In our Selected Exhortations category, we republish interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you would like to reproduce your writing, but first follow our Writer’s Guide here. This is the second post of a new satirical series on how a billionaire secretly funds and forms the next Selangor administration. You can follow the series here.
After the initial shock and following Munusamy’s gracious agreement to defer any decision on the political quest until all the other directors had some time to read through and examine the ‘movie script’, Rizal had tried to talk to his daughter on the matter – but she was wily enough to avoid him until everyone had gathered again around the conference table the next evening.
Still, he was glad Munusamy had stepped aside from chairing this meeting – in compliance with their long-cherished convention – since it was his script and plan the board was to decide on after all.
“I’ll get straight to the point. I don’t like Jamilah heading this project.”
Signalling her to remain seated, Munusamy asked: “Why Rizal? What’s wrong with her qualification and abilities?”
As usual, Rizal came prepared with notes that he pulled out of his short pocket. “Firstly, she’s a woman and I seriously doubt the voters would want to have her as the Menteri Besar.”
“Rizal, you’re showing your age with such a sexist mentality. Do you seriously doubt your own daughter’s capability to do the job?” Munusamy questioned.
“I’m fully confident in her abilities,” came the response. “But, I’m not sure if the conservative Muslims …”
Rizal didn’t get to finish as the other immediately spoke up in protest and it took a while before calm was restored.
“Let’s make this simple,” said Munusamy. “You’ve brought up a valid point as politics is definitely more about impressions than the facts. We’ll tackle this issue later, but I take it you have no serious objections about the plan to take over Selangor?”
Rizal hesitated, then shrugged. “The plan sounds about right if, and I must point out this is a very strong if, the Registrar of Societies approves the formation of our political party.”
Munusamy smiled broadly. “The application was approved two days ago. That’s why I gave Jamilah the script to read through.”
With this, Rizal signalled surrender and Munusamy then turned to Jamilah. “Well, what do you think?”
Jamilah gave the thumbs-up. “Since my three kids spend most of their time with my mum anyway, there won’t be a problem. And my husband’s catering business practically runs itself now, he’ll be able to help out with whatever I need. We’ve already had good practice during the six months while I was directing my last movie and maybe we can use the behind-the-scenes footage to counter any smear campaign of me being a lousy wife and mother. This will be the most fun I’d had in years!”
“Hold on to that enthusiasm, Jamilah. You’re going to need it as the journey will be long, tiring and likely to be nasty,” advised Munusamy. “Now, on the party name – does anyone have any opinions?”
“Parti Amal or the Right Party sounds just right, if you’ll forgive the pun. I’m sure the party mission will go down well with voters because we’re not planning to change the laws too much except to do what’s already largely in place,” said Raymond.
“I’m not sure of the English acronym of ‘RiP’ as it sounds like ‘rest in peace’ in the ‘being dead’ sense, although the intent is otherwise clear,” said Charlene. “The Malay short name of ‘Amal’ is perfect, though.”
Noting there weren’t any objections, Rizal took back the discussion mantle. “What about the orange colour to represent vibrant action?”
Again, there weren’t any objections and the proposed logo of a kite diamond too was okayed. It was when the campaigning strategy came up for discussion that concerns were raised.
“While I like the idea of presenting a possible exco line-up even before the election, I don’t like our company being stripped of almost two-thirds of our senior and middle level staff,” said Raymond.
“It’s time the underlings are given a chance to prove themselves. Same with our bankable actors, there are many more talents just waiting to be given the opportunity to play lead roles in our movies,” argued Munusamy.
Seeing Raymond unhappy, but unwilling to contradict the boss, Jamilah chipped in. “Chances are not everyone nominated will be voted in. That’s why I like how the proposed exco line-up has each two back-up candidates to take over. So, it isn’t going to be that bleak an outlook for the company.”
Rizal allowed himself an inward smile at how his daughter naturally took on this concern so well. “What about our fastfood outlets being used for campaigning purposes? As it is, we’ve had a hard time over the past 10 years or so convincing everyone these outlets can function well as soup kitchens after 9pm. How are we going to avoid flouting campaigning rules?”
Jamilah had a ready answer. “For one, the areas in front of our outlets are open to the public and I hardly see our company refusing the rentals to hold rallies there.”
Munusamy nodded and gestured her to continue.
“Also, what better gesture to the people we are serious about delivering on our promises for the better good instead of just lining our own pockets?” Jamilah asked.
Rizal didn’t seem to be satisfied. “Are you also going to register everyone who also happens to come to our soup kitchen as a political supporter or vice versa? And don’t you think this will annoy our loyal supporters who have continued to buy food at our fastfood outlets to be later distributed at the soup kitchen if there’s any chance those attending the political rallies might monopolise food meant for the needy?”
“Also, what about possible security problems if anyone decides to cause trouble or any intimidation by shouting and physical threats? What about cowards who might throw Molotov cocktails or worse? If there are enough daring idiots to desecrate places of worship before, you’d simply be turning our fastfood outlets into new targets for them. Also, what about ensuring the safety of our people, especially staff who aren’t part of this political project? You’ve also got to think of their children, who might be intimidated in schools by their peers or anywhere they go.”
There was total silence when Rizal finished. Jamilah simply glared at her father, daring him to say more, but he simply leaned back in his chair to indicate he had made his point.
Munusamy eventually acknowledged: “I didn’t think of such negative elements, but you’re right. We have to be prepared for such attacks on our character, families, friends and properties. Maybe this idea isn’t so great after all.”
Jamilah immediately responded. “Since when were we such cowards? You showed us with both the movies and the fastfood outlets cum soup kitchens that such projects are worthwhile doing regardless of the odds and the high chance of failure. Maybe the stakes are higher now, but I’m sure my husband and children are ready to face the challenges, come what may. I’ve been called worse before in gossip columns and I still am able to stand proud despite anything done to destroy my reputation. I don’t look forward to becoming the first political candidate fatality during the campaigning, but I’m prepared to be the first martyr if is to be so.”
“I’m not,” said Rizal quietly. “As your father, I also realise I can’t stop you if you’re mind’s made up, Jamilah.”
“This is too important for all of us,” replied Jamilah. “What’s the worst that can happen to any one of us? Most of our company income comes from abroad anyway and all staff will be taken care of financially. Everything else is just talk and words, which can’t hurt us unless we let them. But, let all our staff in on this proposal and let them speak up. If we can’t practise true democracy among ourselves, how can we then expect it of the state electorate?”
“Maybe there’s another way,” suggested Charlene. “What if we undertake guerilla tactics? Let’s not campaign at all.”
Seeing the puzzled expressions, she explained: “What if we print promo pamphlets from now with the message ‘We deliver’ in the orange diamond? We can flood this into the state via all our fastfood outlets, movies, banner ads, billboards, TVCs and every opportunity we can. Then, when the state election is finally called, we simply give out these same pamphlets with the party name printed on them too.”
“Also, it’s time to start gaining more attention to our charity and community outreach focus. Let’s set up a website where the public are invited to suggest where we can deliver solutions still within our means now. We can even name the website ‘Amal’ from now so that we don’t have to make major changes later. I can think of more such ideas as we go along.”
For the first time in the discussion, Rizal allowed his smile to show. “Are you sure you don’t me to be part of the Right Party?”