I remember reading the book ‘Malaysian politicians say the darndest things’ by writer and filmmaker Amir Muhammad in 2007 and couldn’t help laughing at every single page turn.
If we read the newspapers on a regular basis back then, we already knew that our local politicians had a knack for putting their own feet in the mouths.
But reading all the bumbling statements they made in one compiled volume just exaggerated the ridiculousness of it all (Amir even came up with a second volume in 2009).
And then came last weekend when I read in the news a story about one of our Cabinet ministers commenting about the Rohingya human trafficking camps in Perlis.
According to the report, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Shahidan Kassim, said that the camps in the forest bordering Thailand should be made into tourist attractions.
Apparently, it is so beautiful there that he instructed the police not to demolish the camps that were built because they were ‘full fledged, complete with prayer facilities’.
I couldn’t believe the words I was reading that my instant thought was that the reporter and editors were probably sensationalising things and the quote was taken out of context.
The hope was that the minister would come out the next day furious that he had been misquoted and he would continue to explain what he really meant.
But nothing of that sort happened. It didn’t happen on Monday, not on Tuesday, and neither did it happen on Wednesday. Today is Thursday and I doubt that is going to happen today either.
I have always had this feeling that a majority of Malaysians seem to be very apathetic, and even insensitive, towards people who aren’t their own.
Just look at how we always treat foreign immigrants who come from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal and wherever else with disdain and disrespect.
And so what the minister said with regards to these camps where hundreds and maybe thousands were rounded up like cattle, tortured and even killed just makes me feel validated.
I guess the minister was probably thinking of tourist attractions like the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz or the Killing Fields in Cambodia.
These are places where atrociously horrible things happened and are now being preserved so we will never forget and to always have history in our minds.
There is nothing wrong with that. But the way the minister said it and the timing of it is just off. The investigation hasn’t been concluded and it is just too soon.
And then, he goes on to say that these structures in the human trafficking camps were built with ‘expertise’ and are too good to have been built by Malaysians, unless they were communists.
Wait! Is he saying that he has faith in Malaysians in that they would never do such atrocities? Or is he disregarding Malaysians because they couldn’t have been good enough to build?
Maybe Amir could start thinking of compiling a third volume. As we can see, Malaysian politicians can really say the darndest things. He definitely wouldn’t be lacking content.