Display empathy not jokes

By Siti Fatimah Azzahra Zawawi

A few days ago our nation was jerked with devastating news about the LRT Kelana Jaya train collision which involved 213 passengers suffering injuries. For that, a press conference was organised to give updates on the incident. At the helm conducting the press conference was former Prasarana Malaysia Bhd’s non-executive chairman, Datuk Sri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, who is also Member of Parliament for Pasir Salak (Perak).

However, the press conference did not go well, rather turned disastrous, as people observed the chairman was being insensitive and rude when giving explanation about the situation regarding the train collision. The chairman appeared unprepared and was not even sure of the details of the incident. 

When a few journalists asked him about the situation in the tunnel (of the LRT Kelana Jaya line) following the accident, the chairman made insensitive remarks like “normal, only two cars kissing each other”. 

The reply sparked anger among netizens especially on social media which then created a trending hashtag #LetakJawatanTajuddin on Twitter. There were also short video clips of the press conference that went viral in social media exposing the chairman’s attitude and remarks of the incident at the press conference.

As a leader holding a senior position, one would expect for the chairman to show empathy and responsibility for the incident and the injuries suffered by the victims. In time of such grave situation, especially involving the lives of people, there should be no place for being frivolous or cracking jokes and making insensitive remarks.

Apart from his insensitive remarks and jokes, the chairman also displayed rude behaviour when a foreign journalist asked him about the well-being of the victims following the LRT accident. He responded by saying it was expected of that journalist being from China to ask such a question.

The remarks made the netizens assumed that the chairman was being racist and demanded for him to make a formal apology to the foreign journalist who was from Phoenix TV. Such action had led many people to think that Datuk Sri Tajuddin was not suitable to hold that position especially when there was not enough attempt displayed to show seriousness in managing the crisis.

Besides the trending hashtags, netizens also came up with a petition for Datuk Sri Tajuddin to step down from his position. At last, the Minister of Finance, Senator Tengku Datuk Seri Utama Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz stepped into action and announced the termination of Datuk Tajuddin from his post as non-executive chairman of Prasarana with immediate effect.

Even so, Malay Mail reported that Tajuddin had arrogantly responded to the termination letter as if he was not bothered by it and said there are other people who can take the job.

Additionally, The Star urged Tajuddin to get down from his high horse and stop condescending to high rank officials in its news item headlined “Tajuddin deserves an F Minus for disastrous performance at presser”.

For someone with power and leadership responsibility, there was not much values displayed in the well-being of the people. The LRT collision was a serious matter, where six of the victims were in critical condition and more than 60 people were being hospitalised.

Jokes are the last thing people need at the time, especially coming from someone in that responsible position. One has therefore to learn to be more sensitive and observant when handling matters that are of immediate public concern. In managing a crisis situation, what an organisation requires is to earn public trust and respect to restore confidence during such traumatic moment. ***

(This opinion piece was written as part of the individual assignment series for Feature Writing class)

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