Malaysia Dateline

Not all politicians are humble, but this one is

Last week, many news portals jumped at the news of Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow receiving a Mercedes-Benz as his new official car. But how many were still as quick to report his swift apology after?

In the spirit of humility, Chow apologised to Penangites after admitting that his state government could have decided on a better time to replace the official car. Taking full responsibility for the matter, he promised to be more careful in making future purchases.

“I take note of all the views…. This is a lesson for us and we understand that people are worried and that the timing of the purchase was not appropriate.”

Chow also explained that the purchase had in fact been approved by the state executive council back in November 2019.

Malaysians did not even know what Covid-19 was back then, as the virus only exploded after the Pakatan Harapan government was hijacked by Perikatan Nasional. Did all those parties who accused Chow of compromising Penang’s welfare in the midst of a pandemic check their facts before jumping the gun?

Further, Chow clarified that the reason for the new purchase was because the previous official car was already 7 years old, bought in 2013 before he was even sworn into office.

At that time, Lim Guan Eng was Penang’s Chief Minister. The car had famously broken down by the roadside in 2018, forcing Lim to hitch a ride to get to his destination.

As a netizen pointed out, “Changing a seven-year-old car is not a bad idea. Warranty, safety, reliability, efficiency, and even prestige when meeting foreign investors, are necessary.

The Penang PH government has been administering the state well, which is more important. So, don’t miss the wood for the trees.”

So, let’s not be fooled. This context is vastly different from Kelantan Chief Minister Ahmad Yakob who also purchased a new Benz last year. To compare Chow to him would be grossly unjust.

The PAS Chief Minister did not purchase just one car, but a whole fleet of 14! One for himself, and 13 for each member of the whole state executive council. This thirst for luxury cost Kelantan at least several million ringgit!

When criticised for their extravagance, this was how PAS responded – Deputy Chief Minister Mohd Amar Abdullah asked if a Perodua Viva would be an appropriate car for a minister. He even said, “If you had money, would you not use a Merc?”

How distasteful! Did they even stop to consider the feelings of ordinary Kelantanese who may only be able to afford Vivas? Does having money mean you should splurge it on yourself, especially when your own state is in dire straits?

Contrast Mohd Amar’s defensive arrogance to Chow who was sensitive to public sentiment and quick to apologize. Politicians who are humble make great leaders, while those whose heads are in the clouds don’t.