When tongues wag and tales grow: be aware of politicians gone to the dogs!

With the GE imminent, politicians are already snarling at each other, hoping to score points early.

I love dogs. I’ve always had one, from since I was a child, and now, I have three – two Siberian huskies and a poodle.

Despite their differences – in age and breed – they truly love each other, and it’s a real blessing to have this trio of girls in our family.

But I can’t echo that sentiment for some of our politicians. Politics in Malaysia has gone to the dogs. The concerned players are already in dog fights and the general election hasn’t even been called yet.

It’s still early days, although everyone reckons polling is on the horizon. And we’re all too familiar with the dog-eat-dog nature of politics.

Politicians are already snarling, slobbering and barking at each other. Everyone seems to be calling each other liars and running dogs daily.

Therefore, this has left many of us confused. Who is telling the truth? The incessant snapping doesn’t seem to be seeing an end. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.

Well, it was the Penang undersea tunnel that got the ball of nastiness rolling. There’s no resolution in sight, for sure, and if you think we should only cross the bridge when we get there, forget it. It’s under-utilised, at least one of them, anyway.

Well, as the saying goes, every dog has its day, but at some point, it’s going to be dog-gone for any politician who can’t stick to the truth or remember the lies he told. For certain, it will be one hell of a dog day afternoon when that happens.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been criss-crossing the country telling his audience that Malaysia will go to the dogs if Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak remains Prime Minister. Yes, those are his exact words – go to the dogs.

There’s still plenty of fire in his belly, like a dog with a bone on issues, although he called off a few functions last week, presumably because of health reasons.

On Friday night, he was admitted to the National Heart Institute. Guess he must be dog tired. He’s still a crowd puller and has the knack of explaining issues in simple language and in a low, calm voice, as opposed to the thunder and lightning approach favoured by his DAP partners.

His deadpan expressions and trademark sarcasm are enough to draw laughter and keep the crowds entertained. But he has been continuously dogged by the ghosts of his past. The palaces are in an unforgiving mood for what he has done previously, when he was at the helm for 22 years.

It was Dr Mahathir who launched the campaign to amend the Federal Constitution to remove the Sultans’ immunity in the 1990s.

Dr Mahathir has also been asked to return his DK (Darjah Kerabat Yang Amat Dihormati) title, the highest award in the state, which was conferred on him in 2002. The move by the Kelantan palace to revoke the Datukships of two top Parti Amanah Negara leaders from the state has sent ripples through political circles.

Amanah vice-president Husam Musa and his state chief, Wan Abdul Rahim Wan Abdullah, returned their titles to the palace several days ago after being instructed by the State Secretary’s office to do so.

In December, Dr Mahathir returned the two awards he received from the Selangor Sultan, a move believed to be related to the palace’s outrage over his remark on the Bugis, whom he describes as pirates, irking many, including several Sultans.

The chairman of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Pribumi) was the recipient of two medals of honour from then Selangor Sultan in 1978 and 2003. One of them was the Darjah Kebesaran Seri Paduka Mahkota Selangor (SPMS) (First Class).

Dr Mahathir reportedly told a Pakatan Harapan rally that Malaysia was being led by a prime minister who is a descendant of “Bugis pirates”.

That comment triggered outrage from the Johor Palace, Bugis community and associations in Malaysia, and even from some parts of Indonesia.

Selangor Ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah was also incensed by Dr Mahathir’s remarks in an interview with The Star.

Last January, the Sultan of Johor said he was “deeply offended and hurt” by the political spin used by certain politicians against mainland Chinese investments in the state, saying if left unchecked, would drive away investors. A visibly upset Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar singled out the nonagenarian for “putting political interests above Malaysian interests, particularly Johor”.

To put it simply, it appears that Dr Mahathir has run into serious problems with the powerful Rulers, and anyone who understands Malay politics will surely appreciate the relationship between the executive and the Rulers.

The Pakatan Harapan may feel that they should unleash our former PM since he was their top dog to best reach the Malay audience, but plans have run aground somewhat.

Politicians come and go, but Rulers remain, at least for longer than politicians. Rulers determine the laws, in many ways, and it would be foolish for a politician to take on these highly-respected royalty.

It will be hard for Dr Mahathir’s younger party colleagues to communicate with him – he comes from another generation all together. And as the adage goes, it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks. He’s known to be stubborn and one who will doggedly talk about the issues of his choice.

The odd situation is that it is unlikely that any of the Pakatan Harapan leaders will come out openly to defend him. It’s a classic case of tucking their tails between their legs, with the whining kept private.

It’s truly the Year of The Dog. Let’s hope the GE will be called soon because most Malaysians just want to get it over and done with. We have already let the dogs out, and we hope to bring them home soon!

A happy Chinese New Year to all Malaysians celebrating. Gong Xi Fa Cai.

Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in
Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities nd roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly
without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.
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Opening up a can of worms from Penang Undersea Tunnel project to Ayer Hitam …

‘In the very first place, does Penang really need an undersea tunnel and
three main highways? Are the new infrastructures going to solve the congestion in Penang or bring in more vehicles?

THE trend for P148 looks promising and it will definitely be very hot.

No, I am not giving you any lucky numbers. P148 refers to Ayer Hitam parliamentary constituency in central Johor.

Ayer Hitam did not draw much attention before this. It is seen as a “safe seat” for Barisan Nasional, and has been held by MCA’s Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong for several terms.

Pakatan Harapan has allocated P148 to DAP. DAP, which was at first reluctant to contest there, told Amanah: “You can contest here under the DAP logo.”

It goes to show that DAP initially did not want to commit to a war it has no full confidence of winning.

But things have changed. Recently, DAP’s top leaders have upgraded the status of P148. Its adviser Lim Kit Siang said if (Pakatan) wants to take over Putrajaya, it has to wrestle Ayer Hitam.

People cannot really comprehend what the direct link is between Ayer Hitam and taking control of Putrajaya.

It would be easier to understand that the Opposition coalition is one step closer to Putrajaya if former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wins Pulau Langkawi or Kubang Pasu.

But P148 Ayer Hitam? It is not the seat of (Prime Minister) Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, (Deputy Prime Minister) Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi or (Defence Minister) Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein. It is not special at all.

As for Dr Wee, it is still fresh on people’s minds that he has been aggressive in questioning the Penang undersea tunnel project.

Is DAP listing Ayer Hitam as their primary battleground because they want to topple Dr Wee? Does it want to take the MCA deputy president down because he has been critical of the project?

Is this a strategy to attack Dr Wee in order to save Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and force Dr Wee to stop harping on the tunnel project?

Or perhaps, it is an “act of revenge” to show Dr Wee some colours?

Frankly speaking, I don’t think Dr Wee will back off as he is known for his tough personality.

Quite the contrary, this will further boost his fighting will, prompting him to investigate the undersea tunnel issue further by diving 3km into the deep blue sea to seek answers.

From the people’s point of view, I think the focus should not be on the two personalities.

This does not have to be a battle between Guan Eng and Dr Wee. This should go beyond a spat between them.

It should be an issue of public interest. The public can analyse the case and be the judge.

DAP’s intention to conquer Ayer Hitam will bring the tunnel project issue to a bigger platform for it to be scrutinised and debated. This will be a positive development.

People are interested to know why the feasibility study and detailed designs for the undersea tunnel and three main roads would cost RM305mil.

A point to note is the feasibility study and detailed designs for the three main roads cost more than RM200mil.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed that the cost for every kilometre is about RM10mil, based on the total length of 20.3km.

The engineering industry said the cost was “extraordinarily high”. Is the feasibility study so detailed that it will find out how many worms there are in every inch of the land?

The construction cost of the undersea tunnel is RM3.6bil, with the feasibility study and detailed design priced at RM96mil.

Why is the feasibility study for the three roads higher than that of the tunnel when the roads are supposedly easier and cheaper to build?

Guan Eng insisted that not a single sen has been paid. But then, why has the state government transferred parcels of land to the investors involved?

With the exit of the builder from China and the entrance of a local fashion company (in the project’s special purpose vehicle), there is a change in the paid-up capital. This does not match the requirement set earlier. How will the state government handle this?

The reports have yet to be completed and the project has not yet started. Will the tunnel still be built? Penang state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow said the three main roads would be built first but will this go against the overall concept of the project?

In the very first place, does Penang really need an undersea tunnel and three main highways? Are the new infrastructures going to solve the congestion in Penang or bring in more vehicles? Why doesn’t the state government build a metro rail? Wouldn’t it better suit the needs of Penangites?

From undersea tunnel to Ayer Hitam, a series of questions and doubts has emerged.

This should not be a dispute between Guan Eng and Dr Wee but an issue of public interest that ought to be explained and clarified.

By Tay Tian Yan, The Star – The writer is Sin Chew Daily deputy editor-in-chief..

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