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LETTER | Lead by example and take a pay cut

LETTER | Recently, the Jihad Against Inflation task force chairperson Annuar Musa has challenged those who mooted the idea of cutting cabinet members’ salaries to name a country where such a move helped bring down inflation.

I do not know of any and probably there aren’t any. If anyone knows of one, please do let us all know so we all can hopefully learn from this one country.

But my writing here is not to seek that elusive or maybe non-existent country.

It is to ask why the government must be mere followers of noble and generous deeds.

If no other government has done this before, let our Malaysian government be the first. Let us be leaders, innovators and trendsetters and be that go-to guy (government) for tough issues.

It is to ask why the government can’t show sympathy, empathy, compassion and connection with our fellow Malaysians in times of hardship and suffering.

It is to ask isn’t the concept of Keluarga Malaysia to help the rakyat and share both burden and prosperity as fairly and equally as possible.

It is to ask if the government has lost that faith and believes that sometimes symbols or gestures can move mountains and make for happier and more bearable moments.

At these times of ever-present Covid-19, depressed wages and rising costs of living, shouldn’t those who are healthy, suffer not from depressed wages and are able to meet living costs express sympathy, empathy, compassion, and connection to those who are not so fortunate?

Instead of coldly dismissing warm feelings and humanity are not a panacea to financial problems, why can’t the government just let them know they are there for them and are with them?

Most of us know, that a lot of the time, others cannot solve our problems, but they lend a sympathetic ear and just being present gives us the courage and motivation to go through another day.

When launching Keluarga Malaysia, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob made the following statement:

“As we are a family, we protect each other. As a brother, you will help your less fortunate siblings who are in difficulty. You will help them. You won’t leave them alone … so (we become) a caring society. This is a Malaysian family, religion and race will not separate us if there is a family bond. We will look after our families; we will defend our families.”

One of the objectives of Keluarga Malaysia is to emphasise that it is not about obtaining individual happiness and living self-centred, silo lives - but about collectively sharing and caring for one another.

Sharing a small burden such as a salary cut would personify what Keluarga Malaysia is really about, collective sharing and caring.

Symbols and gestures can move mountains and make moments happier and bearable. The great Mahatma Gandhi, while fighting for independence, lived in an ashram, embracing the simple life shared by millions in India then.

The truth of the matter was, that it costs a lot of money to keep Gandhi in poverty, but the people of India loved this symbolism and gesture and the multitudes loyally followed him to successfully fight for Independence.

Alexandra the Great, once on a long march through the desert was given some water to drink, but he threw the water away, saying he would not drink until the water was available to all his soldiers. These same soldiers helped him conquer half the world.

The soldiers know the general visiting them at the battlefront will not be going over the trenches and fighting alongside them. The soldiers know he is there as a symbol of the people and government saluting the courage and sacrifice of the soldiers at tomorrow’s battle.

The leader who shares a simple meal with the poor people will be eating a more sumptuous meal when he is back home, and the people know that. But that shared meal symbolises equality and commonness of eating to live with a simple meal.

A while back, our Agong, on the way to official duties, stopped at an accident site to tend to the victims. This moving and heart-warming sympathetic gesture by the king shows his humanity and his common touch with the people.

Perhaps our ministers do not think they should take a pay cut. But as sympathetic and compassionate people and members of Keluarga Malaysia, they can help the less fortunate by donating a percentage of their pay to a special fund. This fund would be like the Tabung Harapan Malaysia set up to collect funds to pay off 1MDB debts.

Politics may differ but put away the differences now as that fund gave hope and direction to the people. A similar fund now would garner the same positive feelings for the future and money raised will definitely help some if not all.

However, the better alternative would be for the ministers to empathise with the people, be generous and sympathetic and take that pay cut and collectively share hard times and care for one another as enshrined in Keluarga Malaysia.

Deputy ministers, MPs, state government elected representatives, heads of GLCs and special envoys should take a pay cut too.

As leaders of the government, lead, not follow. If others dare not or have not done so, then lead and be the pioneer. Lead by innovation, courage, compassion, empathy and sympathy, there is only right with this type of leadership.

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

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