How is it possible that we can be picky about the criteria we look for in so many things in our lives but not the person who will represent our well-being and interest as citizens of this country? | Image by

This article by Lim Ka Ea was first published on

How is it possible that we can be picky about the criteria we look for in so many things in our lives but not the person who will represent our well-being and interest as citizens of this country? | Image by

Overheard at a wedding reception at the Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur:

Mrs Ravi: Singham! Are you still seeing that Monica? I saw you flirting-flirting with Mary at the bar. Talking and laughing only. What’s going on?

Singham: We’re just talkinglah, Ma. Are you flirting with Aunty Tina? Both of you seem to be talking and laughing all the time. What’s going on, huh? Huh?

Mrs Ravi: You don’t be cheeky and don’t think I haven’t noticed you poking and sending those x-o-x-o nonsense to Angela, Pamela, Sandra and Rita on Facebook. So naughty only.

Singham: Huh? What the… I don’t know what you’re talking about, Ma. Honestly!

Mrs Ravi: You added me to your Facebook three years ago. Remember?

Singham: But, but… I thought I’ve blocked you?!

Mrs Ravi: Who do you really think Erica is?

A long and uncomfortable silence ensues as Singham vaguely recalls receiving a friend request from someone called Erica a couple of months ago.

Mrs Ravi: Boy, now tell me honestly, when will I get to hold my first grandchild?!

Singham gulps and wipes the sweat already forming on his forehead. Before he figures out a way to appease his mother, he makes a mental note not to poke any random girls on his Facebook account ever again.

Singham: Aiyah, Maaaa. Monica is nice but she hates children. She seems to think that they’re rental toys to be dressed up and then sent back with a refundable deposit.  Pamela’s fun but she’s so self-centred, as if the whole world revolves around her. Angela, umm… she thinks she’s so damn pretty and desirable, she can get away with anything.

Mrs Ravi: What about Rita and Jessica? I saw photos of you on vacation with them. Separately-separately some more.

Singham: Aiyah, Ma. Relaxlah. Marriage is a big thing. I want to find the right girl. Can’t just simply pick one, right?!

Mrs Ravi: Tell me, what type of girl are you looking for? Don’t be so picky only.

Singham: I don’t know, Ma. (Sighs)  OK, OK, if you must know, I guess she must be pretty. Fun, but got her head screwed on right. A good cook. Independent. Not the needy and manipulative kind. Ah yes, funny of course. And doesn’t take herself too seriously.  Hmmm… what else? Someone who likes her food? But not fatlah. Kind, caring and intelligent. Neat but not obsessively anal?  Modest but yet confident. Respects the environment and loves animals. Honest.

Mrs Ravi: You know Erica is taken, right? (Winks)

The thought of him poking “Erica” just a couple of weeks ago sends Singham into a state of nausea.

Yes, if only a bachelor’s life was as easy as Mambo Number Five.

Picking the right gal is probably harder than picking the right shade of tie to go with your pink Ted Baker shirt and brown Steve Madden brogues. Yet, we tend to take our time trying out as many styles, colours, designs and silhouettes before we eventually settle for the one we will be proud to display and put a signature on (we’re not even talking about fashion anymore).

We’ve been investing much of our time flipping through the pages of magazines, pondering over the choice of watches, shoes, restaurants, cars, bags, gadgets, vacations and gifts. We weigh the options, look at their merits, compare their values and finally make the decision we believe will serve our interest best.

Once a year, some of us read the profile of unknown men (and women) who get handpicked by different magazines to become Men (or Women) of the Year (secretly, some of us think that we’re better than the picks, especially those LoyarBurok fellas) and we instinctively put on our judgment cap as opposed to a fedora. We agree that to be picked as Men (or Women) of the Year, you’ve gotta have that something, the je ne sais quoi – not just the looks and goods but also some sort of criteria that gives each individual that extra edge; creativity, entrepreneurship, sportsmanship, leadership and, of course good looks never seem to hurt (damn them!).

Two years ago, UndiMsia! carried out a project called the Laporan Rakyat. No, it’s not an opinion poll on whether Julie Woon is hotter than Yvonne Sim. It’s a scorecard that invites respondents to rate their state assemblyperson and member of Parliament. (OK, we’ve seen that same disappointed look (and yawn) many times. Sorry, we’re immune to it.) We ask the respondents a series of questions ranging from:

  • Are you a registered voter?
  • Who are your Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (ADUN) and member of Parliament (MP)?
  • Describe your ADUN and MP in 50 words.
  • What is the most important thing your ADUN and MP have done which has positively affected you and your community?
  • Is it easy to meet your ADUN and MP?
  • Do they know about the issues in your community? Do they solve the issues?
  • Do they discuss these issues with your community and make a decision together for your community?
  • Have they fulfilled their promises and pledges during the previous elections?
  • Are you happy with their performance?

We also ask the respondents whether they’ve heard their ADUN and MP speak about crime, corruption, education, employment, environment, freedom of expression, democracy, gender equality, healthcare, public infrastructure, racial unity and prices of food, goods and housing. To be honest, our findings were most troubling but not entirely surprising. It did seem that most of the candidates do have that je ne sais quoi, except in the literal sense of the word.

While many of the respondents are most likely able to articulate the qualities they look for in a life partner (like our dear Singham), the majority do not seem to be able to identify who their ADUN and MP are, much less what they stand for and how they have been performing. Hence, literally an I-don’t-know-what kind of response.

Now, what’s troubling is that the majority of Malaysians seem to be contented with leaving important decisions such as how the country is being run, how laws are being made and how the country’s money is being spent, in the hands of total strangers. Sure, you’re not going to bed and live with your ADUN and MP for the rest of your life, but they are the ones making laws that will affect every aspect of your life and your family’s – the affordability of your first family home together, the quality of your child’s education and her freedom to profess the religion of her choice, amongst many other things.

What’s not surprising is that many Malaysians are likely more interested in Facebook status updates, uploading photographs of what they ate the night before and debating which smartphones they would die for, than what law has just been passed in Parliament to restrict Malaysians’ right to Internet freedom, for example. An irony, don’t you think? Frankly speaking, finding the right partner is not even close to half of the relationship’s struggle (sorry to put a damper on you). Once Singham has found her and he’s lucky enough to survive that seven-year itch, both of them will inevitably be confronted with making decisions about housing and eventually the cost of living, education and healthcare.

How is it possible that we can be picky about the criteria we look for in so many things in our lives – fashion, gadgets, cars, properties, partner but not the very person who will represent our well-being and interest as citizens of this country? The 13th general election is finally over. The people have chosen. What’s left now is for all the elected representatives to get to work and to prove how worthy they are of the people’s votes. It’s also up to us to hold them accountable to their duties. After all, if all things fail and result in irreconcilable differences, a separation or divorce can be an option like any other relationships.

All we’re saying is, when it comes to choosing your elected representatives, always get to know them first so you can weigh your options, look at their merits, compare their values and finally make the decision you believe will serve your interest best. You would do this for the many other things in your life, but why should you expect less from our politicians?

This article is inspired by UndiMsia!’s “Laporan Rakyat” project. UndiMsia! is a fiercely non-partisan movement focusing on citizen empowerment, based out of the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (aka the LoyarBurok Rakyat Centre).  For more information, please go to or

Ka Ea used to be a globe trotter. She has lived in Timor Leste and Afghanistan while working as a civic education and human rights officers for the United Nations. She then tried to be a full time housewife...

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