Saiful Bukhari photographed with Umno VIPs, so what?

Posted on July 1, 2008


By Helen Ang


Four photos have been publicized: Taken of Anwar’s accuser outside the office of the DPM, and him with Shahrir, Azalina (group photo) and Mustapha Mohamed (trio).

The 3 VIPs have responded that they don’t know Saiful, and don’t remember him. As public figures, lots of people come up to have photos taken with them.

Reflect on the psychology behind the release, circulation and publication of these photos. Was it supposed to hint that the 23-year-old had Umno ties?

At the most, they imply he did not mind an association with Umno or liked being photographed with Ministers. They do not infer he’s a party mole.

While granting the possibility there might be evidence to bolster allegations of an Umno connection to turn up, nonetheless it’s not something to be adduced by the current crop of photos. If you or anyone attended a Raya Open House or some public function or forum, chances are you could collect ‘Me & VIP’ snapshots too.

The three of Saiful with the VIPs are not sinister but within the norms of social interaction in his capacity as student leader. In the fourth photo, does one make a case for guilt by association with regard to having a Najib staffer for a pal?

The issue, as I see it, is with the Malaysian mindset.

I once witnessed a huckster at work. My friend was considering selling her property. The real estate agent brought a Korean lady to view. The prospective buyer asked if the house’s residential title could be converted to commercial.

The broker assured her, Can, Can. He can fix anything. He boasted his ‘cables’.

Then he went to his car, got out a portfolio and proceeded to show her an album of photos. They pictured him with a whole gamut of Malaysian VIPs under the sun, from PM to CM to state leaders to military and police brass. The Korean was unimpressed and told him off saying, Anybody can take a photo with the PM, it doesn’t signify.

So, what’s at issue is the ‘Know Who’ mentality prevalent in this country – the belief that things need to be ‘facilitated’ by VIPs pulling strings or else the official paperwork will gather dust.

Shouldn’t any application submitted go through due process and be considered on its own merits or simply be dealt with pro forma? – Clearly my rhetorical question.

Why should one believe intervention by a VIP would fast track or ensure its approval? – Sadly, this is in some cases true and the reason why expats and foreign businessmen rank Malaysia low in transparency and high in the corruption perception index. However, my contention is about the public accepting this situation as inevitable and the state natural to Malaysia.

So it’s really public thinking that condoned the BN way of doing things all these years.

Posted in: Frustrations