Ice Ice Baby

Syed Saddiq puts some skin into his game and gets iced by his followers.
Wednesday 17 October 2018
Syed Saddiq is all smiles at a friendly from September 2018. Photo: Dugong Allstars/Instagram

Syed Saddiq, Minister of Youth and Sports, the buffed out baby-faced resident hunk of the government, showed a little bit too much skin for the comfort of his Instagram followers. Whilst he is perhaps our best bet for a Justin Trudeau in politics, his Instagram stunt was deemed by many as perhaps more Bieber than Trudeau.

Granted, icing your tender bits and bobs might be therapeutic practice after a hard match, and sharing everything in the digital age is the norm, still the young politician found himself in an icy maelstrom.

Syed performed admirably in the match, scoring the winning goal against the team made up of local celebrities. But we’re dealing in pedantry here, because the issue of real importance is his ice bath. How dare he try to speed up his muscle recovery by soaking topless in an ice-filled tub! Have you ever heard of anything more outrageous than the Youth and Sports Minister applying a tried-and-tested sports recovery technique for recovering from, well, sports? The nerve.

Syed’s original caption accompanying the image innocently said ‘After scoring a golden goal, immediately soak [yourself] in ice. Good game @dugongallstars’. His show of sportsmanship was not enough to divert people’s attention away from his state of shirtlessness. People really took issue with this unbecoming behaviour, posting detracting reactions on social media:

Translation: ‘Is this the attitude of The Honourable minister?

Is this the example you are setting for the younger generation?

Is this the kind of leader Malaysians want?

I don’t think you need to show these photos on your social media.

What is the actual motive of doing this?

Aren’t you ashamed?’

Translation: ‘Showering is normal. You shower every day, but it doesn’t mean you have to share a photo of you showering.’

Translation: ‘What’s the point of this minister displaying this photo of him bathing in a tub? Uishhh…KJ was a lot more macho and handsome…and he never did anything like this.’

On the other side of the fence are those showing support for the minister:

Translation: ‘You are looking at this blurred photo and you are saying that it’s inappropriate. So quick to judge. If you look at the photo properly, there isn’t a problem, actually. The content of the photo is just showing that he is taking an ice bath after sports.’

Translation: ‘There are issues of paralympians not winning medals, there are also issues of football consuming the people’s money, but you choose to address this issue of Syed Saddiq soaking in a tub.’

So great was the fury of the Malaysian Twittersphere that he was forced to take his original posts down. Amid all this talk of how a minister should behave, what are the actual rules around governing the behaviour of officials?

According to the Prime Minister’s Office Code of Ethics, “All officers and staff members of the Prime Minister’s Office should perform their duties in the following manner: Display a code of conduct and be considerate so that all actions in the performance of their duties do not tarnish the image and reputation of the office/department,” and generally, “Be decent and well-mannered at all times in performing duties so as to avoid suspicion.”

And under the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993 (contracted here for brevity’s sake), “An officer shall not conduct himself in such a manner as to bring the public service into disrepute or bring discredit to the public service,” or “be irresponsible.”

It’s all well and good to have a set of guidelines for how politicians should conduct themselves (we’re not anarchists by any means), but enforcing them is another matter. Syed Saddiq is hardly the first politician to have been perceived to step out of line. Are people harder on him because of his age and the marked difference between him and his compatriots? And in his case, the problem lies in the very subjective interpretation of what is considered ‘decent and well mannered’ as well as what is ‘irresponsible’ or considered to bring ‘disrepute’.

Is it something other politicians perceived to be younger and more ‘hip’ have had to endure? Recently, French President Emmanual Macron came under fire for having taken a picture with two youths, one of which shows the camera the middle finger. Far right politicians such as Marine Le Pen have dubbed it as “unacceptable” (you’d think he was the one giving the middle finger). Though this should not mislead people into thinking his is a perfect presidency. He is currently battling an all-time low in popularity as he combats comments about his arrogance and hubris.

Translation: “You must behave properly. You’re not called Manu (diminutive of Emmanuel), you’re called Mr President.”

Also battling alleged comments of ‘smugness’ is Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who, at the beginning of this year, corrected a woman on using the word ‘peoplekind’ instead of ‘mankind’, after she complimented him on his inclusiveness in his administration. Done in humour, he said at the time that “I made a dumb joke a few days ago that seems to have gone a little viral. It played well in the room and in context. Out of context, it doesn’t play so well, and it’s a little reminder to me that I shouldn’t be making jokes even when I think they’re funny.”

It doesn’t help his cause that his predecessor, Khairy Jamaluddin’s most recent post depicted him exchanging a heartfelt embrace with paralympian Ridzuan Puzi. The public lapped it up, leaving comments such as “Aku nak @khairykj jd menteri Belia dan sukan balik… Aku xnak @syedsaddiq … Main bola pun pengko..Pls tukar balikkk.. 😭😭😭” (“I want Khairy to be the Youth and Sports minister again. I don’t want Syed Saddiq. He can’t even play football. Please change back!”) and “@khairykj jadi menteri dari syed sebabnya kj nampak lebih kepada kepimpinan ☺👍🏼” (“@khairykj was a better minister than Syed because KJ looks at more than just leading.”).

In the age of technology, it seems anything and everything can be conflated to have significance even when it doesn’t. Syed’s only response so far has been to request that more important issues be focused on. Haters will predictably say, ‘Oh, he’s just trying to deflect attention away from himself,’ but really, shouldn’t we be focusing on more important things? Like the possibility of taxes increasing? And lest we forget, we have a former premier staring down the barrel at some incredibly serious charges of misappropriation of funds and embezzlement. So, yeah – an ice bath is probably NBD. Our advice? Move along, nothing to see here, folks (other than the hint of a baby six-pack).

Translations done by D. Kanyakumari.

Source: The Star, The New York Times, The Telegraph

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