Friday Jottings: The nightmare of glory lost

by SHAMSUL AKMAR / pic by Bernama

WHEN news leaked out that Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (picture), MP for Pasir Salak, was the Malaysian ambassador to Indonesia, a public outcry erupted, accompanied by a wailing of sorts, of how the nation had sunk to a new low. 

In the first place, contemporary Malaysia frowns upon the appointment of politicians to positions that are supposed to be helmed by professionals, and that include the posts of diplomats. 

In other words, the expectations of the Malaysian public are that an ambassador should be a career diplomat and not a politician or a political appointee. Similarly, such expectations apply on other appointments to helm government-linked and government-related companies and corporations. 

There have, however, been opinions suggesting that it would be foolhardy for any government to totally observe these conditions and expectations, as political appointees ensure continued support for the party in power.

It then should be a case of straddling public expectations and political reality. By and large, despite public displeasure when it involves political appointees, it would eventually dissipate if the appointee has the stature, qualifications and persona befitting the appointment. 

That is, however, not the case with Tajuddin. 

By any measure, public opinion overwhelmingly viewed that he would be the last person appointed to represent Malaysia and Malaysians, especially to Indonesia, a close and important neighbour. 

More so, despite the brotherly affinity, hiccups in bilateral ties threatening to flow over, is quite common in the nations’ relations, meaning it would require an above average diplomat for such a role. 

On Wikipedia, Tajuddin is profiled as an “outspoken” MP for his notoriously brash nature and abrasive language and that he is known of his long history of controversy and uncouth behaviour throughout his political career.  

Surely, such attributes are exactly antithetical to what a diplomat should be. 

But Malaysians do not need Wikipedia to remind them of what kind of person Tajuddin is.

It is widely shared on social media, Tajuddin’s last performance as the Prasarana Malaysia Bhd’s chairman and spokesperson over the head-on collision between two light rail transits last year causing more than 200 people injured.

In the press conference, Tajuddin came across as being crass, arrogant, insensitive and comically not funny. 

His disastrous performance led to demands and petitions from the public for his resignation and the Ministry of Finance, the appointing body, relented and terminated him from Prasarana within 48 hours. 

It is therefore not an assumption nor a presumption that Tajuddin had failed as a spokesperson for the nation’s transportation company, a fact affirmed by the Ministry of Finance by his termination. 

His failure in handling a GLC should disqualify him from holding any other public office but instead, it seems to qualify him to a much more prestigious position, as an ambassador representing Malaysia and Malaysians. 

There are a few ways of looking at it. 

For one, Tajuddin should have himself refused to take up the job given his experience of being ineffective to hold position requiring him to be a spokesperson. But to expect that is to expect him to negate the sense of entitlement conditioned into Umno since the last decade or so. 

If Tajuddin had lobbied for the post, then Wisma Putra, the government, the prime minister (PM), the Cabinet and whoever else that have the power to appoint him, should have not entertained it knowing fully well that it will be an insult to any Malaysian with an ability to think. 

Ultimately, the Malays in particular, have to deal with this sense of entitlement that cheapens merit even within the community which in turn is already being questioned for not observing merit when dealing with the other non-Bumiputera communities. 

It is cannon fodder for those opposed to the affirmative action which, despite its successes, had failed to rein in the first among equals from within the Malay/Bumiputera community itself. 

It rendered efforts to restructure society in which wealth and poverty is identified not only by class but also by race. 

One of the by-products of this sense of entitlement is shamelessness which then sets of a trail of odiousness — from dishonesty, greed, arrogance, deceit and all that serve to justify the entitlement. 

The avarice is endless and the value is systematically and consciously injected into the lower strata of society so much so that cash is indeed king.

As such, it is not surprising that there is a price for every vote cast and the price is paid at all levels of power — voters in the general election, to MPs in the formation of Government and again to MPs for the Prime Ministership. 

It may not be the way in the past but in the last couple of PMs, that is the way it is. Hence, it should come as no surprise that the likes of Tajuddin ends up as an ambassador. 

That is the way the cookie crumbles.

Shamsul Akmar is Editor of The Malaysian Reserve.