By Francis Paul Siah
I don’t think I have ever taken offence at the words or actions of Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing deemed ‘abnormal’ in the past.
Tiong is not a minister; he is only a government backbencher. Even if his appointment as Special Envoy to China came with ministerial rank, he is not in charge of a ministry.
(We can recall how he rejected his initial appointment as a deputy minister in the Peritakan Nasional government as he felt slighted by the junior post.)
I’m not sure how many of us really know the functions and duties of a special envoy and whether that position is necessary or functional.
What I’m driving at is that I do not consider Tiong a political heavyweight as he does not make major decisions in the government.
Thus, what he says or does, even if wrong, callous and out of sync, is forgettable and forgivable. I found them tolerable all along.
However, this was not the case yesterday.
This time, I wish to register my offence at his tirade against Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah in Parliament, which was totally unnecessary in the first place.
To say that Noor Hisham “is afraid to die” for not coming down personally to Sabah to monitor the Covid-19 situation is not just an ordinary remark to me, but a downright insult.
(Tiong should also question what the health minister (what’s his name again?) has been doing all these while. If the minister has gone to Sabah, it would probably be to campaign during the recent elections.)
And that was not all.
Tiong also implied that the Health DG was on a publicity blitz and that Noor Hisham was also eyeing the post of director-general at the World Health Organisation (WHO). I take that to mean the DG is on a campaign too.
Goodness gracious! I find it difficult to believe that Tiong actually uttered those cruel and insensitive words in Parliament.
It was a classless act, Tiong. As a fellow Sarawakian, I am ashamed of you. Your words were uncouth, thuggish and boorish.
Taking wild and ugly potshots at Noor Hisham, arguably the most respected, dignified and much-loved civil servant in the country today, has probably placed you among the most vilified politicians in Malaysia today.
If certain people have complained to Tiong about the DG, the MP could easily bring up the matter with Noor Hisham instead of launching the vicious and meaningless attacks in the august House.
Carrying out duties with dignity, grace
To me and many Malaysians, Noor Hisham is a class above, certainly above politicians, including ministers who are not fit to be in the cabinet.
Noor Hisham carries out his duties and responsibilities with dignity, charm and grace.
I don’t believe anyone will enjoy giving daily press briefings on the pandemic and updating the nation on the latest situation. This was for the past nine months in a row. That’s a heck of a job!
If critics think that the DG is after publicity, I believe Noor Hisham is more than happy to take a break. Perhaps Tiong can take over if he thinks he is qualified to do so.
After all, the MP is a politician and needs media coverage. Noor Hisham does not.
I have heard the DG’s daily briefings several times. Noor Hisham speaks distinctively and is eloquent in English and Bahasa. For sure, ‘kong kali kong’ (conspiring) is not in his vocabulary.
As for the allegation that the DG is campaigning for the WHO’s top post, we should be proud if a Malaysian is elected to head the world body.
In fact, I think that the government should support such a campaign, if there is really one. Noor Hisham will carry the Malaysian flag high in the WHO and we should all be proud of him.
I am glad that the DG has responded to the Bintulu MP’s tirade, saying it in his usual calm, dignified and diplomatic manner.
“As a Muslim, I have accepted that death can happen anywhere. What is important for us is our intention, which is to carry out our duties and break the chain of infection,” Noor Hisham said.
And that is how a man with class talks.
In April, in the early stage of the Covid-19 lockdown, I also came to the defence of the DG and registered my disgust that Noor Hisham and his team at the forefront to keep us safe and save lives have been viciously attacked for being incompetent and “out of touch”.
Seven months later, we have another salvo fired at a good man and a competent leader.
As I had quoted in April: “To everything, there is a season… a time to speak and a time to be silent.”
That is my message to Tiong. As an MP, be a man of class. Think carefully before you speak and avoid creating blunders.
I think an apology to Noor Hisham is in order.
This piece first appeared in Malaysiakini. The views here do not necessarily represent those of this portal.