Malaysia has never run dry of politicians who say the darndest things. And this is even more so in recent times when statements made by them are like funny one-liner comedy routines.
The most recent one was made by a new minister, who assumed his role roughly about two months ago, during a Cabinet reshuffle.
If you still remember, this Cabinet reshuffle saw the sacking of two senior members, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal. It was a controversial decision.
Now that you memory has been refreshed, back to the point of my column this week: Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak says the darndest things!
He was reported to have said Malaysians prefer to have slower Internet speeds. His conclusion was based on data showing 71% of Malaysians chose slower, cheaper Internet packages.
This is quite a ridiculous conclusion. One reason is that there can be no way that an average Malaysian would prefer an inferior service over a superior one.
If you had a choice of either driving a top-of-the-line Porsche and the most basic Proton, and where price is no issue, which would be your first pick?
But the thing here is that a luxury car is not a basic necessity while the Internet is considered in the developed world to be a basic human necessity.
It is more an issue of affordability rather than preference. Malaysia is well known for having one of the highest Internet prices in the region, if not the world.
Because of monopoly in the industry, prices have remained consistently high while quality has been inconsistent to say the least.
It’s not because they don’t want to, it just means that most Malaysians really have no choice but to choose a cheaper Internet package due to affordability and suffer through slow speeds.
Now, I’m not the only person saying this. Some prominent individuals have also criticised what Salleh has said, including former minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.
She said it was shameful for the world to think, from the statement made by Salleh, that Malaysians were so backward in wanting to have slower Internet.
I am currently in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, attending and conducting filmmaking workshops at The Borneo Eco Film Festival, and the feeling here in Sabah is of shock and surprise.
Salleh is a Sabahan. He was the chief minister of the state from 1994 to 1996 and is currently a Senator in the Dewan Negara. He is the same age as the American actor Kevin Bacon.
One Sabahan I spoke to said that “he used to be quite normal before he became a minister”, while another, after hearing his name, said that “isn’t he a famous novelist?”
Earlier in the year, I had a sit-down interview with the then Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek (who also is the same age as Kevin Bacon).
He was telling me of the Malaysia’s efforts in trying to build and develop the infrastructure in order to improve the speed and quality of the Internet.
Ahmad Shabery also stressed on how the ministry was trying its best to create an environment which would bring prices to a more competitive rate.
Hmm… now I’m wondering if Salleh was given a proper handover report from his predecessor.
[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]