Saturday, 6 October 2012

Politics in Malaysia is the most profitable business - Steve Oh

najib-ringgitI am sure most Malaysians will agree with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in a recent speech that there is more to corruption than government abuses. What more is not conjecture as much of it is in the public domain.

Surely it must be evident from the various writings in Malaysiakini, CPI and other weblogs unless someone is so out of touch with the present reality and fails to recognise the angst and anger of many civic-minded Malaysians who see their country sliding down the slippery slope.

It is true what Najib said that “What is often neglected, however, is the fact that corruption and corrupt behaviour is entangled deep with the moral fabric of all societies."

He went on to say, “It is critical, therefore, people in positions of power and authority to exemplify the values they wish their constituents would follow”.

But does Najib believe what he says?

And more importantly where is the walk besides the talk?

All we have seen seems to be in the contrary. We are wont to ask, “Where is the example from the people in positions of power and authority?”

Instead many blame successive BN administrations for the decrepit moral state of their country because of corruption and abuses of power, which Najib admits implicitly. And Najib has yet to shake off the ghost of Altantuya Shaaribuu whose murder still leaves the public with the question: “Who ordered the killing?”

The incumbent government has much to answer for its failure to inspire the rest of the nation to higher moral conduct when it fails to apply the rule of law objectively across the board and involves its politicians and proxies in unbecoming acts such as the publishing of ‘dirty videos’ and other acts of political subterfuge.

If inspiring is too much to ask, Najib will sound more convincing if he can stop his government from picking on Malaysians whose only crime is they want to see the greed he describes and the obsession with profit diminished.

Excuses, excuses

Najib’s suggestion that “in some countries where severe punishment was meted out for corruption, it has not proven entirely effective” may explain why his administration is coy about allegations of corruption by some of his cabinet colleagues and the Sarawak Chief Minister Mahmud Taib.

However I am not aware of the failure of strong measures to curb corruption that has not succeeded anywhere. Since Najib did not mention the countries, it is hard to substantiate the statement. However there is irrefutable and strong evidence we know that proves severe punishment works.

Singapore is one success story worth noting. Singapore did not become what it is today – among the top nations on the global corruption index for squeaky clean governance – by making flimsy excuses like the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for not having the power to take corrupt politicians to court.

The Singapore no-nonsense approach has proven corruption does not pay, and where it is found it is dealt with harshly by the authorities and we have even seen a senior politician charged commit suicide.

Surely the MACC’s excuse of having no power in the light of much global evidence in the allegations of corruption by the political bigwig must send every anti-corruption agency around the globe scratching their heads.

The truth is countries ensure there are laws to plug legal loopholes and every ploy by anyone to evade prosecution. Those governments ensure no one is above the law or out of its reach. There is even Interpol to help countries catch their criminals across borders.

Let us not forget Dr Mahahtir Mohammed went to extreme lengths to change the country's constitution to get what he wanted and members of the royal family came under the scope of the law when he made it possible for them to be taken to court over civil and criminal matters where once they enjoyed legal impunity from prosecution.

But if a government lacks the moral and political will, then it will give dishonest and lame excuses. And sadly that is the problem with the Najib administration that seems bent on punishing those who want to see improvements in the moral fibre of their politicians, and even a constructive group like Aliran is not spared from harassment.

It begins with govt and its actions

The government can’t shirk its role in having created a political culture and society that has seen national integrity decline because of its corruption. Abuses of power filter outside of Putrajaya into the corridors of power and into the streets where cops are seen collecting bribes from illegal migrants and errant motorists.
The people in their daily lives are confronted with corruption everywhere.

With such moral insight that Najib exhibits in his speech, he ought to use his office and inspire his cabinet colleagues to lead Malaysia onto higher moral ground. After all, he espouses the virtues that Malaysians want to see badly after observing their nation bastardized by successive BN administrations. Even one that was relatively decent under Pak Lah was damned by Dr Mahathir Mohammed as “rotten”.

What is worse than a self-confessed reprobate – someone without moral principles – is a hypocrite. The hypocrite says the right things but does the opposite. And the tragedy is they can’t see their moral failings, just like the Emperor without clothes can’t see his nakedness.

The profit motive is amoral. It is an economic concept that oils the wheels of industry and human survival since people learned to trade. But profiteering is immoral and cynically people think politics, especially in Malaysia, is the most profitable business.

Even God asks, “What does it profit a man to win the world and lose his soul?” The solution to greed is for politicians not to profiteer by being corrupt and abusing their powers.

Public servants should serve the public and politicians are supposed to lead them in delivering the services to the people, not be obsessed about staying in power so that they can get rich and greedy.

Even as I write I read of the government giving a grant of RM10,000 to the Selangor Youth to help the government retain power. If that is not a blatant abuse of power that would get a government in trouble abroad for using public funds for political party purposes, then I don’t know what abuse of power is. We can’t overlook government abuses of power because everywhere you turn you see it, you smell it and you meet it.

Religion may be the opiate of the people and a corrupt government their odium.

There are many of us who believe that ‘honesty is the best policy’ even though our leaders have failed to inspire us by example and despite the Islamization of the country. We have to agree with Dr Mahathir Mohammed who once criticised it all as ‘form without substance’.

When Najib denounces greed, he has to lead by example and gather his flock to all take a hard look at themselves in the mirror. And so do all those who point the finger at others including myself. Until we remove the plank in our own eyes, we will not be able to see clearly to remove the speck from the eyes of others.

But I am glad more Malaysians can see the government for what it is and with Najib's insight and diagnostic talents it may not be remiss for concerned citizens to say to him, “Physician heal thyself” because he may not like the bitter medicine the voters have prescribed.

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