Deputy minister lampooned for making "hold 2 jobs" comments

KEEPING BUSY: I have three jobs: Member of Parliament, deputy minister, Umno information chief. - DATUK AHMAD MASLAN, Deputy Minister of the International Trade and Industry Ministry
KEEPING BUSY: I have three jobs: Member of Parliament, deputy minister, Umno information chief. - DATUK AHMAD MASLAN, Deputy Minister of the International Trade and Industry Ministry

Malaysian official derided over claim; his call for citizens 'to hold 2 jobs' sparks controversy

PETALING JAYA • A deputy minister's claim of juggling three jobs, while trying to encourage Malaysians to hold two jobs to cope with rising costs, has been met with ridicule, even from his own party.

Taking a jab at International Trade and Industry Ministry Deputy Minister Ahmad Maslan's suggestion, Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah yesterday lamented the lack of job opportunities in the country.

"But the problem we face is there are no jobs. Like myself, I don't even have one job," Tengku Razaleigh, 78, the MP for Gua Musang, was quoted as saying by the Malaysiakini news site at a press conference.

Datuk Ahmad sparked a backlash when Astro Awani quoted him last Saturday as saying Malaysians could run an online business while keeping their day jobs.

"I think it is not wrong (to have two jobs) though we have regulations, but it is still one way to address the rising cost of living," he had said at a function with entrepreneurs

Mr Ahmad later added fuel to the fire when he took to Twitter to explain himself and blamed the local broadcaster for its headline "Government encourages working two jobs", which he said was inaccurate.

He tweeted: "I said the ministry encourages online businesses as a means to raise income. It is the latest business trend. I have three jobs: MP, deputy minister, Umno information chief. Many people in Malaysia have two jobs. Work hard to earn an honest living."

That tweet was lampooned by comedian Harith Iskander.

"I'm a comedian, emcee, writer, coach, actor. I don't have five jobs. I do five different things. A job takes up the whole day," he wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

According to the Statistics Department, Malaysia's unemployment rate was 3.1 per cent in October. As of October, 450,800 Malaysians were jobless.

Mean monthly salary was RM2,231 (S$735) last year, compared to RM2,052 in 2013.

In a media statement issued yesterday, opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin accused Mr Ahmad of faulty logic and disorientation.

"Ahmad Maslan and the Barisan Nasional government are disconnected from the suffering of the people... A caring government should always find ways to alleviate the difficulties and sufferings of its people," she was quoted as saying.

This is not the first time Mr Ahmad has found himself in the spotlight for his money tips.

In June, two months after Malaysia's Goods and Services Tax kicked in, he was needled when he tweeted a picture of himself holding a wok filled with fried rice with a can of insecticide next to his stove to promote his "GST-free" fried rice recipe.

He claimed that the ingredients he used, which included eggs and oil, were not subject to the consumption tax, but netizens doubted that the items were exempt from GST.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress secretary-general N. Gopal Krishnam also dismissed the idea of Malaysians holding two jobs, saying that this was not constructive as it would affect personal and family life.

"The government should rethink its approaches to ensure workers have enough income to support themselves and their families," he said in a statement.

School-bus driver Premala was also dismissive of Mr Ahmad's advice. "Driving children to school in the morning, taking them home and then doing the rounds for afternoon school, besides taking care of my children, take a lot out of me. I am exhausted every day," she told The Star.

"Even when people offered me a second job to drive students to an international school, I said 'no'. I would be rushing around and putting the lives of the children in danger."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2015, with the headline 'Deputy minister's '3 jobs' remarks lampooned'. Print Edition | Subscribe