Malaysian arrogance: A 21st century take [Kelana Jaya Line ed.]


Will see how you can read this without feeling that this is just another rant.

Rant by definition means ‘to speak, write or shout in a louduncontrolled, or angry way, often saying confused or silly things‘ (dictionary.cambridge.org).

I will try

This won’t be loud, uncontrolled nor will this be an angry lambasting piece.

So here’s the story, 2 days ago on the 24th May 2021, a head-to-head train collision took place underground, involving 2 trains on the Kelana Jaya LRT Line. The news could have been volumed differently should the trains be empty. Unfortunately, with 213 passengers on board and 64 of them rushed to nearby hospitals, it already does not look good on the company, its leadership, management and entire organisation. Any companies owning a public transport system would typically respond by initiating an investigation, and secondly a PR stance to inform the public via a press conference (PC).

While I am not of a Public Relations person, nor have I any experience whatsoever handling PRs, especially in face of a tragedy, PR is essentially a communication means to manage expectations of your stakeholders. In this very case, Prasarana is not only handling their board of directors, shareholders and long list of stakeholders, they are definitely going to get wolved down by the public, as it is a definitely of public’s interest. Members of the public were involved in the accident, with 6 of them in critical condition requiring ventilator.

Of tests and failures

As a nation, we have and are being tested with a series of challenges (which never seems to end), and now shocked by this tragedy. The location this took place is in the heart of KL, along the busiest stations of this particular line. I am not sure the train was fully packed, as it was post peak hours, during an extended MCO, where most of us will be working from home. Again, this could have been a lot worse.

An injured passenger is seen after receiving treatment at the KLCC station, May 24, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Photo by Firdaus Latif (Malay Mail)

So now going back to the PC which took place on Tuesday (25th May 2021), a day after the accident took place –it turned out to be a typical PR failure. That’s a 2nd major failure already for Prasarana within the span of 48 hours. People’s lives are in danger with a few passengers involved were reported to be in intensive care. This is definitely NOT a time to joke nor take anything which happened, lightly. This is definitely not the time to bring any attention to any one (1) individual but to really discuss on the accident took place, and more importantly the lives and safety of the passengers involved. And when the PC took place, exactly THAT happened !

It’s not about you

Whether the Chairman was pulling a PR stunt, he just made the news skewed on him. Any responsible leader and spokesperson should know when a disaster strikes, the last thing you want are bad omens skewing your way, when situation is already bad. Handle it professionally. Utter disgust to see what I saw in the first few minutes of that PC and reminded me of this instance where a particular Minister (a minister, is a politician in case you did not know that!) handling the heritage and culture ministry was responding in a similar manner to media personnel. Just raw rudeness and reflection of the kind of language and tone which, unfortunately, politicians in Malaysia are known for.

There is manner of speaking (not limited to politicians to be fair) in Malaysia, whether the language is spoken in Bahasa or English, which screams arrogance. Typically politicians speaking to the media, or responding to a criticism. Just look how they speak and barrage each other in the Parliament ! It typically comes packaged with a series of facial expressions and sneers, and emphasis on certain nouns or verbs — depending what needs to be ‘expressed’ since speaking with facts was not enough, or non-existence to begin with. Just like going for an interview, unprepared, you dodge the panel’s questions trying very hard to proof that you know the answer, only to convince how unprepared and uninterested you are with what the real deal is. If you are a recruiter, you know this is a stale trick!

Sustainability VS Change

But when you’re a Chair to a government-linked company, and one of the largest public-transport companies in Malaysia, how can you not be ready for a PC, at least with the facts! But no, this Chairman came not only with his political hat on, (yes we know they wear multiple hats), but also downplaying what Prasarana has stood for through their vision and mission statement : “To increase Public Transportation Usage Through Reliable, Affordable, Proficient, Integrated and Dynamic Services On A Sustainable Basis.” Well, its seems that mission statement has been put to test.

Putting a cultural context to this :

Cultural sustainability as it relates to sustainable development (to sustainability), has to do with the maintaining of cultural beliefs, cultural practicesheritage conservation, culture as its own entity, and attempts to answer the question of whether or not any given cultures will exist in the context of the future.[2] From cultural heritage to cultural and creative industries, culture is both an enabler and a driver of the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.[3] 

There’s nothing sustainable with not putting your political hats down when you’re holding a corporate post, bringing in with the culture associated with politicians from the old block in Malaysia (not all). When you’re in position and power, arrogance is not double-edged sword. Arrogance is something which naturally comes when you are in position and power unless you have a strong value to what you stand for or against.

I did not want to bore you with the details of this particular chairperson (not a fan), but the world wide web is a reliable and sustainable news resource, which is there when I need one. In short, I don’t think the BOD and top management of Prasarana finds this development any shocking. Both ladies seen standing at the PC next to the Chairman, did not look at all pleased to me despite being behind masks! One can only imagine what’s on their mind having this Chairman speak. Humiliation, can be just one of it. Luckily they were smart enough to abide by the SOP and kept their masks on, and that saved them in many ways.

Chairman person ? ‘Nah, forget the SOP, this more important.!’ (puts on face shield)

Respect, humility, Kesopanan dan kesusilaan : Jati diri ke laut?

I have to be honest here, I do not follow this Pasir Salak MP nor am I fan of him. The way he nudged his tongkat (walking stick) to the lady next to him was enough to tell me how ‘respectful’ this person is to Prasarana’s leadership. Full on display of self-entitlement, and in-need-of-validation (not ventilation ya!). If he can do that to his leadership, then what lesser can he not prove to the media personnels who attended the PC. Well, the video is viral enough for you to see for yourself.

I have been repeating this mantra the past few weeks conducting interviews.. that to learn and excel, always start and continue the journey with respect and humility. Without that, do whatever engagement, training or leadership courses, its hard to bring that message home. And when you’re up there, its even harder, trust me.

21st century, culture and change

This is, if you have not noticed, the 21st century where we are ‘supposedly’ to be more aware and sensitive to what we say and do, thanks to better education and upbringing. We are open to change and realign with the principles which we stand for, while keeping it firm to our core values and faith. We are not too emotional with criticism and take that as an opportunity to learn. Failure to learn — then the same mistakes keep on looping, and the change we so badly want seems still far away. Let’s not culture fail us, but be the reason for us to change.

The danger is in totally wiping away a culture which pretty much has been a seabed if not foundation to our nation, the nation which we have all benefited from. How on earth did we achieve independence, how on earth do we enjoy the peace and livelihood which we have now (okay, Covid-19 aside..), if not for what our forefathers who have stood and fought for. For the police, soldiers who protected the civilians and our borders during the unrest and occupation? Do you think it was purely for money, power, status and lashing out at media personnels? No, it was a level of dignity and self-respect ! We need not to be reminded that you’re in power, fine that you are, but be a responsible and dignified one!

Collaborations – yasminarisafeizal
Photo from : yasminarisafeizal.wordpress.com

Just look at Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman, the late Tun Tan Cheng Lock and the late Tun V.T. Sambanthan, class of a leadership. We Malaysians owe you one! On a lighter note, most probably Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman wouldn’t have been proud to see his songkok senget and tongkat style being copied but not his act and leadership being exemplified!

While we like to retain some of the cool stuff which our forefathers have taught us, or the occasional whippings our bottoms received as a ‘budak nakal’, some of our practise DO need change. If we can’t change other people, you know the best way is to really change our own selves FIRST. Reflect it in your conduct and character, and by not acting like those you’re actually condemning. Netizens, you can act better. Being emotional online does not fix things. But actual action DO! Just like the petition pressuring this particular Chairman to step down, OR that official termination of this Chairman’s service by Malaysia’s Finance Minister after that failed PR.

NOW, that is pure class. Regardless how the investigation will turnout, that doesn’t give the passport for that Chairman to do it ‘his way’, as that culture of arrogance and rudeness has depleted in its significance and appeal to the public, in the 21st century, nor did it appeal to our Finance Minister so to speak. Bravo MOF ! To the 64 victims and families of the victims, our prayers and hopes are with you. Speedy recovery!

We hope justice will prevail once the investigation is over.

user posted image
NST news clipping: 2nd June 1999 (Taken from Lowyat forum)

Blogger note: Back in the days (some 2 decades ago) this line is simply known as PUTRA before the company was took over by Prasarana in September 2002. STAR line is the bulkier and wider train which runs past above and next to Masjid Jamek, and PUTRA will simply refer to that train or line which goes under ground connecting Masjid Jamek and KLCC.

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