KOTA KINABALU July 6, 2011: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said he accepts with an open mind the criticism against him by Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi.
“Constructive criticisms make us better leaders. On the same token, I will continue to speak up for Sabah without fear or favour on issues that need urgent attention,” he said in response to the sharp criticism from the deputy minister, who on Monday described him as having backward, colonial mentality.
Puad lashed at Masidi, who is also the state’s education exco, after the latter said Puad had failed to deliver a promise he made to the community in Ranau two years ago, and the long delayed SMK Nabalu project would finally start within two months after his visit.
Masidi said he welcomed Puad’s announcement that the construction of the school would commence next month, although he stood to what he had said about the need for leaders to honour their promises.
“People have supported BN in the past because they see it as dependable, trustworthy and delivers on its promises. All BN leaders must stand by these qualities if we want the people to continue to support us.
“I was at the Pekan Nabalu Community Hall in August 2009 when Puad made the promise in front of nearly 100 local community leaders that SMK Nabalu would start construction in the following year.
“He added that ‘Kalau pembinaan SMK Nabalu tidak bermula tahun depan, tuan-tuan boleh penggal kepala saya’ (if the construction of SMK Nabalu does not commence next year, you gentlemen can cut my head off).
“He repeated his assurance to get the construction started the next year when he was asked by a reporter after the function at the community centre,” he said.
However, according to Masidi, Puad had kept silent despite repeated queries when the project failed to take off as promised, only to break his silence after nearly two years.
He also noted that the school was actually approved over 15 years ago under the Seventh Malaysian Plan (RMK7), and 15 years is a long time for the people to test their patience.
“I can assure him that we totally understand about government financial procedures, but we see these procedures as facilitator and proper guideline to make sound decision, not a hindrance to delay making a decision,” he added.
Instead of accusing him of being backward and having a colonial mentality, Masidi said Puad should emulate the openness and inclusive approach Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has been advocating to all BN leaders and policy makers.
He said while the Prime Minister was being more open to public opinion and even criticism, Puad seemed to be stuck with a ‘I am right you are wrong’ attitude.
Masidi admitted that he had always been very vocal on certain issues because this was what he believed the Prime Minister expected of all BN leaders – to go to the ground and inform decision makers of problems faced by the rakyat.
“I personally feel that Najib is a good PM and if I had been vocal it is because I want him to succeed as our leader by being always truthful.
“Sabahans are simple people who expect leaders to keep their promises. If for any reason that a promise cannot be kept for certain valid reason, the people expect the same leaders to inform and explain to them accordingly.
“I wonder if Puad had gone back to Nabalu since August 2009 to inform the community leaders why the project was delayed. People would have understood.
“For a person who is willing to lose his head if he renegades on a promise, I would have thought that it makes political sense for Puad to meet the folk at Pekan Nabalu to explain the delay,” said Masidi further.
According to him, it was left to the local leaders to explain the issue and defend the government as well as Puad.
He said it was because of this he have advised non-Sabahan leaders to refrain from making promises they could not keep, because local Sabah leaders would have to shoulder consequential political burden because of it.
He quipped that leaders themselves are not important but what they do or fail to do are, because it has an impact on the lives and future of many people.
As such, he added, if leaders consider their jobs and responsibilities more important than their perceived self-importance, they would achieve more in their effort to transform Malaysia into a model of excellence in this part of the world.