KUALA LUMPUR: No one expects our elected representatives to be grocery experts but one would think they would at least know the price of one or two basic sundry items.
However, only about a tenth of the Members of Parliament thatThe Star team “ambushed” with a pop quiz recently knew how much 1kg of sugar and a box of 10 Grade A eggs cost.
The quiz also showed that only 61% of the 74 MPs interviewed could tell what the official minimum wage is. This raised questions on whether they are really aware of how the other half – the ordinary people who voted for them – lives.
The Star decided to play “20 Questions” with our newly sworn-in MPs to gauge not only their general knowledge but also their friendliness.
Our team approached some 140 MPs over three days but only 74 were game to take the “hot seat” for our questions.
Thirty-one firmly declined to take part in the survey or answered just one or two questions. The other 35 who were approached, mumbled some excuse or other to “escape”.
Most were friendly about it, though, with their fashionable evasions of “SMS me tomorrow” or “Call me later”.
Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek (Barisan Nasional-Kemaman) came up with his classic line, “One day I will give you an exclusive”, as he moved away.
Some of the younger, new MPs were more approachable: Batu Kawan DAP MP Kasthuri Patto held our reporter’s clipboard while smiling and taking the questionnaire, while Pasir Mas PAS MP Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz spurred his fellow party members to take the pop quiz during lunch.
Several older MPs were predictably standoffish, with one trying to turn the tables on our team with his own pop quiz. “Do you know how much 1kg of flour costs?” he asked back.
But others were quite sporting, such as Tourism and Culture Minister and Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz.
However, one MP whom the team had expected to participate – Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (Barisan-Rembau) – surprised everyone when he politely declined.
Several other MPs were apparently suspicious, one being Alor Setar PKR MP Gooi Hsiao Loong who asked: “You want to catch us out by testing our general knowledge?”
The questions covered a wide range of topics, from current affairs and local culture to the environment and entertainment.
And some of the responses were a revelation.
Several MPs answered that Qing Ming was the Chinese emperor who built the Great Wall. Actually, it is an annual Chinese cultural event to revere one’s ancestors.
Others said that Hari Raya Aidilfitri was the Muslim New Year. The answer should have been Awal Muharram or Maal Hijrah.
If questions on the cultures of Malaysian communities had boggled many MPs, food was an easy topic for many, with 80% of them correctly naming the states of origin for nasi dagang and nasi kerabu.
And when it came to celebrity news, some of our MPs rattled on about Hollywood star Angelina Jolie and local music darling Yuna.
On average, the MPs correctly answered 11 questions out of the 20.
ANDREW SIA, HARIATI AZIZAN AND NATALIE HENG STAR2@THESTAR.COM.MY News Nation July 7, 2013