Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Pathetic, shallow and useless Rina, the curse of Atuk's PH cabinet legacy

Other than being the longest-reigning ruler in the world, Emperor Qianlong’s biggest achievement was marrying Lady Fuca as his wife.

She was unlike any empress in Chinese history: Frugal (wearing flowers on her head instead of expensive jewellery), humble (caring and fair to her servants and consorts), and above all, the kindest empress in Chinese history.

Even after 300 years, there was a legend of Emperor Qianlong’s Lady Fuca stuck in the minds of many.

Once, when Lady Fuca’s servant was helping her prepare ink for writing, the servant asked her what document she was preparing. Lady Fuca said it was the account book for the sale of her palace’s inventory.

“Why are we selling the palace’s inventory?” asked the servant.

“There are many artefacts in the palace that was accumulated over many dynasties. I have asked people to bring them to a public auction. The gold and silver collected from the sale will go to a charity to help homeless orphans,” Lady Fuca replied.

“Shouldn’t these funds come directly from the government’s coffers?” the servant further asked.

The other experienced servant explained: “Empress Fuca proposed for a charity be set up to help the poor in the country, and all shall be paid for by the government. But they said they were tight on budget.

"After a standstill, Empress Fuca took it into her own hands and sold her artefacts, cut down on unnecessary expenses, to set up this charity house. She did it without anyone’s knowledge.

"But a rumour spread that Empress Fuca has amassed the money from the sales proceeds for herself. Empress’ reputation was blemished! Empress was defamed!”

“Helping the poor and needy is a noble thing; why don’t you let people know?” the servant asked the empress.

The empress stood up and walked to the servant.

“As someone who sits at a high position, helping those in need is urgent and necessary. Doing everything in your power to help ought to be expected,” she said.

“If you have done a kind thing and you go around telling people about it, that is not true kindness.”

She finished with a line that came to define her perfect life: “Kindness that desires to be seen is not true kindness.”

Rina Harun’s Foodpanda heroism

I wanted to use Lady Fuca’s story to contrast Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Rina Harun’s Foodpanda video that encapsulates a rising culture of celebrity politics.

To become a celebrity, Rina understood that being famous for being famous is acceptable. It matters less what you do for the people than what people see that you do – even if they are staged.

So, to stage a small act of kindness, these are what Rina brought with her: a storyboard (deliver children’s gift to their mother during the Covid-19 pandemic), a script, actors, costumes (a borrowed Foodpanda uniform), props (motorcycle, helmet, laptop), video camera, action camera, makeup, three-point lighting kit, microphone, boom pole, a crew, fake surprise, exaggerated shrieks, and the dramatic effects of tears, tears, and tears.

The storyline was a familiar one. Parents were on a video call with their children during Hari Raya, feeling sad they could not be together. Then the camera cuts to a woman in pink and grey uniform, swerving her motorcycle to the parents’ house to deliver surprise gifts from their children. The parents, at the edge of tears, profusely thanks the Foodpanda deliverywoman.

The final scene was the grand revelation. Like superwoman, the delivery rider lifted her mask, and it was unveiled to be Rina, the nation’s saviour of the day.

But Rina is not alone. She is part of a rising culture of politicians bringing large cameras to record a tragic story, with the protagonist inevitably being the politician.

The underlying motive is unmistakable: Find the story that makes people press 'like comment', and share on social media. Make it sad, make it dramatic, make it heroic – and remember to make it viral.

Problem behind big-camera kindness

The reason why this is unhealthy for society is that it cheapens the very act of kindness itself. No matter how tragic the poor person is, the ultimate focus would still be the sacrifice of the politician and the ultimate beneficiary is the politician, not the poor.

This is because all the acts of kindness were meant to serve the ulterior motive of increasing the public profile of the politician. You are meant to think of him/her as a saviour and a hero. That is why the subject’s story must be dire, hopeless, and tragic. They are simply tools of branding and marketing – with a build-up, climax, and resolution.

Guided by the motives of media than policy, a ministry would be converted into a photoshoot studio; a politician’s main preoccupation is whether she looks good on camera rather than the substance of her speech; the focus of the photo resolution is more important than the focus of the policy direction.

Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Rina Harun

The mundane and boring – but incredibly important – work of a politician could be cast aside. No more time for reading cabinet briefs, preparing for Parliament and committees, solving hard problems, negotiating and compromising with stakeholders, consulting experts, researching and analysing, drafting speeches or building and training teams. Who needs this when you have 35 percent more likes on your social media page than last week?

It is tempting for other politicians, after seeing the rise of other celebrity politicians, to follow suit. In their minds, politics is actually a popularity contest.

But it is not. There is little evidence to show that treating politics as entertainment and politicians as celebrities make citizens more politically engaged. The original intent of becoming a politician is forgotten.

Because kindness that desires to be seen is not true kindness. Don’t you agree?

JAMES CHAI is a legal consultant and researcher working for Invoke, among others. He also blogs at You may reach him at


  1. The thing is many would be able to discern the genuine from the fake.

    Rina Harun definitely is a fake!!

  2. Somebody told me Rina is very cute😍 😍😍