Thursday, April 15, 2010

MUHYIDDIN's gaffes

I like this review and summary by Deborah Loh from
She'd summarized very well the various issues arising due to our DPM's bluntness in commenting or replying. Our DPM do need a good dressing up  to improve his image - he is well educated , articulate  and a potential PM in the works .

CAN someone please send Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for image consulting? Or
for some prepping on the art of answering reporters' questions? Maybe the
deputy prime minister ought to have a daily practice session with aides who
should throw him trick questions on race and religion. He should learn to
either deflect difficult questions skilfully, like former Prime Minister Tun
Dr Mahathir Mohamad, or not answer them at all.

For all the millions the Malaysian government is paying Apco Worldwide to
pretty its image, personal coaching for key members of the federal
administration doesn't appear to be in the consultancy package. A pity,
because after all those public funds spent, the toil of Apco's hard work is
lost on those who are waiting to be impressed the most: the citizens.

Unless Muhyiddin and his boss, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, are
really playing "good cop, bad cop" - one each to placate Malay and non-Malay
Malaysians - what should we make of Muhyiddin's gaffes?

Foot in mouth

Muhyiddin has always been a blunt straight-talker. I am not senior enough to
have had the experience of covering him when he was Johor menteri besar, but
I do recall that his press conferences while he was agriculture and
agro-based industries minister (2004-2008) were as dry as deadwood and
straight to the point.

Muhyiddin tackles questions so narrowly that I'm guessing he doesn't think
about how his answers are perceived by a larger audience. Of course, the
consequences are different when talking about agricultural subsidies and
padi output, than when responding to a dare to state whether one is Malay or
Malaysian first.

And so, into wily Lim Kit Siang's trap the deputy premier fell, and provided
the opposition just the soundbite it needed to go to town with: "I am a
Malay first." And Muhyiddin's reason for not prioritising being Malaysian?
"All the Malay [Malaysians] will shun me and say you're not proper."

May I suggest what Muhyiddin could have said? If he really could not bring
himself to say he is Malaysian first, he could have said any of the

a) "My race is Malay, but I am a Malaysian."

b) "All citizens are Malaysians, although we are of different races."

c) "I will not entertain Kit Siang's challenge. There is no need for me to
respond directly just to show I support the 1Malaysia concept. The proof
will be in the government's policies and actions."

Any of the above would have sounded more nuanced than a flat-out declaration
of his racial identification. While the above responses would unlikely score
Muhyiddin extra points with Malay Malaysian ultras, it is unlikely they
could have earned him the demerit points he seems to have secured from other

Muhyiddin seems prone to verbal blunders when he's on the defensive; "I am a
Malay first" being a case in point. In an earlier incident, he was trying to
defend the indefensible - the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate, disbarred
lawyer Rohaizat Othman, in the August 2009 Permatang Pasir by-election.
Muhyiddin likened the Bar Council's fines slapped on Rohaizat to parking

Assets and liabilities

In comparing disciplinary action by the Bar Council to parking tickets,
Muhyiddin betrayed either arrogance, or a lack of respect for professional
ethics, or a lackadaisical attitude towards traffic offences.

In that cornered situation, Muhyiddin should have simply acknowledged that
the Bar Council, as a professional body, had the right to act against its
members. Instead, he accused the Bar of an anti-BN agenda. Muhyiddin may be
thinking of the adage "the best defence is a good offence", but unless he
can master it, he only comes out looking desperate.

Muhyiddin's forthright, no-nonsense style of talking, a possibly good trait
under other circumstances, will become a liability if he doesn't pause to
ponder his responses before speaking.

As it is, Muhyiddin's image seems to be getting more damaged by the day. And
this is a pity, because he has strength of experience, knowledge, and
leadership on his side. Yet, he's chosen to show his stripes as a
Malay-Muslim supremacist first and foremost, when, as second-in-charge of
the country, he should be a leader for all citizens.

Unlikely Apco can do anything about this, though. This is public relations
advice that politicians can only get from the public, not a consulting

Silly arguments about whether Apco had a hand in designing the 1Malaysia
concept, or whether it is based on a similar Israeli campaign, are a waste
of time. Instead, we should be questioning the real value of spending
millions on public relations to shore up Malaysia's image abroad while
leaders at home continue to stupefy citizens with their obtuse remarks.

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