THE country needs more people like Mohd Nur Ismail Mohamed Kamal, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chief, and Datuk Seri Idris Jala, head of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu).
The two are not afraid to face angry crowds at meetings where people have heaped criticisms, made unreasonable demands and often vented their anger at the Government. The participants are often the urban middle class who are outspoken.
From MRT stations to transformation plans to key performance indicators, they have spoken about the grand plans for development that are being rolled out.
Generally, their explanations made sense to their listeners, but at times people became lost when they delved into the details. But there is one common feature at such town house meetings – the two are ready to listen to the public.
The people want to be heard and not be talked down to. This is what many of our politicians do not seem to realise.
If non-politicians like Mohd Nur Ismail and Idris are able to take the heat, there is no reason why some of our politicians should prefer the safer way by delivering speeches, often mundane and unimaginative ones, at the rostrums.
Both have set the standards by putting their views and also the input of the people on websites, and setting up toll-free lines for ideas and suggestions, in the case of SPAD. They also hold exhibitions to show the rakyat what they have.
Young Malaysians want to see their leaders with rolled-up sleeves on stage taking on questions relating to issues affecting their daily lives. They want to tell our leaders how they are coping with the increase in cost of living and how they have to sacrifice their sleep and leave their homes early to beat the increasingly bad traffic jams.
They want to talk about the need to provide more trains to take them home after work, how to make their neighbourhoods safe and about their children’s education.
How many of our leaders know the price of onions, chicken or chilli at the markets despite professing to represent the common people?
The rakyat will be sufficiently satisfied if our leaders can listen, respond with decent answers, come back to see them again and, if they screw up, to just have the decency to apologise and stop being defensive.
We are not interested in 100-storey buildings, stupid political quarrels, whether wives should be obedient to their husbands in bed or racist tirades from political dinosaurs like Datuk Ibrahim Ali of Perkasa.
The bread and butter issues matter most to Malaysians – nothing more, nothing less.
The trouble with most politicians is that once they hold the microphones, they cannot let go. But they had better learn to pass the microphones to their listeners more.
Young people have seen a dressed-down US President Barack Obama at meetings with the people. Never mind if the occasions are part of some clever public relations exercise, these are powerful visual messages.
Even the straight-laced Chinese leaders who don’t have to worry about elections also realise the need to be seen conducting such intimate meetings, where even the bodyguards know how to move away from the cameras. In both instances, new standards have been set.
Such images give these leaders a more caring and down-to-earth persona and project them as keen to listen, instead of being aloof or in a hurry and are only interested in a photo opportunity with aimless handshakes.
Young Malaysians, especially those whose jobs require them to make presentations to their clients to clinch business deals, have reasons to be critical when they listen to their leaders.
Many of our leaders, to these young professionals, fall way short of their expectations and the result is that they do not have respect for the leaders.
The young have become more outspoken, more articulate, and they demand greater democratic space.
Their world view is certainly very much in contrast to the older leaders. And if the latter equates the demand for greater democratic space with chaos and disloyalty to the country, then it would be a costly political error. Again, it would be another case of politicians not listening hard enough or even bothering to listen.
The country can also do away with certain pompous ministers who demand that their subordinates greet them at the airport. One or two are known to throw tantrums when they are not accorded such respect, and they insist that their staff spend an entire day moving around with them when they are making state visits. Moving around in an entourage seems to give them a sense of self importance.
Worse is to call for press conferences when they really have nothing new or anything sensible to say. Often, it is a case of talking for the sake of talking.
Malaysian taxpayers would also be very thankful if they could see an end to the elaborate dances and greetings for politicians at every function, and the 15-minute salutation to address the never ending list of Tan Sris, Datuk Seris, Datuks and Datins. What’s wrong with just “tuan-tuan dan puan-puan”? Can we just get to the point so we can all get back to our work, please?
Neither should we be paying for those huge billboards showing the faces of our leaders. There is no difference between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat leaders when it comes to such ego trips.
The bottom line is the rakyat is the boss – it’s that simple. So, regardless of their political affiliations, our politicians had better start listening hard instead of just talking too hard.
Source: The STAR Home News Opinion ON THE BEAT WITH WONG CHUN WAI Sunday, July 17, 2011