You would think that politicians would have the gift of the gab but very often they appear to have the gift of putting their foot in their mouth. Or they come up with some ridiculous statement that leaves us incredulous and shaking our heads in dismay or rolling about in laughter.
I suppose that given the high volume of speeches they make and the extensive media coverage they get, the likeliness of guffaws is almost a certainty.
No one is immune and no nation’s politicians are exempt. Ex-President Bush was a well known as being afflicted with the foot in mouth disease. Clinton’s “I smoked but I didn’t inhale’ is also memorable.
Never one to be outdone, the Prime Minister of Malaysia placed an entry in this exalted field last week. Both what he said and various satirical comments and parodies rapidly went viral on social media. This even led to the BBC covering the story as a “trending” news and it appear that later, access to that BBC article was barred in Malaysia. So what did the PM say?
The PM accused the people of being unfair because when the prices of things go up, they blame the government but when the price of things like that for the kangkung (water spinach) goes down, no one thanks the government.
His statement resulted in much derision from the netizens. Kangkung is a very commonly found vegetable. In fact it can be readily found growing wild in many watery areas in the country. It is considered a poor man’s vegetable and doesn’t cost very much. Also, it’s price is not determined by the government at all but by market pressures.
The government was under criticism for a whole range of price and fee hikes that came in the new year such as higher costs of fuel, electricity and many food items as well as increases in assessment tax. All together a whole basket of bad news. The good news we were now told is that there was a drop in price of an already cheap vegetable.
But the PM is not the only politician in Malaysia with this particular knack. Here are some other gems.
- “I have just returned from (the state of) Sarawak. And because of corruption, there is still no road to my kampung (village)”. – this was surprising because the MP who said this is not from Sarawak nor is his constituency there.
- There was an international uproar against a statement attributed to the then Deputy Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad by the press in which he was reported to have said about Vietnamese boat refugees, that “we will shoot them on sight”. It was later claimed that he was misquoted and that he had actually said , “We will shoo them on sight.”
- “It is a waste of money to send people to the moon. We should send them to the sun! Only then will the USA and Russia respect us!” – ex Minister of Public Works.
- “Mail it off tomorrow and it will arrive today.” – same minister when launching the new Express Post service.
- Same minister promised to build a bridge for the villagers but the villagers pointed out there was no need for a bridge as there was no river there. His response, “If there is no river, we will BUILD a river!”
- This same minister again is not very fluent in Bahasa Malaysia (the national language) and this can lead to some interesting miscommunications; “This matter has caused me a great deal of embarrassment. In fact, the size of my private parts is huge!” (he meant that is embarrassment was huge).
- In response to complaints from parents and health professionals that school kids were suffering from having to carry too many heavy school books to school, the Minister of Education at that time said “Let them just bring their laptops.” – is it just me or does this remind you of “Let them eat cake”?
- Another minister responding to a financial scandal back in the 1980’s was reported to have said that there was no point making a big fuss because all the money was already gone.
I could go on and on but it is time for me to fry up some kangkung for lunch. Now if only, the price of nuts could drop.