Home Opinion A tale of siakap, frogs and integrity

A tale of siakap, frogs and integrity

I just had a nice break on Langkawi Island.

While I was away on my island getaway, social media was awash with the news of a group of visitors being charged an exorbitant amount for a dish of ‘siakap’ or local barramundi fish in Langkawi.

Their bill was indeed eye-watering. I stayed away from this restaurant, and all the other tourist traps.

However, for someone who asks how much any dish, especially one that looks exotic, will cost, it beggars belief that these patrons didn’t think of asking this all-important question, before choosing that particular fish.

As a restaurant owner myself, I really prefer if you tell me or my managers if something is dissatisfactory, like the taste, portion size, price or service, when you dine-in at my place.

I can then immediately attempt to make things better, or offer reparations. It’s a win-win situation for both of us.

The worst kind of customer that any restaurateur wants to avoid, is the one who says everything is “fine” and then writes a nasty review about the restaurant. Especially, if this then goes completely viral.

Right! Having said this, seriously RM1,196.80 for a 7.48kg ‘siakap’?

It doesn’t take a genius to work out the cost, factoring in the average price in the market, and the mark-up a restaurant adds for their service, cooking and the set-up of the place.

This is most certainly a “taking the mickey” price!

The restaurant owner apparently put a massive premium on this ‘siakap’, because it was reared for more than 11 years and was fed the freshest of small fish, instead of the usual processed feed.

To be frank, I don’t know who is right or wrong. I think no restaurant owner should be so perverse as to come up with ludicrous prices on such flimsy grounds. At the same time, why would you even decide to order a fish, at this crazy rate.

I reckon the problem is much deeper. It is about integrity. Or rather the lack of it.

In our country, we are going to witness another state election. The state government of Melaka fell, because four elected representatives decided, for reasons best known to them, to drop their coalition colours and withdraw support, causing the state government to crumble.

This is not a new phenomenon in Malaysia. We have already seen it happen at the national level, when defections brought down our last legitimately elected government.

Currently, you might just find yourself fatigued by politics and politicians. The endless political rhetoric, the numerous unnecessary elections, the news coverage, and the blatant waste of taxpayers money.

It’s just so much noise when we have so many more important national issues to solve.

To top it all off, two of the defectors in Melaka have just been nominated by the Pakatan Harapan coalition to stand as their candidates in the upcoming state election.

It’s quite a laughable situation, isn’t it?

The very same Pakatan Harapan, a legitimately elected coalition by us the people, was brought down by rogue members of parliament from their own ranks in February 2020.

The term ‘frogs’ entered the Malaysian political lexicon to symbolise politicians who jump ship after being elected by the people.

Having made such a hue and cry about the unbecoming behaviour by their members of parliament who decided to jump ship, the coalition has now decided to field these new ‘frogs’ in the Melaka state elections, much to the vexation of some of their coalition partners, and most definitively in the eyes of the public.

We see Malaysian politics getting nastier and callous. We’ve watched politicians yell at each other, but no one’s changed anyone’s mind.

If you ask anyone in Malaysia, if they think it’s okay for politicians to lie and be untruthful, or tell the truth and be honest, every single person you talk to, will say that our leaders should tell the truth. But most people will also tell you that they don’t expect their politicians to be honest.

In many ways, our country is a ship headed for an iceberg, and I think we can all sense it.

This is no longer simply about which coalition or political party is better. It is about demanding honesty and integrity from our leadership, and rewarding that integrity with our votes.

Integrity in politics, just like truthfulness in transacting in ‘siakap’ fish, must be the lighthouse for Malaysia in navigating out of this impending collision.

Now, more than ever, we the citizens of Malaysia have become responsible for the character of our leadership. If our lawmakers are ignorant, thoughtless and corrupt, it is because we tolerate ignorance, thoughtlessness and corruption.

If we have restaurateurs who charge us insane prices and act as thugs, it is because we accept them.

In essence, if you want leadership with integrity, then stop trusting people who lie even if it is sold to us as being the “right thing to do”.

If we tolerate ‘frogs’ and just have a good laugh about the price of ‘siakap’ in Langkawi, we are doomed to head towards that iceberg.

Remember, at the end of the day, we only get the leaders (and restaurants) we deserve, because if we want people with integrity to serve us, we must start by behaving with integrity ourselves.


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