What a difference one appointment has made to the credibility of the prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim.
For 25 years, with Reformasi ringing in our ears, we defied the governments of the day and demanded an end to cronyism, nepotism, corruption and abuse of power.
Then came the rushed 15th general election, the slim Pakatan Harapan win and the subsequent coalition with Umno-Baru – not ideal, but necessary. It was either that, or be ruled by Perikatan Nasional and PAS.
All went well after Anwar became prime minister. He rolled out the promised reforms, he said the right things and did the right things, foreign leaders knocked on his door and he calmed the financial markets.
But along came the clanger that he had appointed his daughter, Nurul Izzah, as his special adviser in economics and finance. “Nepotism,” cried the rakyat. He dismissed their concerns.
He had chosen not to tell us about the new post which had been specially created for Nurul Izzah and we found out only when she blabbed to a newspaper about her new job. Was the Cabinet involved in this decision?
Not only were we kept in the dark for a month, the act of hiding it from the rakyat is an insult to our intelligence, and tests our trust.
Why did Anwar omit to tell us? Did he know that we would be furious because he was backtracking on his promise of ending nepotism?
Or was he so busy trying to put Malaysia back on her feet that he forgot?
Anwar has started a dangerous trend and we fear that the floodgates will open.
That is precisely what has happened. A few days after Nurul Izzah’s shock announcement, we learned that the son of Johari Abdul was being considered for appointment as Johari’s Special Tasks Officer 1.
One of Anwar’s trusted confidantes, Johari is currently the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat and was formerly MP for Sungai Petani.
Johari must have read about the rakyat’s anger concerning Nurul Izzah’s appointment because his son Iqbal’s full name was then deleted from the government website.
This was done presumably to stop probing eyes from making the connection that Iqbal was Johari’s son.
The Speaker’s reaction is laughable. He had been rattled.
When the allegation about Iqbal first broke, Johari denied that his son was employed as a special duties officer. He said that the information on the Parliament website was incorrect.
Politicians who are caught with their pants down usually say this. They will claim that they have either been misquoted, or that the information is wrong.
If the parliamentary worksite was printing wrong information, then what does the following suggest? An official email address and telephone extension number had been allocated for Iqbal.
By day two, Johari, like his boss, Anwar, was becoming more belligerent. Both men bent over backwards to justify their children’s appointments.
The rakyat is not questioning the character of the children. We are questioning the fathers’ abuse of power.
Anwar tried to redefine the meaning of nepotism. When he knew that the rakyat would probably disapprove, he said that Nurul Izzah would work for free and hold no power.
Like Mahathir, Anwar is a master political strategist.
The rakyat is fed up with political appointments which cost the rakyat a lot of money, after suffering two PMs who rewarded their loyal friends with key posts in government or GLCs, with huge salaries and perks.
When Anwar said that Nurul Izzah, a university graduate, would work for free, some anxious Malaysians backed off. They said, “That’s all right then”. The threat of nepotism disappeared.
Johari then tried to use the same tactic for his son. He told Berita Harian that the issue of nepotism did not apply to Iqbal, as he was a graduate in finance from the Multimedia University in Malacca.
Anwar and Johari both have a poor understanding of the word nepotism. They stretch it to mean whatever they want it to mean.
How disappointing that the Speaker does not protect the interests of the rakyat. Both Anwar and Johari have failed in this respect.
Johari then went on the attack saying that his son had all the necessary qualifications for the post, and had been helping him for the past 14 years. He claimed that he was paying Iqbal’s salary.
Some politicians just don’t get it, do they? Nepotism is wrong.
No one was questioning the children’s degree, their competence or their honesty.
It looks like Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s Keluarga Malaysia has been abandoned and replaced by the unity government’s Keluarga PKR.
Prepare for more government posts to be occupied by sons and daughters of politicians. They do this because in the big bad world, their children will probably be rejected, as others who are more capable and more articulate will be selected. Parliament and the civil service are now a convenient dumping ground for politician’s children.
From Keluarga Malaysia to Keluarga PKR
On the east coast, we also have Keluarga PAS, with the Kelantan menteri besar and his deputy employing their children in government posts. Both deny the charge of nepotism.
Will politicians ever understand that the government of Malaysia is not a family run business or a charity?
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.