After more than five decades, lack of accountability

When will we have a measure of accountability on those holding and exercising power, wonders K Haridas.

How is it that some people are able to survive in their positions and responsibilities in the face of such increasing trust deficit?

No organisation worth its salt would continue to harbour such individuals. Even in the private sector there would be shareholders who would ensure that accountability bites and people are held to task both for their actions and behaviour.

But it looks as though this does not matter in the Malaysian political arena.

This begs many questions. How have we reached this state of affairs? What does this say about accountability, transparency and good governance? Is this only applicable to some people while others are immune? Who gives them this stature of immunity?

Perhaps we have reached a stage where our politicians have also become the new ‘royals’. We are confronted by this national tragedy that clearly describes the cosmetic state of our democracy.

With Najib’s popular rating currently hitting a low of 23% and having established Malaysia as the second most corrupt nation in the world (according to Time magazine), how much more will Umno stomach and BN tolerate to deal with the challenges facing the nation? Despite having a minister for integrity, what have we achieved?

The route to autocratic rule has been cemented by ‘Barisan Nasional’s supreme rule with its two- thirds majority over several decades. It is only in the last decade or so that they have lost supreme power. They have gerrymandered and played with the electoral rolls and demarcation to ensure that they will remain in power. Under the guise of stability and now moderation they are continuing to hoodwink the masses.

It is time for Malaysians to stand up and reclaim their democracy. Muhyiddin Yasin and Shafie Apdal now realise what they have contributed to Umno. These two supposedly popular leaders have suddenly lost support even within the Umno Supreme Council not to mention the larger BN grouping. Loyalty can be bought with money and again the issue is one of price. With RM2.6bn, you can do a lot.

An Umno deputy president and deputy prime minister discharging his duties is seen as a threat. He was informed by the attorney general that there is a very definite case against the prime minister. The prime minister’s subsequent actions in removing the attorney general and appointing a new one, promoting members of the PAC, and transferring MACC officials all showed serious complicity and interference.

Are the BN politicians not ashamed having secured their less than two-thirds majority victory with money from so called Middle East sources? Where is their loyalty? It seems as though the Election Commission can do nothing in this regard nor even open an investigation. All our institutions of governance are under the repressive thumb of the executive, reducing those in positions to spineless individuals.

All the offensive laws ranging from the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Universities and University Colleges Act, to name a few, have left people numb and silent while those who are out to exploit the situation seem to get away scot-free. The state of corruption in the country and the money laundering that continues further highlights where we have reached.

Come on, Umno Malays, what does Islam being the official religion of the nation mean to you? Is it just a statement in the Constitution or a mere decoration? If so, why is there a gap between the stated fact and the behaviour and conduct of Umno politicians? With all the religious exhibitions and expressions, why is there this yawning gap between belief and practice? How can you continue to manipulate and gerrymander the constituencies? Is this Islamic?

Greed, human greed, is on the rampage, and Umno politicians are in the lead on how to make money themselves. They seem to be convinced that politics is the way to become rich. and the lifestyles and exhibition by many of them seem to endorse this reality. When you get addicted to wealth, easy money and a lifestyle of comfort, the side effects are noticeable.

Principles are rationalised away; behaviour is justified; and the ends justify the means. Religion then becomes a garment to be worn when needed and taken out otherwise.

We now have the case of a civil servant who over a period of six years is alleged to have embezzled away about a RM100m. Is this really believable? If so this is perhaps the tip of the iceberg. The civil servant perhaps became so confident in his ways that his lifestyle perhaps gave him away.

That such an incident could have taken place over six years says a lot about the system of checks and balances, the auditing and accountability procedures and the sheer culture this denotes. In any decent democracy, the minister would have resigned.

What is the use of studying in Oxford and not taking ultimate responsibility? I thought in Umno Youth we have an educated leader. Yet what is the use of education if it has not enlightened one’s conscience. Khairy now has the political opportunity to make a difference, but perhaps having benefited from the largesse, he opts to remain silent

Where race is championed, this is an eventuality. Everyone keeps quiet. Many must have observed his ways; others must have gained; and in the end, the culture sets in. After all, a ‘Malay’ is becoming rich!

Umno Malays champion race and religion. Yet the fact is, their conduct and behaviour denigrate both the race and their religion. Just as the fish first rots in the head, what we witness is a total collapse of morality and ethics from the very top.

Sellamah was caught for stealing some Milo packets from a mini market after being nagged by her child. She was caught and fined. Two good Malays went and paid the fine and got her out of the situation as she had to look after her child. Others who bring in money into their own accounts amounting to billions of ringgit seem to get away. This is what power does.

Speak out, even if you are the deputy president of the party, and you will face the sack. What does this say about the party and the coalition as a whole? Loyalty is bought with hard cash and this is enough to cover up any convictions and beliefs party members have for what is right and wrong. The scale and the amounts involved are staggering. It is obvious that a serious wrong has been committed, but there are always people who will beat the system.

How can we continue to trust Najib? He may think he is not a crook, but the perceptions about him in the market place are even worse. The man leads the nation and continues as though everything remains normal. His cronies exhibit their stupidity by equating The Malaysian Insider to the need to control pornographic material. What has happened to the intelligence quotient of our leaders?

When a democracy loses its inherent checks and balances provided by institutions and systems, then you give rein to people who manipulate the system for their own benefits. What we witness today is the legacy of nearly three decades when institutions and systems have been compromised.

At the end of the day, fear and silence has cost us dearly, and today we need to stand up and reclaim our democracy and the vision our founding fathers had for this nation.

Scandal after scandal, many involving Umno politicians, has been raised, but no one is being held accountable. If you can manipulate the attorney general, control the judges and the police force, you have free rein to convert an evil deed into one that is acceptable. Where does the interest of the people come in?

In the end, it is about political survival and the survival of the ones who hold power.
If money is regarded as rezeki, the issue of whether it is halal or otherwise does not arise. As Shahrir Samad so rightly said, “Issues of ethics are involved.”

Can he say more when he has admitted to receiving nearly RM1m for election purposes – way beyond the approved limits? That he did not know where the money comes from does not free him from responsibility. It is good that he has decided to retire from politics and not do irreparable damage to what is left of his credibility.

There are many other good and well educated Umno politicians who have sold their souls and are quiet. This describes the state of affairs within Umno and the BN. None of the component parties are ready to stand up for what is right because they are all beholden to Umno for their own survival and funds. So the group-think continues, and those who state otherwise know that their political future will be brought to an end.

I am similarly disillusioned with Pas, a party that should be standing up for Islamic values. How blind they are and how far they are ready to go, condoning compromise and yet speaking about Islam with convictions. Your dress and caps do not define you, but your conduct and behaviour does, especially if you are in the public eye and stand for politics. This incongruence is what breeds cynicism.

This is the tragedy of race and religion. In themselves they define who we are, but these are not goals or purposes worthy of a political calling. Politics must address justice and fairness, equity and wealth distribution and aim to meet the aspirations of a multi-ethnic society.

Race and religion are personal issues, and where these become political goals and aspirations, they are at best divisive within a multi-ethnic context. Such goals cannot be the basis for a progressive society.

We have read about ‘Cowgate’, Maragate, Yapeim, 1MDB, the youth ministry’s RM100m executive, the murder of the Custom’s deputy director general and Felda, to mention a few. We witness scandals galore, and we move into the next one, immune to the scale of corruption that is taking place in the nation. The quarterly Auditor’s Report further highlights the scale at which the nation is being robbed by its own civil servants.

The nexus between the politicians and the civil servants remains a breeding ground for corruption.

It is sad to see how Umno Malays are hurting the dignity of the larger Malay community and the sacredness of Islam by their conduct and behaviour. How many more scandals have to surface before we say ‘enough is enough’?

When will we have a measure of accountability on those holding and exercising power? The Citizens’ Declaration, the Bar Council’s stand on the attorney general, and the initiatives by our young leaders should be lauded.

Source: Malaysiakini.com

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K Haridas
K Haridas, an Aliran executive committee member, is the current chair of the Business Ethics Institute of Malaysia and of the Malaysian chapter of Initiatives of Change International.

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