Cari rezeki, cari makan and witch-hunt

Those working in GLCs and govt agencies under scrutiny echo ‘witch-hunt’ mantra. But what about their questionable actions?

pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

IT IS literary durian runtuh, true to the Malay proverb. Thousands lined up at makeshift stalls along the roads everywhere to enjoy the smelly fruit. The bumper crop has sent prices plummeting, much to the joy of durian lovers.

Even the much-talked about “musang king” has shed its kingship position. Prices have tumbled from over RM70 per kg to around RM23.

And it is not just “raining durian”. Rambutan and mangosteen have an equally bumper season, adding to the country’s fruit fiesta.

I stopped at a stall on the way to Kuala Pilah recently. Along the road you could already see durian hanging from every standing tree. Every kampung house seems to have a durian tree.

The seller was a husband-and-wife team. The wife was busy weighing the durian and trying to conclude the final price. All done without a calculator.

The husband was occupied entertaining customers, while unloading a new load of the fruit. When asked how was the sale, the husband said “Alhamdulillah. Rezeki baik tahun ini. Cari rezeki encik.”

In Bangi, a couple in their late 30s transformed their beat-up Toyota Unser into a mobile stall. The Unser, with the back seat lowered, offered enough space to put the durian, mangoes and mangosteen.

When asked why is he doing this, the husband replied “Cari rezeki bang.” He is hoping the sales would be enough for him to buy a small “lori cendol”. A lorry would make it easier to sell the fruits. (A used lori cendol sells for RM12,500 on Mudah.my. )

The durian runtuh season has given many a glimmer of hope.

Interestingly, many times or not, when you meet people like these, the small traders, farmers or growers, the likelihood of their answer would be “mencari rezeki”.

In contrast to the people of the corporate world. An executive at government-owned entity when asked about the alleged “wrongdoings” would only reply “I only cari makan”.

Many government-linked companies (GLCs) or agencies, which are at the centre of a massive review, share the same “cari makan” reply.

One practice, but two different descriptions. Many associate “cari rezeki” with a more righteous underlying undertone.

Sweeping changes at the GLCs and investment entities have upped the anxiety level. New appointments and resignations at management and board levels have fuelled the most debate about corporate Malaysia since the 1997/98 financial crisis.

Those working in the companies and agencies which are under scrutiny, have echoed the “witch-hunt” mantra. Politicians, especially the Opposition, also decried the cleansing as a merciless witch-hunt.

Apparently, memory is short for many who appointed some of these individuals. Many lacks the “credibility” to be in these positions. Obviously, a witch-hunt narrative seems to be the no-brainer route.

But what about their questionable actions? A chairman of a government-owned company demanding a Maserati as the official car when the firm has a gaping profit hole the size of the sunken Titanic. A penthouse for use as a living quarter?

Board meetings intentionally conducted in London. Spouses treated as part of the trip and paid by the firms. Throw in a few EPL tickets as good fun. Remunerations, benefits and SOPs that favour the few.

Board members with salaries in the millions, but attend about 16 gatherings a year. Opex, contracts and spending which would make US multinationals cringe. These are some of the realities which will never appear as discussion points except behind closed door.

Most recently, we have to digest a ministry that awarded 46% of its total RM777.14 million procurement value between 2016 and 2018 without any open tenders. Are these witch-hunt too?

And these are just a spit in the ocean. We have yet to hear the probes on Felda, Tabung Haji, PNB, various ministries, agencies. Did we wake in a third world country?

The debate is expected to rage as the cleansing of GLCs, government-linked investment companies, ministries, agencies and related bodies continues. There will always be supporters and detractors, arguments and counter-arguments.

Truth is singular. The rest are just excuses we tell ourselves to sleep easier at night.

  • Mohamad Azlan Jaafar is the deputy editor-in-chief of The Malaysian Reserve.