Big ego displayed on buildings and roads


COMMENT | I’m sure we can all agree with Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s policy of forbidding any building or road to be named after him. In his own words, “because I do not like to create a personality cult around me”. This is a stand to be respected.

While Mahathir did not make it an official policy during his first term as prime minister, everyone followed and we heard little of what I would describe as the big ego of those in power being displayed on buildings and roads.

I remember a political leader in Sarawak who was extremely fond of such a practice. Former chief minister and governor Abdul Rahman Yakub must have named several schools, roads and bridges after himself. He even dedicated a hospital to his wife.

This was in the 1970s and 80s. There was no social media. Even if we, Sarawakians, did not agree with such a practice, there was little avenue to critique publicly. So we kept quiet and let it be.

After all, this wasn’t a big deal. It’s not as serious as being involved in dirty dealings and stealing from the state coffers. Let me say it as it is: This is purely about a man’s ego, the desire to see your name or photo high up in the bright lights.

This brings me to the recent controversy of PSM leader S Arutchelvan censuring Perak DAP chief Nga Kor Ming over a school block in Taiping, Perak, named after him.

Arutchelvan dismissed the Perak DAP chief’s explanation that it was the SJK(C) Sin Min board’s decision to do so as “disgusting and unacceptable”.

“Even if it was the school board’s decision to pick his name, Nga can always be magnanimous in declining and telling the board not to do so,” he said in a statement.

I have noted the reactions of Malaysiakini readers on this issue. Some ticked off Arulchevan for being petty while others supported him.

This is what I think. For the record, DAP is the first political party to come up with the ruling forbidding their elected representatives from receiving awards and titles from the royal houses. I’m glad that PKR is now following suit.

That being the case, Nga would have stepped out of line with his party’s policy by allowing the Taiping school to name a block after him. This is more or less the same issue DAP wants to avoid – self-gratification or personal glorification. DAP has my most profound respect for coming out with this policy.

We can recall how DAP leaders ticked off some of their newly elected representatives in Sabah and Malacca who received the datukship last year.

For these younger DAP reps, I believe they were never able to think along this line: Their party stalwarts like the late Karpal Singh, Dr Chen Man Hin and Lim Kit Siang could easily have been bestowed the Tunship by now. There must be solid reasons why they never bothered about adding a title before their names.

I implore the younger DAP leaders to think and learn from their party veterans. Being in politics should not be about satisfying your big ego and harbouring thoughts of leaving a legacy. A legacy is about history and people remembering you for your contributions, without the necessity of having your name etched on top of a building or on a road signage.

Chen and Kit Siang are happy being called Dr Chen and Mr Lim. It would be the same for the late Karpal Singh. Seriously, if the Penang government were to decide to name the Penang International Airport the ‘Karpal Singh International Airport’ today, I believe Penangites would have no objection. Malaysians, in general, are okay with honouring leaders who are deceased and we do so with much reverence for their meritorious services to the nation.

Our former prime ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein Onn all have universities, buildings, housing estates, bridges and roads named after them. That is our way of honouring their memory and legacies, as we rightly should. I find that absolutely appropriate as a way of honouring deceased leaders who are deserving of them.

As for the young and aha, the “very much alive” political leaders, I think they have to learn to forget and forgo their big ego while serving the electorate. This is true in the case of Nga and those quick to accept datukships soon after being elected in their maiden electoral outing.

To these people, this is what I think of you: The moment you make me feel that you put personal glorification as a priority, I consider that a great character flaw. I will lose all respect for you and seriously doubt that you are in politics for the right reasons. Think about it.

Finally, let me end this with a teaser from a Malaysiakini reader. It’s good to have a chuckle now and again.

“To be fair to other DAP leaders, let’s have Teresa Kok Hair Saloon, Chin Tong Otak Otak, Ah Loke Siew Pau, Kian Ming AP Services, Guan Eng Tailor, Yeo Garbage Return Services and HY Long House Sdn Bhd.”

And let me add, Arutchelvan Roti Bomb and Sekolah Ego Besar DAP Kor Ming.

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FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be contacted at

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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