Tolerating the insufferable

pic by BERNAMA

THE water woes in Kelantan seem never-ending, and it is not merely about disruptions but also very much its quality, which disgruntled Kelantanese describe the colour akin to teh tarik, Malaysia’s favourite all-day drink.

The similarity, however, stops there as the taste and texture have been repeated ad nauseam.

It is a two-decade-old problem and according to recent reports, it would only be resolved in five years, obviously a long wait for a clean and regular water supply in a modern context.

Being a long-standing issue, it is not surprising that a video clip of Kelantan Deputy Mentri Besar Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah (picture) commenting on the water issue in 2012 keeps being regurgitated and shared whenever the issue crops up.

In the video, when responding to a question on a demonstration to protest the water situation in Lembah Sireh near Kota Baru, Mohd Amar had derogatorily said he did not understand what the demonstrators were protesting about when just behind them flows the Kelantan River and if they wanted water, they should just jump into it as there was plenty.

Mohd Amar may not realise that contrarian as it may be, his narrative seemed to have taken a leaf out of Coleridge’s rhyme of water being everywhere, yet not a drop to drink.

That rendition from Mohd Amar has kept his video going on for almost a decade now, being referenced as a reflection on the insensitivity and, to a large degree, the arrogance of a state leader.

Those who felt disgusted by his reaction in the video would have thought that it would be sufficient to damage his reputation and the party he represents and would and should be punished in the polls.

Instead, both he and his party won the 2013 and 2018 polls quite handsomely, and look set to continue their grip in Kelantan in the next general election (GE) due latest in 2023.

The water woes were not solved by the time the 2013 polls were held, neither was it so by the 2018 elections and quite unlikely by the 2023 GE either.

It then begs the question as to what would it take to bring about political change when even such a woe that entered the private domain of a voter is incapable of doing so.

Shifting the discussion into higher gear, it had been argued that the more conservative voters, in particular the Malays, find it hard to change their allegiance and loyalty to political entities that they have embraced.

It is premised on this opinion that the result of the 14th GE was shaped as despite the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) infamy, Umno, then led by Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak, who was the lead character in the scandal, still managed to secure the most number of seats for the party compared to other parties.

And today, despite the convictions and exposures the world over on the scandal, Najib still enjoys a cult-like following from within the party.

If the Kelantan water tragedy is to be used as a reference, then it is not surprising.

After all, if the Kelantan voters are still willing to accept the failure of the state government in addressing an issue that affected them directly, why should those who support Umno turn their back on Najib and the party when the 1MDB issue did not hurt their pockets directly (albeit it had been pointed out that it bled the nation’s coffers and in effect would affect future generations).

In fact, most of Najib’s supporters had even equated him to the English folk hero Robin Hood who stole from the rich, the notorious Sheriff of Nottingham in particular, and gave it back to the poor.

What they don’t seem to realise, as quipped by detractors, is that the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood is the same person with a split personality.

But jokes aside, of concern, is the lackadaisical manner corruption and abuse of power are dismissed and the inability of the electorates to realise how far behind Malaysia had fallen in its corruption status compared with its Asean neighbours.

Malaysian travellers shared stories of how blatant demands for “tips” were made when dealing with authorities of the lower levels in these nations. It was accepted that these practices were viewed as almost customary among them and widely accepted.

Malaysians, though tolerating it, found some pride that it was not so a practice in their own backyards, then.

However, with these neighbours progressively cleaning up the act, the tables seemed to have turned on Malaysia as corruption at all levels seem to prevail and it is now what other Asean nations should not be.

That takes back the discussion to the original point that if the electorates did not find the corrupt and corruptible candidates disgusting and got them elected to the highest office, where would the political will to punish or deter the rest of the citizenry emerge.

With the government formed from corrupt and corruptible political elites, it sends only one message to the populace — if the head does it, then there’s nothing wrong for everyone else to do it, or worse, they would feel encouraged if not emboldened.

In continuing with Coleridge’s poetic tragedy, it can then be said that the voters had shot the albatross.

And there it hangs, around their necks.


Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.