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Governance 101: Please Enforce Timah Intelligence Benchmark for Local Politicians

Stephen Hawking Scientist Intelligence Space

The great English physicist, Stephen Hawking who also wrote the groundbreaking A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes was quoted to say that intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. Unfortunately, when it comes to politicians, this is one skill that most of them have but do not use it. Image source: Vanity Fair

Malaysia as a whole is not young – it will be soon 60 years since we came together as one country and we have gone through so many ups and downs together. We are blessed to have such a vast diversity of culture, food, natural resources, good weather and a natural disaster-free environment that makes Malaysia unique in this part of the globe.

While we are indeed proud to call ourselves Malaysians, we are also cursed with politicians who are not only short-sighted, fearful, unintelligent over petty matters but also will not hesitate to manipulate the sensitive areas of race, religion and royalties to gain their personal agendas.

The recent fiasco with the Malaysian whiskey Timah showed just how many backwards, cavemen thinking politicians that we have in this country.

Read these first:-

Some Background of Timah Controversy

Firstly, let’s understand the official definition of the Timah in the context of the national language. According to the Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka who is THE authority in the right definition and usage of the Bahasa Malaysia, Timah is defined as:-

Definisi : sj logam yg berwarna putih dan tidak berapa keras (biasanya digunakan sbg sadur bagi besi dll); ~ hitam sj logam yg agak lembut dan berwarna putih kebiru-biruan; ~ lanar timah yg ber¬selaput dgn lanar; ~ putih kepingan besi yg disadur dgn timah; ~ sari zink; ~ wurung bismut; dahulu ~ sekarang besi prb perihal orang yg turun pangkatnya (darjatnya dll). (Kamus Dewan Edisi Keempat)


Loosely translated, it refers to a white metal that is soft (usually used to coat other metals). In fact, I remembered the same when I learned Geography in school many, many moons ago. Never even once, my excellent Geography teacher had mentioned “by the way, Timah also means it is someone’s name”.

Not sure who started the Timah controversy but some of the statements made by politicians mainly from PAS and ordinary Malaysians bordered along the lines of insanity and sheer stupidity.

Two petty points were made – 1. Timah is the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter, Fatimah and 2. The picture on the label of the bottle is a Muslim man. For the record, Timah is a Malaysian made whiskey that recently won gold for the ‘Best Malaysian Whiskey’ award at the International Whiskey Competition (IWC) 2021. Apparently, this will confuse the Muslims.

Of course, thanks to the controversy, the producer of the whiskey is having free publicity and a good run of sales.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang has seemingly contradicted his deputy on the Timah whisky controversy, stating that the name of the liquor resembles that of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter.

“Whatever the reason given, the use of the name ‘Timah’ in the Malay language is close to the name of Fatimah al-Zahra, the beloved daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, and this can be considered as touching on the sensitivities of Muslims,” he was quoted as saying in Harakah Daily.

On Tuesday, PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said that Timah means tin and is “not a Muslim name or even a person’s name”.

“The name Timah is not a Muslim name or a person’s name. It is a type of metal. Furthermore, the logo is a picture of a man. There is no man named Timah,” he was quoted as saying in Harakah Daily.

(Source: Free Malaysia Today)

Whiskey Timah Alcohol Intelligence

On the contention that the label on the bottle is featuring a Muslim man based on the photo that shows a man with a long beard and wearing a skullcap, the producers of the whiskey have highlighted that the man is actually an Englishman and not a Muslim man. Image source: Winepak International

The man on the label is Captain Speedy, a British colonial officer known for his role in ending the Larut Wars.

Whether or not this statement will satisfy critics remains to be seen, but this is as good a time as any to delve into the backstory of this historical figure with a magnificent beard. Tristram Charles Sawyer Speedy was born in India in 1836, when the British Empire was reaching its zenith. After completing his education in Britain, he returned to India to enlist in the British Army there.

When Speedy returned to Malaya, it was somewhat more chaotic than he last remembered it, what with the sultanate of Perak being embroiled in a civil war. Two Chinese societies, namely the Ghee Hin and Hai San, were locked in a conflict over the tin-rich state. To make things worse, the conflict escalated when the societies received support from two rival local administrators, Raja Abdullah and Ngah Ibrahim.

After recruiting a small force of Indian troops, Speedy arrived in Perak to restore order and, in 1874, the Pangkor Treaty was signed, granting the state a moment of respite. James Wheeler Woolford Birch – a man most Malaysians would remember due to his grisly fate – became the first Resident of Perak, with Speedy as his assistant.

During his tenure, Speedy divided Larut between the Ghee Hin and Hai San. The Ghee Hin were awarded the town of Kamunting, while the Hai San were granted a town Speedy named Taiping, meaning “everlasting peace”.

(Source: Free Malaysia Today)

It’s funny how they assumed any bearded man on a label are Muslim failing to consider that in other cultures and religions, men like to have long beards. The Sikhs for example are well known for their long fierce manly beards. This is the problem of these highly sensitive people looking at things from their own small, primitive world. That is why they are often upset when the facts whack them hard with real substance against their flimsy, self-centred opinions.

Some Examples Of The Dumb & Inexperienced

This country not only needs someone experienced but also have the intelligence to understand the real issues at hand and then come up with a solid solution to overcome them. We have plenty of experienced politicians around but not all of them can be considered statesmen and certainly not all of them have the intelligence to look at the bigger picture.

The problem is we appoint someone who is clueless on the issue at hand and say things that is hard to swallow:-

Problems related to internet coverage, experienced by the residents of Kampung Seri Kesinai in Padang Besar, Perlis, is due to the terrain and tall trees in the area, said Communications and Multimedia Minister, Tan Sri Annuar Musa

Following this finding, Annuar said that KKMM would begin optimisation work on the nearby tower, which would begin tomorrow and is expected to be completed on Nov 8, as one of the solution measures.

(Source: The Sun Daily)

Kind of strange to hear the Minister citing poor internet coverage terrain and tall trees when you can also get poor internet coverage if your internet router is downstairs and your laptop is on upstairs and there are plenty of walls in between. Shouldn’t the problem of terrain and tall trees be worked out by the professionals and the relevant solutions provided to the Minister for further action before the residents started to complain?

Danesh Raj Nagarajan UM

Whilst it is petty sure that Mr Danesh is talented, the key question is whether the Board of Directors is the right place for him to make valued contributions? If his role is to bridge the University and the students, why he is not appointed as part of the management that handles student affairs? Doesn’t this sound exactly like Anakin Skywalker who was appointed to the Jedi Council by the evil Supreme Chancellor Palpatine and yet does not gain the title of a master? Image source: Varnam

In the past, we had a Minister who said that if the price of chicken is expensive, then people should not eat chicken. A rather simple solution that does not need a Ministerial level to provide the solution. The other problem is that we allow political connections to influence the appointment of someone young & inexperienced into key positions like this last month:-

Danesh Raj Nagarajan has created history by becoming the youngest member of Universiti Malaysia’s (UM) Board of Directors.

The 26-year-old from Semenyih, Selangor, was appointed for a three year term due to his vast experience in UM’s alumni and also for being involved in various programmes and student activities in the university during his course of study, reported lifestyle portal SAYS.

UM has 10 members in its board of directors and Danesh is the youngest among them.

(Source: Astro Ulagam)

Does it make any sense for 26 years old to be appointed as a Director of a prestigious learning institution in the country? Consider the rest of the Board members and the experience & expertise that they bring in for the university:-

YM Tengku Datuk Dr. Mohd Azzman Shariffadeen Tengku Ibrahim, Prof Dato’ Ir. Dr. Mohd Hamdi Abd Shukor, Ar. Saifuddin Ahmad, Tan Sri Zarinah Anwar, Datuk Rosnah Hj. Abd Rashid Shirlin, Datuk Seri Dr. Mazlan Yusoff, Tan Sri Dato’ Dr. R. Palan, Tan Sri Abd Rahim Mohamad and Professor Ir. Dr. Noor Azuan Abu Osman.

Tan Sri Zarinah Anwar for example was the former Chairman of Securities Commission Malaysia and had sat in the board of several prominent companies such as Petronas. Previously she was with Shell Malaysia for 22 years.

Tan Sri Dato’ Dr. R. Palan holds a PhD in Education and is also a Fellow of the Institute of Training & Development, U.K. and the British Institute of Learning & Development. He is also a Pro-Chancellor of the University of Cyberjaya.

YM Tengku Datuk Dr. Mohd Azzman Shariffadeen Tengku Ibrahim served as an academic at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Malaya, for eleven years. For the next twenty-one years he was the founding Director-General and CEO of the Malaysian Institute of Microelectronic Systems (MIMOS). (based on various sources from the internet).

As a Board member, Mr Danesh will surely stand out like a sore thumb despite he was quoted to have said that his appointment is not political. Despite the brickbats, surprisingly his die-hard supporters even cited the case of YB Syed Saddiq who was appointed at the Minister of Youth & Sport at the tender age of 25 years old, failing to see the facts that YB Syed is an MP (validly won his parliamentary seat in the general election), thus appointment, as a Minster is indeed a political one and one, cannot pick old men to lead the “youth” ministry.

Not to be outdone by the PAS politicians, we have this incredible statement from PKR politicians:-

A PKR lawmaker has likened drinking the controversial Timah brand whiskey to “drinking a Malay woman”.

Rusnah Aluai (Pakatan Harapan-Tangga Batu) said the brand and the imagery used was too confusing and should be changed.

(Source: Malaysiakini)

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And back in May 2021, the world saw how a politically appointed national transportation chairman made a fool of himself in a press conference after a major accident. The matter was embarrassed the Government enough to sack him from the said position:-

The dismissal came after Tajuddin’s conduct during a press conference yesterday on Monday’s LRT crash drew heavy criticism for his lack of empathy for the victims of the tragedy, and his lack of professionalism when handling questions from the press.

Petitioners alleged that Tajuddin’s lack of sensitivity and empathy in managing the victims of the LRT collision on Monday had shown that he was “not qualified to hold the position as Prasarana chairman”.

Petitioners also slammed Tajuddin for being arrogant during the press conference and alleged that he had made a racist remark to a reporter from China news agency Phoenix TV when she asked him a question.

In addition, petitioners said Tajuddin had breached Covid-19 standard operating procedures by wearing only a face shield and not a face mask, and urged the police and the Health Ministry to take action against him.

(Source: The Edge Markets)

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the appointment of the inexperienced, political heavyweights to prominent positions where they are unable to serve the stakeholders with the right commitment and integrity. To make the matter worse, they end up being arrogant; mismanaging the daily affairs and causing substantial financial losses. How long we are going to entertain these forms of mismanagement?

Don’t we have the professionals, experienced people to take up the key positions of the Government?

Level of Intelligence, A Must Criteria

Why do we still have incidents of politicians not living up to the high standards of governing and check & balance? Why do we still have politicians who have nothing better to do but to waste the time of the Rakyat by asking and debating dumb issues in Parliament?

We cannot continue to have politicians like those from PAS who have nothing better to say or do and does not contribute to the betterment of the nation and its people. Or have politicians who say and do a lot in public space but corrupt and swindle millions of taxpayers’ money in the background, get convicted in the court of law and remains unrepented.

We certainly need a higher level of commitment, intelligence and ability to look at the big picture. We need to pick the person for the post based on their education and experience. Just see how others are doing it:-

Many seem to be based off the assumption that ministerial competence might be related to past employment experience.

Jane Philpott, the minister of health, is a doctor! Kirsty Duncan, minister of science, is a scientist! Marie-Claude Bibeau, now in charge of International Development, once worked for CIDA! Surely, to some extent, that will prove to be true. Bill Morneau, the new finance minister, should be well served by his Bay Street experience.

Ditto for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, a decorated former member of the Canadian Forces and Afghan vet. And Carla Qualtrough, a swimmer and three-time Paralympic medallist, seems well-qualified to run both Sports and Persons with Disabilities.

(Source:  Macleans)

The selection criteria of politicians who will run for public office should be more stringent – it should not be looking at their work for the political party or at their political experience or at their standing in the political hierarchy or even at their ability to create trouble & distraction for the opposition politicians.

Khairy Jamaluddin Vaccination Minister

Oxford-educated YB Khairy Jamaluddin is an exception to the current rot of politicians in the key positions. Despite him not being a qualified doctor, he has pulled off a remarkable record on the national vaccination program. He personally went for the Sinovac vaccine to ally any concerns on China-made vaccines when his peers were given the more known Pfizer vaccine. Image source: NST

Academic qualification alone will not be a good starting point as we have seen where even those who have good education and experience have not conducted themselves professionally, intelligently and with the right dignity.

The manner of their conduct on the other hand will be a better test to see if they indeed have the right mindset and intelligence to lead the way and take up key positions. If they keep saying or doing dumb, racist things in public space like in the Parliament, they need to be swiftly reprimanded and removed from their positions for someone can do better. We only need those who can keep their eyes on the ball and look at the big picture.

Does a petty issue like the Timah incident make any dent in the overall development of the nation or provide employment to those who are still employed or provide a home to the homeless?

And yet a great deal of time, money and effort has been spent by politicians including deliberating on putting policies that will now force businesses to review their labels so that it does not hurt super sensitive, really dumb people in the country.

Now what kind of signal does this send to the investors and businesses out there? That they are better off putting their money in another country where politicians have some sense of intelligence and not be sensitive for every bit and piece of things that they come across.

We need to do better, the country as a whole need to be better because this blessed country and its people deserve something better.

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