Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Senator Penny Wong And Malaysia

While Malaysian newspapers went to town with Penny Wong's appointment as Minister for Climate Change and Water, I staunchly refused to join the fray.

But Senator Wong does deserve mention. And while I would love to be associated with her, I'm afraid there's nothing much that we have in common - being Malaysian the least of them.

Senator Wong is firmly an Australian citizen.

Penny Wong left Malaysia a LONG time ago and her success is probably attributed to the fact she did not languish under the Malaysian school education system, where facts are shoved down to be memorised and regurgitated for exams and NOTHING is to be questioned.

Thinking is certainly discouraged.

Criticising is a crime. Almost.

But back to Senator Wong.

Commenting on Prime Minister Rudd's new government in Australia, Michael Backman makes mention of her in his article, Rudd will bring us greater acceptance in Asia:

Another virtue of the incoming government with regards to Asia is the appointment of South Australian senator Penny Wong as Minister for Climate Change and Water. It's a serious and a technically complex role. Senator Wong is of Malaysian Chinese origin — she was born in Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of the Malaysia state of Sabah.

What chance would a person of white Australian ancestry have of being made a government minister in racially charged Malaysia? The answer is, of course, none. Senator Wong's appointment shows how race and ethnicity largely are irrelevancies in public life in Australia.

Throughout the election campaign, Senator Wong issued media releases condemning the then government for various things and the media reported those remarks. Had Senator Wong issued such statements in Malaysia, the media would have at best ignored her. At worst, she could be facing arrest. So, there will be many in Malaysia who will be utterly dumbfounded by Senator Wong's rise. Welcome to 2007.

Yes, it's universally known that we have no freedom of speech and no freedom of expression. After well-documented foreign-media evidence, there is no doubt about that at all.

Backman doesn't stop there. He also makes mention of our rotten eggs.

Certainly, getting rid of a good but long-serving government is no bad thing. The experience of Asia shows why. The coalition that rules Malaysia has been in power non-stop for 50 years. Several ministers are particularly long-serving. Samy Vellu has been Public Works Minister since 1995. Rafidah Aziz has been Trade and Industry Minister since 1987 — that's an extraordinary 20 years in the one portfolio.

Both these ministers are responsible for allocating millions in contracts each year. One can only imagine the relationships that emerge between contractors and ministers with such longevity. Change ministers and such relationships are reduced. Change governments and all relationships are swept away.

This is something I have always tried to explain.

The reason for the extent of our government corruption.

Being in power for so long, the ministers have begun to form relationships, know who they can trust to keep their peccadilloes a secret and gain courage to go beyond their limits.

There is always the temptation (even among the best of us) to succumb to corruption. But nipping it in the bud, through voting out governments are our best bet.

Something for us to think about before we hit the ballot boxes.

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