" Nak kena lempang macam itu ,” those were the words Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Tajuddin Abdul Rahman uttered recently. The Pasir Salak MP articulated such bigoted statements as a response to China's Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang visit to Petaling Street.
He warned further, “I want to warn the Chinese Malaysians, don't think when you have a problem, you want to complain - just a little bit also complain - that there will be people to protect them.”
Two other BN component parties - MCA and Gerakan has since issued statements of their own; the former demanding an apology for singling out Malaysian Chinese and the latter threatening to deliver a “flying kick which is harder and longer than his hand”.
A politician of Tajuddin’s stature should have exuded some class in his response. No doubt, these are trying times but politics is about respecting the relationship between society and the government.
Politicians play an important role in society and are regarded as representatives of the people - individuals who are involved in influencing public policy and decision making in government.
The off colour remarks made by Tajuddin only proves that the elite are too disconnected from reality. Being the deputy agriculture and agro-based industry, it would be in our country’s best interest if he could stay on topic, focus on the economy and formulate solid policies that can improve our waning agriculture and agro-based industries.
Agriculture was once a primary driving for in Malaysia’s economy but is presently a minor sector which accounts only 7.1 percent of Malaysia's GDP in 2014 and provides 13.3 percent employment (which is roughly 11.1 million Malaysians).
The ministry is responsible to strategizing, planning policies as well as alternative development programs that can overcome several of the prevalent challenges that exist in the industry.
Studies show that over 66 percent of those employed in agro-based industries are over 50 years old and this simply shows that there is an employment demand gap left void by young Malaysians. (According to statistics, 161,000 graduates or 8.8 per cent of youths, aged between 20 and 24 years, are currently unemployed).
Additionally, our country is also faced with highly competitive international markets; such is the case for rubber, where Malaysia is already losing to lower cost producers like Thailand and Indonesia. Whereas for the locals, the unsustainable food production system has lead to the grim realities concerning food security and nutrition we know too well.
I would like to reiterate that these are the challenges the ministry and especially the deputy minister must try to overcome first and foremost.
Winston Churchill once said that “a politician must have the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year, and to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen”.
Hence, politics is meant for those who possess integrity and the dexterity to achieve results and improving the lives for those they represent.
Politics isn’t meant for inept and corrupt individuals; and it certainly isn’t meant for those who assume ‘slap-happy’ bravados can win the hearts of their constituents.
SYERLEENA ABDUL RASHID is DAP Youth Bukit Bendera secretary, DAP Wanita Bukit Bendera political education director and MBPP councillor.