Monday, January 27, 2014

Foot your own bill for proposed media course, opposition MPs tell ministers

Malaysia

Foot your own bill for proposed media course, opposition MPs tell ministers

BY YISWAREE PALANSAMY
January 27, 2014

Cabinet members should foot their own bill for a proposed media training course asked by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak (pic), and not resort to using public funds in the current austerity drive, say opposition lawmakers.

They also said media training was not going to fix any problem brought about by the ministers' failure to comprehend the problems faced by the public following rising prices of goods and services.

"When Ministers cannot even speak sensibly, they surely need to learn and improve, but that is their personal problem. The people should not be made to pay for them (ministers) to learn how to speak to the media," said DAP national vice-chairman M.Kulasegaran.

"This must be the first time in Malaysian history whereby cabinet members have been asked to undergo media training so that they can speak sensibly. This decision is a laughing stock itself."

The Ipoh Barat MP and lawyer said that undoubtedly, while a few ministers have made remarks which have embarrassed the government and angered the public recently, the issue at hand is not because the leaders lacked tactfulness.

"Is it just because they don’t know how to speak to the media?

"I don’t think so, as I think the real cause is because the ministers are out of touch with ordinary people," he said.

Kulasegaran then cited two key examples of situations to support his stand.

"First being the remark made by Minster in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Wahid Omar that the people should stop using alternative roads if they did not want to pay toll on highways.

"The second example is the infamous kangkung (water spinach) gaffe committed by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, himself.

Kulasegaran said by making such a remark, Najib clearly did not understand the pressures of rising cost of living and price hikes faced by the people.

"Did he (Najib) really think that the people can just eat kangkung every day, or that the people must really feel thankful to the government because the price of the kangkung has gone down when cost of living has gone up?

"How could the Prime Minister who has often shouted the 'People First' slogan make such insensitive remarks?" Kulasegaran questioned.

"The answer could only be that he is out of touch with the people on the ground. He simply does not understand the feelings of the public."

DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang felt sending ministers for compulsory media training is no real answer to bringing an end to the administration of bloopers led by Najib.

Lim said Najib should take a firm grip of himself, end the auto-pilot administration and demonstrate leadership for a change.

He said Najib should sack half the cabinet members who fit the definition of the previous Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as “half-past-six ministers” and produce a cabinet which commands respect and confidence of Malaysians.

Kuala Terengganu MP Datuk Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah Raja Ahmad said certain ministers are sometimes unable to accept criticism pertaining to their leadership skills, resulting in them making "stupendous remarks".

"They seem to forget sometimes that people just want responsible replies from them when any issue arises.

"Ministers should learn to retain composure when taking questions from the media and be prepared to answer harsh questions with intelligence. You must remember that you are an elected leader, so you are responsible," he told The Malaysian Insider.

Raja Kamarul Bahrin, however, said that if ministers themselves don't pull their acts together, no amount of media training can change them for the better.

"Change comes from within and if you don't like being put in a spot although it is your duty to answer, then retire," he added.

Pahang PKR liaison chief Datuk Fauzi Abdul Rahman said that first and foremost, only those with commendable leadership skills should be given a ministerial status and portfolio.

"From the way some of the ministers have been speaking in recent days, it shows their mentality and is a shame to a government institution.

"Instead of a media training for which taxpayers money will be obviously used, ministers should be given study leave and told to submit a full report, detailing what they had learnt pertaining to their ministry's roles," he said.

Fauzi said that the problem with some ministers is that they rely too much on their officers to sort out their work for them.

"This is why they make ridiculous remarks when asked about key issues affecting the people. They don't do their work," he added.

The opposition leaders were commenting on The Malaysian Insider's report that a mandatory media training had been directed by Najib for his ministers, to prevent more missteps that have made his administration a laughing stock among Malaysians.

“The prime minister wants ministers to undergo media training to avoid repeatedly delivering foolish remarks,” a source had said on condition of anonymity in the report yesterday.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Najib was unhappy that such statements by ministers had only served to portray Putrajaya in an unfavourable light.

A minister had confirmed that Najib had given the directive during the cabinet meeting on Wednesday that ministers were to undergo a course and seminar on how to deal with the media.

The minister was quick to add that it was common practice for cabinet members to attend trainings, seminars and courses, and that it is not because of their shortcomings.

Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hassan Malek had also confirmed the media training and said it would be done soon.

“Any time soon, We have to upgrade our media presentation,” he had said without wanting to be drawn on it further.

Putrajaya has received much criticism from the public and the opposition over its stream of subsidy rationalisation that began in September 2013.

While economists lauded Putrajaya’s move to cut subsidies to reduce its fiscal deficit, the hike in prices drew negative responses from the people who felt the immediate effects of the rising cost of living. – January 27, 2014.

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