IN the world of politics, making a stand on an issue can sometimes lead to friendly advice and curious SMSes. This is one such story, with no morals attached to the telling of the tale, save those that readers conclude for themselves.
I had just finished a local council meeting when a senior government officer approached me. “Mak, I need to see you,” he said. So we walked to his office, making small talk along the way. When we were finally behind closed doors, the officer invited me to sit down and gave a heavy sigh before continuing the conversation with a somewhat embarrassed look.
“I don’t know how to say this to you, but I’ve been instructed to talk to you,” the officer said, slowly pulling out a letter from his blazer. “I’ve been asked to advise you not to make statements to the press on local council policies that you don’t agree with.”
He passed the letter to me and I read the contents. The letter was issued by a senior politician in the state. What was most quaint was that the letter had been sent to the senior officer’s home address and not to his address at the local council, therefore bypassing standard protocol.
There was also no specific mention of which statement I had previously issued that warranted the written letter and advice. “So, exactly which statement is it that I made that’s not agreeable?” I asked.
The officer himself was unsure, but speculated that it could be related to a development project that the Petaling Jaya City Council, known by its Malay acronym of MBPJ, recently gave approval for. I replied that I had not made any statement against the said development after the project had been approved.
We spent the next few minutes going through a list of other possible statements I had made that could potentially have been disagreeable to the politician. I explained the reasons for each public statement I had made so that the officer could report that he had already advised me, and would also be able to provide my response should the politician ask for it.
A day after the advice was issued, I received an SMS from the public that led those who had received it to speculate that the message was related to me. I leave it to the reader to interpret what they will of the SMS, which reads as follows:
“Kpd semua ahli majlis yang dihormati (selain daripada yang mengfitnah kakitangan MBPJ). Sebagai Ahli majlis kami tidak boleh duduk diam diam bila kebenaran dicabar oleh orang dan media semasa mengfiitnah 500 kakitangan kerajaan di MBPJ. Kakitangan MBPJ tidak ada peluang untuk membela diri atau membuat sidangan media mereka seringkali ditudah dan difitnah atas hal low cost yang menjatuhkan maruah mereka.
“Tambahan pula fitnah ini bermula kerana satu daripada kami mempunyai agenda tersendiri. Sebagai kepimpinan MBPJ kita bertanggungjawab mempertahankan hak kakitamgan mbpj atas fitnah dan tuduhan palsu dan menuntut kebenaraan dan keadilan.”
KW Mak admits that life as an MBPJ councillor is never dull. From “friendly advice” from top politicians in the state to unsolicited and defensive SMSes, he wonders what exactly is going on in Selangor. He believes that those who have nothing to hide should act in ways that are transparent and accountable. Resorting to indirect messages through letters that are sent to a private home, and anonymous SMSes only fuels speculation that those who think they have been wronged have little ground to stand on.
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