Opinion

From Damansara with love

MARCH 29 — What should a 60-year-old widow in Cheras do when she gets a Happy New Year card from a retirees’ club?

One might say, smile and put it in the sock with all the other season’s greeting cards. Nice to know, that someone remembers.

Except that this card arrived five days ago in the post. It’s March in most parts of the world.

Umno’s (N1) retired senior civil servants’ club wants to wish my India-born mother a good 2012 almost at the end of March. Sometimes, writers do get material in the post.

First, the disclaimer: Umno has declared many times over that millions of Malaysians are party members. Quite remarkable considering millions of Malaysians at the same time are explicitly forbidden from joining it. So one might have to acknowledge that the secretary-general of the party, Tengku Adnan, is not privy to every correspondence by every Umno club.

Let alone late-arriving season greetings.

218

A snapshot of the greeting card.A snapshot of the greeting card.So back to folks in Pusat Bandar Damansara. That’s right, this Umno club, the one that intends itself for senior civil servants, is housed at the federal government’s city office complex (it’s in the block with the McDonald’s). Nestled conveniently adjacent to the Bukit Damansara (Damansara Heights) housing area, you’d expect a fair number of its members to reside there. That makes it easy.

What is Umno’s retired senior civil servants’ club? My interest piqued I checked their website. There are 218 members with IC numbers and all. Very bona fide from the look of things. If you are bored in the office you can always play “Google him/her”, all the members have interesting and successful backgrounds. You don’t become a “senior civil servant” by being unsuccessful.

The “committee” page does not open up, so can’t tell you who is an office bearer from the 218, except of course for the chairman who is Aseh Che Mat — he signed off the greeting card. He is also chairman of POS Malaysia, so I hope his branch got a good discount for the bulk mailing.

I tried to call them to thank them on behalf of my mother, but no one picked up the land line. So I called a couple of the mobile numbers listed on the greeting card, but no response there too. As of writing time, no one has called me back. Tsk.

Just my mom?

Highly unlikely there was a moment in the office when someone turned around and said, “Oh no, we’ve printed 220 cards, perhaps we should send one to Kanthimathi in Cheras.”

Just to be sure I called the most active government pensioner I know in my residential zone. He got his card 10 days ago. He said that he was in the first batch of mails for the area, because other retirees only received their cards later. They were not amused I’m told.

Less-than-subtle greeting cards might offend retirees somewhat, but being ignored upsets retirees much more.  Being ignored by fellow retirees, well that’s just not on.

Fortunately almost everyone in my contact’s circle, including his wife, has received his or her individual greeting cards from Umno’s retired senior civil servants’ club.

Three cheers for POS Malaysia and its chairman then.

Stamps don’t grow on trees

But why send these cards?

Not to recruit for the branch I feel, it seems you have to be a Datuk or Tan Sri to be a member of this branch, and my mom did not even serve in the service. She’s the widow of a civil servant, a government driver. Pretty sure my dad and the many they mailed in Cheras never reached Grade 48 in the Public Service Commission, or went on to serve on the board of a GLC (government-linked company).

Scratch recruitment. Scratch promotion too.

But cards and mailing lists cost money, even if you print and mail in bulk. On the face of it, pretty expensive for 218 pensioners.

Who paid for the exercise then?

Since Umno is in the business of transparency and good governance, and lately even repentance, it might want to pop a call to this Umno branch and say despite the great service they do the party as a whole, HQ wants to know who’s paying?

The smell of election then

My mom is a voter in Dusun Tua. The incumbent is an Umno man. It has always been an Umno assemblyman for the area since independence. PAS won the parliamentary seat, but the police camp is in Dusun Tua. The riot police no less.

This must add to the speculation that the general election is near.

I’m not all together sure about it. The March window is over, and this opens up a possible June date.

It can be many things.

The cards may have been intended for January, to coincide with a March decider. When that was shelved, they decided to postpone mailing the cards?

There is a tentative date and plans are being made, but I’ll wager that there is no firm date. Najib Razak may be trying to wear down Pakatan Rakyat (N2) through continued talk of election. Or use the talk of election to deflect from the growing list of liabilities in his ranks.

I’ve not ruled out that national polls may only happen in 2013.

St Patrick’s Day then

I’m still perplexed by the card — if they had to pick a convenient celebration in March to coincide with political messaging through a card mailed to thousands and still remain under the radar, they might have picked St Patrick’s Day (March 17).

Or perhaps it is in reference to the old calendar, the pre-Gregorian calendar. The one where April 1 starts the year. Then they are really in sync.

If Umno fails to hold elections in June I wonder what other greeting card will be finding its way to us good people in Cheras, later this year.

I did not send any greeting card to any of the members of Umno’s retired senior civil servants’ club last December or since, and since mass card mailing is beyond me, I’ll just take this opportunity then to wish them in return. Happy New Year, guys. Mom sends her regards too.

(N1) Umno is the biggest party in Malaysia’s Parliament, leading 13 other coalition parties. They are a race-exclusive party, championing the rights of all Malaysians by the promotion first of those of their race. How this works when the obvious contradiction stands out like a savage thumb? You really have to live in Malaysia.

(N2) Pakatan Rakyat is a coalition of three parties — PKR, PAS and the DAP — in the opposition right now. They have far less resources in a highly centralised system of government practised by the Umno-led Barisan Nasional.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

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