The curse of the unelected


IT HAS always been said that leaders emerge during crises and those who falter should stay on the side, never to lift their heads again.

And Malaysian floods seem to have a knack for drowning leaders for lacking in leadership — the first instance a few years back after being caught holidaying in Perth while the sky opened and inundated major parts of Johor and displacing thousands of people homeless and paralysing the state.

That was 15 years ago.

Then, there was the infamous holiday in Hawaii and rubbing it in by justifying it as “golf diplomacy”, all pursued when parts of Kelantan and the East Coast almost turned into lost underwater cities.

That was seven years ago.

Both leaders have since fallen from grace. In both instances, their perceived lack of leadership during the disasters, ominously spelt the beginning of the end of their career. Of course, other cases emerged subsequently that nailed them, but they were already drowning by then.

Last weekend’s floods in Selangor have also placed current Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s leadership, or rather the lack of it, under scrutiny and drawing public odium.

Uncoordinated and slow responses — leaving those stranded on rooftops fending for themselves, only to be saved by fellow citizens — finger-pointing and ceremonies before dispatching help had raised the ire of both victims and the rest of the citizenry.

As much as the populace is warmed and overwhelmed with pride of stories of heroics and selflessness among Malaysians who braved danger to extend help to victims, it was not sufficient to suppress their anger and disgust over the lack of urgency and priorities shown by the leaders.

Such is the disgust that photo-ops, as some of these leaders indulged and shared publicly, had become the subject of mockery and disgust.

What these leaders had proven is that they lacked empathy and seemingly desensitised to the pain and plight of the ordinary folks. They are terribly disconnected and living in their own bubble, making them insensitive to the extremities besieging the victims.

Their disconnect is reminiscent of Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” kind and it is not an exaggeration.

Maybe it’s because they were not voted in and came through the backdoor, hence making them feel less responsible, or it’s that they had been insensitive and too full of themselves, hence the very reason why they were not voted in, in the first place.

That being the case, the public should probably not be too hard on them because they were never expected to be leading the government in the first place. The last two PMs in the space of two years were never in the public’s radar of ending up as PMs when they went to the polls in 2018.

In fact, their lacklustre and incompetence are only expected. If Ismail Sabri’s predecessor Tan Sri Mahiaddin Md Yassin ended his stint as the leader of a widely taunted #KerajaanGagal or failed government, then Ismail Sabri, being part and inheritor of the #KerajaanGagal.

Surely, the same people cannot be expected to remedy the damage they themselves were part of.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that the Ismail Sabri’s government had only recently declared its administration having a 90% score on their 100-day report card. Even if compared to Mahiaddin’s administration, the 90% score is an insult to anyone’s intelligence including that of Mahiaddin’s.

With that established and accepted, that such incompetence should only be expected of the Ismail Sabri’s administration, which in effect should allay public anger and disgust, the exorbitant cost to upkeep his bloated Cabinet and endless coterie of advisors is another subject of public rage.

With a minister who thinks that a disaster coordinating body is not responsible for disasters, another still at the launching stage when volunteers were already at ground zero, one more struggling to figure out who to blame and a series of mind-boggling denseness, it is like the populace are forced to sit back and watch public funds utilised to stage these lame comedies that are not amusing in any way.

Such is public lamentations and annoyance, and the helplessness, in both helping the victims and getting the leaders to earn their keeps, is drowning all and sundry.

If in the past, it is said that the people deserve the leaders they get for it was they who voted them in, the same cannot be said this time around.

However, even as their party did not make the cut, returning them as MPs is equally tragic as that in itself is a licence for them to cause mischief, as what had been witnessed in the past two years going on three.

Yet, all is not lost. If the Johor flood of 2006 rid a sleeping leader and the 2014’s marked the kleptocrats, this year’s Selangor floods and elsewhere should be the clueless and useless.

With the public rallying each other, rising above racial and religious prejudices and bigotry in the name of humanity, there is still much hope for the citizenry. The display of courage during such adversity should be able to carry the nation to better tidings.

A good memory of today, come tomorrow, should nail it.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.