Rebuilding Malaysia

Does Pasir Salak reflect Malay progress?

By Andrew Sia

Sia argues that if Pasir Salak is the place in Perak which symbolises Malay resistance & revival, then what does its Umno-Baru MP, Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, represent? Pasir Salak was where the British Resident, JWW Birch, was killed by the great “hero” Maharaja Lela in 1875, but fast forward to 2021, what has Tajuddin to offer Malaysians? He exhibits none of the lofty natoinalism, but behaves like just another Umno-Baru lord, eager to protect his elite privileges.

Editor’s note: Tajuddin’s thuggish behaviour has jatuhkan maruah Melayu.

. Assassination of James Birch. Credit Ipoh Echo

So, the Prasarana perasan (full of himself) guy has been sacked as its chairman. And Malaysia lives happily ever after? Sorry folks, the Tajuddin Rahman fiasco has no fairy tale ending. It’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s wrong with our system.

Credit Fahmi Reza

The fact that he is the Umno MP of Pasir Salak makes it more ironic. This place in Perak symbolises “righteous” Malay nationalism over “evil” British colonialism. It was here, in 1875, that the “bad guy” British Resident JWW Birch was killed by the “good guy” Maharajalela. Several “Birch Roads” in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Taiping and elsewhere were renamed accordingly, to mark which side post-colonial Malaysia stood for.

Pasir Salak is supposed to be about semangat kebangsaan or “nationalistic spirit” — ie: the independence, strength and capability of the bangsa. Instead we got Tajuddin. 

Pasir Salak’s long-time wakil rakyat didn’t even take his job seriously. He was so poorly prepared that staff were forced to coach him during the infamous media conference. His so-called personal “company business” and “second vaccine shot” were more important than a major national disaster. 

In Japan and Taiwan, when a train calamity occurs, the people in charge bow down in humble apology. Our friend here instead tried to intimidate media, warning them “jangan cuba nak probok-probok” (don’t try to provoke). And worst of all, he callously joked about “trains kissing” when so many had been injured, some critically. 

In short, his performance was a train wreck. Aren’t there more capable Malays to fill such a GLC post? Yes, when Pakatan Harapan was in power, they appointed former Chief Judge of Malaya Zaharah Ibrahim as Prasarana chairperson. Surely, she would have done better? 

Long record of provocations

What about Tajuddin? Way before the latest flop, he has had a long record of provoking and attacking others. 

1) He was sacked from Umno in 1995 for lavish money politics, gaining his nickname as the “Six Million Dollar Man” (remember that old TV series?). But he returned in 1998 and within six years became Pasir Salak Umno division chief. 

2) In 2010, DAP MP M. Kulasegaran told the Dewan Rakyat that Tajuddin had threatened to “send people” to beat him up. This was because Kula had called him “uncivilised” in his blog. 

3) In 2013, PKR MP Rafizi Ramli accused him of vastly overinflating (up to RM1.3 billion) the cost of building the UiTM Tapah campus, using a company with no expertise in construction. Tajuddin, then chairman of another GLC — Felcra — threatened to sue Rafizi but nothing happened.

(https://sg.news.yahoo.com/umno-s-six-million-dollar-man-gets-deputy-114206946.html)

4) When Umno’s Jamal Jamban (of red shirts infamy) was threatening to storm KL’s Chinatown in 2015, Tajuddin (then Deputy Agriculture Minister) warned that he would “slap the Chinese” if they complained about the country overseas. 

(https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2021/05/27/a-man-of-much-controversy-heres-a-list-of-the-times-tajuddin-made-headlines/1977530)

5) In 2016, he made the lewd comment that DAP MP Teresa Kok is the only woman in Parliament with a “kok”.

6) MP Khalid Samad called him “sial” (cursed) in Parliament for that “kok” stunt. As revenge, a few days later, Tajuddin’s son Firdaus and other ruffians tried to attack Khalid at the Parliament car park while shouting “Hidup Pasir Salak!” (Long live Pasir Salak!) (https://selangortv.my/kes-sial-geng-pasir-salak-serang-khalid-samad/)

7) In 2018, while campaigning at the Sungai Kandis by-election in Selangor, Tajuddin warned voters that Christians in Pakatan “have taken over Putrajaya” and would eventually “abolish the monarchy”. But these fake claims seemed to have little impact, as PKR won the seat handsomely. 

8) He was so petty that he scolded journalists for interviewing a “young leader who doesn’t know much” like Khairy Jamaluddin instead of experienced leaders — like himself! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjJzzX63x9k)

9) He likened the Hindu holy ash on DAP MP RSN Rayer’s forehead to the cremated ashes of communist leader Chin Peng in 2019, while sniggering like the cartoon character from Dastardly and Muttley. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXe7Ouvvex4)

10) In Jan 2021, 17 contractors and consulting firms in the LRT3 project publicly appealed to the government for help because Prasarana was “pressuring” them by holding back over RM700 million of payments. This was allegedly because Tajuddin wanted to “influence” the selection of subcontractors. What was his real agenda?

(https://malaysia.news.yahoo.com/lrt3-firms-want-govt-help-071500073.html)

Feudal warlord culture 

Call it karma. After all his racial and sexist “provocations” over the years, he has now fallen on his own sword, disgraced by his own “jangan cuba nak probok-probok” attitude. 

Yet despite all the allegations of violent threats and corruption — why was Tajuddin appointed head of Prasarana? Was he one of those given a GLC post by the backdoor government in desperate exchange for support? 

His former boss, Najib Razak, tried to spin the PR mess, claiming he had “advised” Tajuddin to say sorry (https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/576209). But dear sir, why is your man so poorly behaved? Did you, as Umno president, tegur (corrected) him publicly during all his provocations over the years?

And why do people keep voting for Tajuddin as their MP? Does he reflect the noble cultural values of sopan santun, budi bahasa and tata tertib (politeness, good manners and proper conduct)? Is he the best that the Malays are capable of? 

Probably not. Instead, Tajuddin seems to personify the “warlord culture”, which, according to Mahathir Mohamed, is precisely what has destroyed Umno. 

“Umno only accepts new members who do not threaten the position of their leaders at all levels. These leaders are then replaced only by weaker and mediocre successors,” said the former Prime Minister in 2014. (https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/criticise-umno-leadership-assembly-dr-m-advises)

Mahathir added that the “warlord culture” then was so bad that Selangor Umno had no capable Menteri Besar candidate even though the state is “full of educated and talented Malays” — because they are not “allowed” to rise in the party.

Perhaps the real “genius” of Tajuddin and Umno is to cover up their mediocrity and lack of capability by holding the Malay mind captive to fictional “threats” from other races. With the British now replaced by “Cina Kristian DAP” and Birch swapped with Lim Guan Eng. After all, if Pakatan was in power during this LRT accident, you can bet that Umno and gang would be screaming for Anthony Loke’s head as Transport Minister.

So maybe it’s time to reexamine the lessons of Birch and Maharajalela. Yes, the British came to exploit Perak’s resources and to take tax collection rights away from the bangsawan (noblemen) of Perak. But Birch also wanted to remove another “asset” from these feudal lords — slaves. 

(https://cilisos.my/the-untold-story-of-how-malays-in-the-1800s-used-orang-asli-as-slaves/)

So what was Maharajalela actually defending? The right to extract money, called taxes, from people without doing work themselves? The right to keep slaves? While fighting among themselves for a bigger share and causing such chaos in Perak until the British intervened?  

Was Maharajalela truly “berjuang” (struggling) for the liberation of ordinary Malays? Or was he striving to maintain the privileges of the elites? Perhaps that was the original “dua darjat” or double standards between “orang kayangan” and “rakyat biasa”? After all, the Malay word “bermaharajalela” means “to act like a tyrant”. 

And what about the new feudal lords today? Those known as politicians? Are they defending their right to make money without really working? You know, overinflated contracts for dubious projects? Approved Permits for car imports and lucrative GLC posts? And their right to siphon even Malay institutions such as Tabung Haji, Mara and Felda? While fighting among themselves for the spoils, as Bersatu and Umno are now openly doing? 

And from the billions or millions creamed off, are some crumbs then thrown to their grateful hand-kissing followers, as “jasa kepada rakyat” (good deeds for the people)? To keep getting voted in? 

So what does Tajuddin and Pasir Salak represent after all? Nationalism, strength and pride? Or sombong ego and the right to “maharajalela” and lord it over others? Is this the way forward for the Malays to become a great people?

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)

A shorter version of this article was first published on 28 May in Malaysiakini. Check this link.

Andrew Sia

Andrew Sia is a bio-journalist with 25 years experience at The Star, covering the environment, adventure travel, social issues and the arts. He used to write the column called Teh Tarik and is now channeling that caffeine into another column for Malaysiakini.

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