The government is now on the road throughout the country calling on the people to be courteous and respecful to one another. But, alas, a cabinet minister is doing the opposite by being rude to elder statesman and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Mohamad Nazri Aziz, the self-appointed spokesman for the government of prime minister Abdullah Badawi, had on Monday called on Tun Mahathir to be a "jantan" (real man), leave Umno, the political party in power.
Nazri told reporters at a press conference in Parliament lobby that he would like to see Mahathir leaving the party himself. Who is he to call on Mahathir to do so?
"Nazri is what they call a hatchet man. I don't care at all his opinion. The party doesn't belong to Nazri. It belongs to all Malays (Umno members). Nazri has no right to ask this or that person to leave. I was in Umno before he was born," Mahathir said on Tuesday.
The former prime minister said that he had no plans to leave Umno although he believed that there was a move to expel him from the party.
"I know there is this process of demonishing me, so that I will be hated by Umno. At that stage, I think they will take action to expel me. At the moment, they cannot," he said.
Nazri was quoted as saying that "if he (Mahathir) wants to leave the party, we won't stop him. If he remains in the party, he is acting like the opposition. It's better for him to be a "jantan" and leave the party, become the opposition. Then it's also easier for me to attack him. Now if I want to fight with him, I will hesitate because he is ex-PM."
Now isn't that rude and unbecoming of a cabinet minister who thinks he is more "jantan" than Mahathir. Look at Mahathir, the 81-year old man who looks 20 years younger than his age, that is a real "jantan" compared to Nazri, who is only 51.
I am wondering why Nazri was so eager to defend prime minister Abdullah's son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin. Any vested interests? Maybe the luxury penthouse at Gurney Drive, Penang, the bungalow at Langkawi, the bungalow at Shah Alam and other landed properties in Perak are not enough, or maybe greed overcomes courtesy and respect for the elders.
Nazri said he responded to Mahathir's comments at a talk-cum-dialogue on Saturday at Ulu Klang because he is worried "if the cabinet does not reply, people may perceive what he (Mahathir) said as the truth. So I think my responsibility is to reply to what he had said." Isn't this apple-polishing right down to the root of the tree?
When asked by the press whether his stand represent the cabinet's stand, Nazri replied: "It doesn't matter to me, I take this responsibility as minister in charge of Parliament and the PM's Department minister (to answer) because I don't want my PM and DPM to reply. So as a minister from Umno, I take it upon myself to respond to all these allegations.
Again, apple-polishing. And as to his statement that he is the minister in charge of Parliament, that reminded me of what former Chief Justice Eusoff Chin described the duties of the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (de-facto law minister) Rais Yatim as this:
"He's more responsible for logistic problems. If we lack court equipment or rooms, then we go to him." Eusoff said this on June 6, 2000 when he took Rais to task for commenting on the judicial system.
If we take the former chief justice's statement, we can conclude that among others, Nazri's duties as minister in charge of Parliament is to take care of the logistics, equipments and other facilities that are required by Parliament. So why is Nazri, of all the ministers, so eager to come forward and defended the prime minister and his son-in-law?
To me, what Nazri did was simply rude! I have lost count how many times Nazri kissed Mahathir's hand in the past when the latter was the prime minister. That is Nazri Aziz.