Press statement by Syerleena Abdul Rashid – DAP Wanita National Assistant Publicity Secretary / DAP Penang State Assistant Publicity Secretary/DAP Wanita Penang Political Education Director/ Councillor at Majlis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang (MBPP) – Georgetown, Penang – 11th November 2017
Recently, Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Hamzah Zainudin was quoted to have verbally shared a piece from the hadith during the recent UMNO general assembly where Prophet Muhammad stated: “Verily, it is God who sets prices, who makes things hard, easy and gives out blessings”. Hamzah interpreted the rising cost of living we currently face as God’s will, which instantaneously, drew a lot of flak from Malaysians.
The recent statement made by our esteemed minister proves that the level of foolish arrogance that is seemingly prevalent within the circles of the ruling coalition reeks of immense denial and pomposity. A minister of his stature should have provided a better reasoning, perhaps, one that entails rational logic and statistics to support his claims. The implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) combined with the recent abolishment and reduction of both the fuel and road toll subsidies; weakening global economy and dipping currency have worsen the rising cost of living, which is one of Malaysians greatest concerns.
According to “Survey Malaysia 2017: Mood of the Nation”, 82% of 4,468 respondents agreed that the GST triggered the rising cost of living. In another survey conducted by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) the top three areas where average Malaysian households spent were: housing and utilities (24%), food and beverages (18%) and transportation (13.7%), while this survey provides an idea on how much Malaysians are spending in general, one thing is clear – Malaysian’s are simply not getting paid enough. Factors such as cheap foreign labour, low productivity levels and negative employer attitudes attribute to wage stagnation, which in turn, has weaken the Malaysian spending power drastically. This phenomenon has hit single income families the hardest and a minister from the ruling coalition should have provided better policies to help alleviate the financial burdens these families face.
What all of this proves is nothing more than the failure of the Barisan Nasional led federal government.
While we can agree that Hamzah’s ridiculous statement is far too appalling to be ignored, the usage of “God’s will” to justify insensitive and unjust policies is not new and will not go away anytime soon. UMNO frequently uses frames that present “threat imagery” that goes into full force at every UMNO general assembly; the organization and its leaders will exacerbate fears about our nation’s security and values which all play an important part to build up ‘confidence’ in winning the Malay-Muslim vote.
Leadership is best explained as “a dynamic relationship based on mutual influence and common purpose between leaders and collaborators in which both are moved to higher levels of motivation and moral development as they affect real, intended change” therefore, the quality of a leader is often reflected through the standards they set for themselves. Unfortunately, ministers like Hamzah are ever too willing to use religious imagery to mentality divide us and force us to a regressive state where we are conditioned to see the world in black and white.
To paraphrase Rumi, “Before you speak, ask yourself ‘Is it true?’, then ask ‘Is it necessary?’ and lastly ask ‘Is it kind?” – clearly such deliberations were not considered in Hamzah’s conscience. We need political leaders who are thoughtful, those who are able to engage in debates and those who will not blindly bring God or religion into the sphere of political discourse. Malaysia will continue to face socio-economic stagnation if we continue to allow the arrogant, the superficial and the uninformed to remain in the corridors of federal power.
We now live in an age where interpretations of religious scriptures are so varied and loose, ascertaining what is true, sincere and factual have all become challenges we face as a nation. Unfettered fascism that is carefully veiled as nationalism and democracy has joined the religious right, directly presenting a clandestine ‘cause’ that binds lunacy and governance. Bringing God into the narrative to justify our ailing economy and rising cost of living is just another cowardly act to circumvent responsibility and accountability.
SYERLEENA ABDUL RASHID
DAP Wanita National Assistant Publicity Secretary
DAP Penang State Assistant Publicity Secretary
DAP Wanita Penang Political Education Director
Councillor at Majlis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang (MBPP)