issuing a statement that they were merely carrying out their duties. When the question regarding the lack of parking was raised, this was somewhat puzzling as there are more than 1000 parking spaces in the Lebuh Pantai Area. As Jessie Ooi had already said, there were no cars around. So would it be reasonable to assume that there was ample parking available as well? 

Secondly, the brawl in question has been clarified by the MPPP to have been started by the individual, who assaulted the officer on duty. A police report has been filed and an investigation is under way. How can we equate a hot-headed individual's attack on an enforcement officer to the state government being unable to handle social ills? Incidents like these do happen, but we have laws in this country which deals with these kind of things. The government's responsibility is to ensure that the law is enforced. 

I would like to ask Ms Jessie Ooi, can she tell me how it would reduce social ills and the rakyat's burden if we allow social responsibility to be diminished? In other words, it is alright to sin, just do it after hours? Despite her moral high ground, the complete lack of respect for the rule of law is concerning and she came crashing down as a result of this. 

Deeper Problems

It would be unfair to blame Jessie Ooi's outburst solely on her. The MCA has been languishing in the doldrums and unfamiliarity of being an opposition party for the first time in history in the state of Selangor. Wanita MCA Beliawanis Chief Tee Hooi Ling has also jumped to Ooi's defence saying that netizens and bloggers have been overly obsessed about the "tow-truck" issue and should instead focus on the debate itself. 

This is a good point from Tee, but only if the MCA that day would follow their own advice. Despite the persistent, off-topic, personal attacks toward the DAP and the Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng did not level a single personal attack at his opponent or the floor. It is essential that Pakatan MPs do not get sucked into gutter politics which the Barisan Nasional government is so fond of. 

MCA Youth Secretary General Chai Kim Sen also attacked Lim Guan Eng by saying the latter side-stepped a lot of issues raised including the lack of a socio-economic plan to be implemented. He went on to say that Pakatan lacked ideas as to how to govern. I say to him, all evidence points to the contrary. 

The Pakatan run states of Penang and Selangor are the top two investment destinations in Malaysia despite having their federal allocations severely cut by the Federal Government. Local developers and businessmen can testify to the incredible changes under the Lim Guan Eng government in contrast to the Koh Tsu Koon government. Singaporeans are now flocking to Penang which is now cleaner and greener than before, and the international accolades continue to pour in. 

Naturally the Federal Government downplay the statistics by saying that Penang topped the foreign direct investment list due to the hard work of the Ministry in promoting the state. Well indeed, but in that case how about the increased allocations into Johor but still the under-par performance? Why then reduce the federal allocation to Pakatan states if you want to flourish? The Barisan Nasional government are good at giving excuses and taking credit for things they do not do, and are shamed when others can prove that they are incompetent. 

The Rule of Law 

A final point to ponder would be whether or not Malaysia has gotten to the point of moral bankruptcy that flouting the law is allowable as it is now ingrained in our culture? Coffee shop conversations can revolve around the amount of the bribe one has to prepare when stopped by a traffic cop: RM20 for a Kancil, RM30 for a Saga or Myvi, RM50 for a Vios and RM100 for a BMW. 

Tony Pua has already publicly declared that he is no longer interested in corruption scandals amounting to less than one billion ringgit as he is already so busy dealing with the billion ringgit scandals! No wonder people like Jessie Ooi believes that the law is there to be flouted, because it is not just that the Barisan Nasional government believes that it is alright to flout the law, but it has become an ingrained habit!

Take Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia as an example. The oyster sauce was proven to have no oyster extract in it, the ice cream did not have enough milk fat to qualify as ice cream and the milk was ridden by E. Coli bacteria. This was all proven by the Ministry of Health to be true. 

So what action was taking against Mydin? None whatsoever. No fine, no trial, no investigation. Why? Because the Ministry felt that since Mydin decided to recall the product, and no harm was done, it is all ok. How can we accept this or stand by this? What happens if there was an outbreak of E. Coli and people suffer and die from it? Or we have a repeat of the China Melamine scandal in Malaysia? The Health Ministry and Liow Tiong Lai would sweep it under the carpet simply because Mydin is an Umno crony? 

Because of the millions of ringgit in contribution which Ali Ameer Mydin gives to Umno-BN, he gets free publicity, a RM40 million subsidy and ensures that the Umno politicians are in his pocket to prevent free market competition in the hypermarket industry. In short, we get screwed while he lines his pockets. Who's interests do they have at heart? Their own! 

When Jessie Ooi's boss Liow Tiong Lai is as impotent as any other MCA minister to uphold the rule of law, how can we possibly give our trust back to them? They are not even consistent or constructive with their criticism! 

My message to the MCA is to pull yourselves together, uphold the rule of law, develop a work ethic and get back to work in restoring the people's trust. As for Jessie, please get comfortable being the opposition as I fear you and your colleagues would soon be sitting on the other side of the fence come the general elections.

Published in the Malaysia Chronicle (23rd February 2012) and Free Malaysia Today (24th February 2012)

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