By Mariam Mokhtar
In the past, you may have kept quiet because you feared a backlash or thought your effort would not come to much. When many of you wrote to condemn Culture and Tourism Minister Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz, he was angered and became defensive.
The incident of the ‘Special Officer to the Culture and Tourism Ministry’ has proven that the voice of the rakyat can be a mighty roar!
When you speak out and refuse to keep quiet, injustices can be corrected, bullies can be punished and unjust laws can be removed. The courage to speak up can effect change.
Thousands of unemployed youths are competing for a small number of jobs. It is always depressing to find out that one has not been selected; even more galling is to discover that Nedim Nazri was made a ‘Special Officer’ to the ministry, without having to jump the usual interview hurdles.
Unemployment is rising, but for Nazri to engage his son and place him on the ministerial staff list beggars belief.
Nazri failed to exercise clear judgment and his personal motivation became clear when he avoided any discussion on the issue. He brought the reputation of Umno-Baru politicians into further disrepute, bringing their image to a new nadir.
Nazri’s silence only increased public contempt. The cries of nepotism and cronyism grew louder as the public vented their frustration with ministers who only pretend to listen, once every five years. Nazri’s arrogance caused the fall of Nedim as a Special Officer to the Culture and Tourism Ministry, to jaguh kampung in Padang Rengas.
Nazri may have tried to justify his son’s appointment, but lacked the tact and intellect to engage with the rakyat. He called his detractors “stupid people” because they dared to “write and complain” about him.
Scornfully, he said that Nedim’s appointment “could not be questioned”. Phrases like “It’s my ministry” and “I can put anybody’s name there,” made him look arrogant, but who can fault him? Umno-Baru politicians have a tendency to treat the seat of government like the family firm.
The contempt he has for the rakyat is electrifying. His remarks, “I am still the minister” and “I don’t care what you people think” need no further explanation. He would not have dared to adopt this tone, before a general election, when he was busy sucking up to the rakyat.
Like a wounded animal who is cornered, Nazri (left) said, “He is my son and I am happy that I made him my special officer.”
Nazri can build the father and son relationship, but he should not use his position or taxpayers’ money to abuse the relationship. Nedim should seek employment without his father’s influence, as most of us do.
The claims that Nedim would be like an “errand or office boy” are not substantiated by the tag of ‘Special Officer’. Why not call Nedim the office boy or peon? Why inflate his ego?
What are his duties? To whom does he report? Who checks his work and progress? If he misbehaves, he will demotivate and distract other workers. If he abuses his position, no one will have the guts to report him.
It is all very well for Nazri to stress that Nedim is only a volunteer; but even volunteers in the charity sector have to be screened and vetted for suitability.
Perhaps Nedim (right) would be a liability in the normal job market as his previous scrapes with the law have shown.
What skills does he have which will benefit other youths? His bullying tendency, which is well documented, suggests serious anger management issues and would perhaps make him a volatile person to work with.
Are crony companies reluctant to employ him, because they fear he will lounge in a bar, and demotivate other staff? If Nedim has a problem, Nazri should send him for medical treatment, rather than foist him on the public.
Nazri has dented public confidence and he may never regain our trust. Does the parliament have a set of guidelines for the employment of family members? Did he or his senior officials comply with these?
Many unemployed people would welcome some work experience to bolster their résumés. Why should Nedim be accorded special privileges?
The claim that Nedim was not on the payroll is worrying. All staff who are working, in paid employment or as volunteers must have workplace insurance. Who pays for this and his other expenses?
The employment of family members by politicians should be above reproach. The minister is misguided when he says that he was being transparent when he put his son’s name on the ministerial website for everyone to see. One might say the Scorpene deal was fully transparent, because the rakyat are aware of the existence of the submarines.
Transparency means being able to demonstrate that Nedim was one of several who were screened for the post. It should be possible to demonstrate that Nedim was the best candidate for the job, because of his qualifications, skills and previous work experience. Other adjudicators should be involved in the selection process, and not only the minister.
When Nazri challenged his detractors to lodge a police report against him, he is only wasting police time. Is he not aware that the police are fighting a running battle with 260,000 hardcore criminals, which his counterpart, the Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has just unearthed?
Ng Yen Yen spent an incredible amount of money during her tenure as culture and tourism minister and was dubbed “The Tourist minister” because she visited many sites around the world at taxpayers’ expense.
Umno-Baru politicians have a tendency to invite their aides, family members and maids on first class, all expenses paid travel, and the rakyat has been spared a similar expense, because people questioned Nedim’s appointment.
Although Nedim has been prevented from chalking up more air miles at taxpayers’ expense, the damage he could inflict in Padang Rengas is alleged to be just as insidious.
He may be a volunteer, but the attractive feature for the father-and-son double act allegedly lies in the contracts which could be farmed-off to selected companies. As his father’s minder, he would allegedly be in charge of screening companies, marking up deals and doling out government contracts in exchange for money.
Nedim was made a ‘Special Officer’ to the Culture and Tourism Ministry but when questions were raised, he was swiftly relegated to his father’s constituency. The suggestion is that Nazri is keen to have Nedim in his ministry at all costs.
Perhaps, Najib Abdul Razak’s latest soundbite ‘Endless Possibilities’ should be followed up with ‘All aboard the gravy train, kids’ because ‘It is not what you know, but who you know’. – Malaysiakini
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.