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Friday, February 28, 2014

A very powerful housewife indeed

She is not a politician, as she admitted, but she is married to one.
COMMENT
Rosmah“You can write all the lies you want. God bless you,” said Najib Tun Razak’s spouse the self-styled ‘First Lady’ of Malaysia, (FLOM) Rosmah Mansor on Feb 21, 2014.
When told that reporters from other media organisations were present, she said, “What do you want me to say? I’m not a politician, I’m just a housewife.”
A few people felt that she was justified to have made those comments but others have found her remarks contemptible.
Parts of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor have had no water supply for over a week and the water company Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) blames the shortage on the dry weather. Rafizi Ramli of PKR claims that the water shortage in Balakong, Cheras and Pandan occurred when Syabas closed two water treatment plants in Batu 11 and Bukit Tampoi.
Syabas said that high levels of ammonia in the raw water caused water treatment problems. Rafizi criticised the inaction and the lack of a contingency plan.
He said that Syabas could have purchased the special equipment to treat this sort of water at RM500k. He compared this with the RM600k monthly emolument of the Syabas CEO.
Rafizi alleged that “the water stand-off” had been frequently used as a political ploy in Selangor since 2008.
Meanwhile Najib’s publicity relations advisers identified a photo opportunity and political gambit. To capitalise on the suffering of the people, Rosmah would distribute free drinking water to the 2,600 families living in the low-cost flats of Taman Desa Baiduri, in Cheras and Taman Alam Damai.
Under the sponsorship of Syabas, Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB) and Syarikat Giant Retail Malaysia, each household received two 5.5 litre bottles of drinking water.
Rosmah’s actions have heavy political overtones. If this was not politically motivated then the companies could have solicited the help of the local assemblymen rather than the FLOM.
The FLOM has had a negative press lately and news reports of her doing this “worthy cause” will improve her profile. On the other hand, it could backfire and remind people of her faults.
Critics wonder why she allowed herself to be manipulated. They ask why 30 girl-guides were made to wait under the hot sun, by the road, for one and a half hours, to await her arrival, despite her role as the president of the Girl Guides Association of Malaysia.
Having met the residents, would Rosmah convey their wishes to her husband to help resolve the water shortage quickly? She is not a politician, as she admitted, but she is married to one.
As a housewife who has heard other housewives talk she could tell Najib to put pressure on Syabas and he, in turn, could put pressure on both Syabas and the Selangor state government to resolve their differences quickly to stop further victimisation of the public and to work on a long-term solution.
A charade
Days after Rosmah’s appearance in Cheras, a deal was struck with Putrajaya and the Selangor state government with an MOU being signed for solving the water concession issue.
So was Rosmah’s appearance coincidental?
The MOU and agreement could not have been cobbled together overnight. Rosmah must have performed her stage-managed “good deed” after it was known that the MOU was to be signed.
Her act of “goodwill” was nothing more than a charade.
Her remarks, “…I’m not a politician, I’m just a housewife…” has caused much ridicule and her critics question the veracity of her remarks.
If the FLOM was just a housewife, none of the following could have happened.
Not many housewives have access to private jets to crisscross the globe with an entourage of aides and ministerial wives to visit nations and speak on behalf of the government.
Many have questioned her excessive spending of the taxpayers’ money. This culminated in the suspension of the printing permit of a publication, The Heat.
How many housewives have that sort of power? An ordinary housewife would not have the audacity to accuse a reporter of writing lies.
Rosmah’s silence on the divisive editorials of Utusan Malaysia is revealing.
Not many housewives are given RM64 million to renovate their official residence Seri Perdana.
Nor would a normal housewife be given RM150 million within a few days of her husband being made PM for the setting up of 300 Permata centres throughout Malaysia.
Allocations of money from the government are normally slow but Rosmah’s ability is praiseworthy. If only most welfare government departments could work that sort of magic to help the poor.
Only a special housewife would have the opportunity to do a karaoke sing-a-long on stage with Prince Albert of Monaco and then watch a spectacular display of fireworks light up the night sky above the French Riviera.
Few housewives would be able to visit America and then have an allegedly RM5 million centrefold spread in the New York Times praising her.
Which housewife can say she is on speaking terms with the royal families of the middle-east and make special arrangements for Malaysian jets to pick up students stranded in Egypt during the Arab Spring?
Few housewives have the opportunity to invite the Hollywood actor Robert de Niro to “see the other side of Malaysia” and allegedly tell him, “Please come because otherwise you would listen to all the wrong things about Malaysia. It is important to put things in the right perspective.”
Perhaps, it is Rosmah who lacks perspective. She is not like an ordinary housewife but she can get results and perform more effectively than most politicians including the prime minister.
Mariam Mokhtar is a FMT columnist

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