By Mariam Mokhtar
Has the Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa heard of the expression, "One man's justification is another man's lie", which is a bastardization of the saying, "One man's rubbish is another man's treasure?"
When Malaysians reacted with fury over the expensive meal enjoyed by a small group of government MPs, we were not surprised when Annuar leapt to the rescue to justify the cost.
Looking at the photo, Annuar and his fellow MPs probably saw a group of men sharing a meal; but the rakyat saw arrogance, extravagance and waste.
First. Annuar was being disingenuous when he downplayed the bill for the lavish meal by claiming that the dishes were "ordinary" except for the udang galah (freshwater lobster) dish.
Annuar misses the point entirely. The MPs could have been feasting on the best caviar, but he would probably have said, "No-lah, they were only eating 'telur ikan' (fish roe)".
With his dismissive tone, he could easily have claimed that the MPs were only eating very big prawns, not lobsters.
The rakyat are not stupid. The point they are trying to make is that the MPs do not care about their suffering. The picture of MPs giving the thumbs-up whilst enjoying their luxury spread was an insult to the nation.
We are experiencing a double whammy brought on by the world recession and after-effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Businesses are closing down, workers have been sacked and people have to survive on their savings. Imported foodstuffs and locally grown food transported over long distances have become more expensive.
Annuar also claimed that these meals were regular occurrences. Many Malaysians struggle to put food on the table, and they were disheartened to note that their MPs lacked compassion and empathy.
Second. Annuar said ministers including the prime minister, normally ate buffet style. He said, "Typically we eat from a buffet, including ministers and the prime minister."
Annuar provided another lame excuse to justify the expensive meal. Was he trying to suggest that government MPs were saving costs by not having an expensive silver service with specially trained waiters waiting on them?
Do these MPs realize that most people make do with a bungkus tapau (food parcel carry-out) for lunch, or a tray service from a canteen.
Third. Eighteen people were photographed around the table, the meal allegedly cost RM6,525, so this works out to RM363 per person.
How do MPs justify this cost? A family of five could have been fed with good, cheap nutritious food for several weeks with this money!
One wonders what the bill might have been if this had been dinner? Do these MPs really care about cost savings or leadership by example?
Fourth. In another posting about this meal, it was alleged that there was so much food that some MPs, had to take the leftovers home in doggie-bags so that it would not go to waste.
The MPs luxury snack was provided by the GLCs and these institutions obtain most of their funds from the government, which in turn gets its money from the taxes we pay.
The MPs regularly eat meals like this during the sitting of parliament. This money could have been more wisely used to feed the homeless.
One group of stateless young adults from an NGO called Perbak claimed that many of the former residents of state-run welfare homes do not have identity cards and are therefore not eligible for state food parcels.
It's the forgotten people like this group of stateless young adults who could have been fed during the lockdown. Instead, many are left to beg for food to survive.
Fifth. When Malaysians saw one face peering at them from the photograph, they were horrified because it was the new Speaker Azhar Harun.
Ever since his controversial appointment as Speaker, Azhar has been trying to appease his former supporters and justify his controversial appointment, but without success.
If Azhar claims to be neutral, why was he courting even more controversy by sharing an expensive meal with PN and Umno-Baru MPs?
As a former vocal social activist, his actions further damaged his already tainted reputation.
Sixth. Are Annuar and the Speaker aware that their arrogance was on show? Why weren't the MPs social distancing? Do they think they are above the law?
Seventh. MPs and the Speaker lead lives that are far remote from ours.
When a former self-styled First Lady of Malaysia (FLOM) urged Malaysians to try and appreciate croissants, we had to remind her that some struggle to buy bread to eat.
In these troubled times, the people of Perak are struggling to earn a living, but Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu was boasting about his new luxury Lexus car.
Similarly, Kelantan executive council members proudly show off their official Mercedes cars, whilst ordinary Kelantanese must manage on kapcais or the decrepit public transport system.
It is obvious that Umno-Baru/PAS/PN MPs have no clue about the rakyat's suffering; but you know that you can do something about this, when you vote in GE15.
1. MalaysiaKini: FT minister downplays MPs' RM6k lunch, says dishes look 'ordinary'
2. MalaysiaKini: Prabakaran demands explanation over MPs' RM6k lunch
3. The Star: Rosmah wants Roti 1Malaysia for Permata centres
4. MalaysiaKini: Perak MB bags luxury Lexus ES car at a discount
5. Berita Harian: RM3.5 juta untuk beli Mercedes Benz MB, EXCO Kelantan
(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)