By Kee Thuan Chye
Rosmah oh Rosmah, you are so endearing that Malaysians love you. So much that they are questioning why you used the Government’s jet to fly to Qatar for the International Business Women Forum earlier this month. And why you took with you the MP Azalina Othman, your hubby’s special adviser Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and several ministers’ wives.
Minister Shahidan Kassim said you went on “official business”, and that the Cabinet approved your use of the jet. Your own special officer Siti Azizah said you went to Qatar in the national interest.
She even explained what she meant: “It was not for personal reasons. … [Rosmah] does not represent the Government, but she went there for the sake of the Government’s interest. She is the prime minister’s wife, she went to give the keynote address [at the forum]. So she made the address not as a government representative, but in the national interest.”
Not a government representative and yet doing it in the national interest? Hmmmm … can what, right? Why not? Even many ordinary Malaysians go overseas to do things in the national interest without their even knowing it what, right? Like when they go on holiday and tell the foreigners they meet what a nice country Malaysia is or how delicious Malaysian food is. That’s in the national interest. That’s boosting tourism.
But your critics say there is no law that allows the prime minister’s wife to represent Malaysia in foreign diplomatic affairs, and you are neither a member of the Government nor an elected member of Parliament. Yet you had a meeting with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah to extend to him your hubby’s invitation to visit Malaysia next year. Surely, it wasn’t a personal invitation?
And then that girl Azalina said in Parliament that you were invited to Qatar in your personal capacity. Personal capacity means it was not official business. It appeared contradictory to what Shahidan had claimed. Why did she say that? It’s not good for your case. Why did she go to Qatar, anyway? And the ministers’ wives? And why was attending an Islamic fashion show part of your itinerary?
Oohhh, maybe after delivering your keynote address, you wanted to chill out with your gang, mix a little pleasure with business. Well, why not? What’s wrong with that? Maybe you brought the gang along to give them exposure to the high life. This would also be in the national interest too, wouldn’t it? Don’t we want our ministers’ wives to be savvy and sophisticated?
Well, but people say if you were not on official business, not representing the Government, you shouldn’t be entitled to using the government jet. They say the wives of past prime ministers never used their VIP position to request the use of the facility for personal use. Why should you be an exception?
But that is so trivial, isn’t it? Aiya, if Siti Hasmah, Jeanne and the late Endon didn’t take advantage of the opportunity when they could, that’s their own loss, isn’t it? If they didn’t want to get involved in government business, that was also their own choice. You’re not like them, you want to contribute. You can’t stand by and see your husband do all the donkey’s work. You have to be the supportive jenny.
And if you and your hubby work so hard – all for the sake of the country, not for yourselves – what’s wrong with a little luxury when you’re travelling abroad? Besides, there are good reasons.
First, it’s not every day that anyone can get to become the prime minister’s wife. Second, you’re the self-styled First Lady, so why shouldn’t you be treated as such? You look regal enough for the part, don’t you? With your upturned chin and your huge, ball-shaped hairdo? They should be calling you Queen Rosmah, no? Not as in royalty of course, but as a moniker. You know, like that of the actress Queen Latifah.
Third, when you land at your destination, you’ll need to be fresh to see to the work ahead. For instance, giving a keynote address might take only about half an hour, but it’s still work. The government jet will provide you the amenities to help you feel rested and relaxed, and avoid jet lag. It makes sense. So what’s the beef?
It’s right what you told the media: “I’m happy, I’m just going to do my work.” Ya, right. Work. What do they know?
You were also right in telling them: “I don’t talk, I don’t comment, I don’t go down to that level.” Of course, what can you say, right?
Now we know why your hubby is often quiet when he should be making statements about important national issues. He must have learned this virtue from you. Like right now lah. So much hoo-ha about your jet ride and also about his spending so much money on his overseas trips, and he has kept his mouth shut. He only lets his lackeys do the talking. That’s the way.
He is, after all, the prime minister. He has the power to decide things – where to go, how much to spend, whether to eat, say, Beluga caviar (if you both want to, that is) instead of simple ikura. And there’s no one to check him. Because he’s also the finance minister. He can choose how to spend the people’s money, and no one can stop him.
Ya lah, it will cost a bit more to take the government jet, but Malaysia is a rich country with plenty of natural resources. Paying for a jet ride is sahp sahp soei. Why are people griping about pennies? Especially when the returns are greater?
And Shahidan seems to think that they are. He talks appreciatively about the work you put in. The both of you must be very close. He said the outcome of your visit to Qatar was very positive. “We must be proud and thankful for the efforts and hard work put in by the prime minister’s wife. A visit to a foreign country is not for fun. It involves a lot of responsibilities.”
He scolded the media for creating hatred against you. He felt sad about it. “How many investors can you bring to Malaysia?” he challenged reporters. “Nothing! [Rosmah] has done so much for the country for free. If you are so good, you try bringing investors here.”
He tries so hard, kesian dia. He even said: “She has built this country.” Wah lau eh! Er … but don’t you think he’s a bit overboard on this? I mean, objectively speaking?
OK, so your critics say you have no business representing the country because you are not an elected representative. Why don’t you show them at the next general election by standing as a candidate? You are so well-loved, you will surely win. Maybe you can do it earlier, if a parliamentary by-election comes up in the interim. And if you win, your hubby can make you a minister. Then you can be a jet-setter and no one can bitch about it.
Alternatively, someone who’s doing fantastic business could be kind enough to buy you your own private jet. Maybe someone like Syed Mokhtar? Then people will not kacau you any more. Or will they still do so? Well, if they do, it can only be because they love you so much. True or not?
* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the new book The Elections Bullshit, now available in bookstores.