The Malaysian dilemma – erosion of good governance

We either govern well or else we perish, R Murali Rajaratenam writes

Graphic: csj-ng.org

Recently, I have been reflecting upon the political situation and governance in Malaysia. And what the people have been going through, having to put up with political antics and follies, has ruffled me.

There is a saying: “Good government is good politics, and politics is good government”. This quote highlights how critical it is to have good administration and governance, even though the forms of government are important as well.

What is good governance? It embraces everything in life: a wide range of activities and programmes from ‘womb to tomb’ and from ‘cradle to grave’, formulated and implemented through a just system.

In a rhetorical sense, it implies that a nation should exercise power justly to manage its socioeconomic, human and natural resources for sustainable development.

Good governance exhibits certain distinct features that distinguish it from ‘bad governance’:

  • accountability
  • transparency
  • participatory decision-making
  • responsiveness
  • inclusiveness
  • equity and justice
  • honesty, integrity and impartiality.

Like bad money driving out good money, bad governance drives out good governance. Politically, bad governance leads to opaque administration, policy paralysis, corruption and discrimination. These result in fraud, fiefdom and tyranny.

If this goes on for a long time, it would lead to chaos, confusion and the rise of extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism and an insurgency-like situation which would threaten the very foundation of state and government.

Economically, this would lead to economic crises, a widening gulf between the rich and the poor, more people living below the poverty line, regional disparities, discontent and frustration. Ultimately, the people will lose faith in the government.

In contrast, good governance leads to political stability, economic prosperity and social harmony. Good governance ensures liberty, equality, justice, political fraternity and dignity for the people. It creates a conducive investment climate for development and prosperity. It also provides favourable conditions for the people to contribute and take part in activities for the common good. All this provides the freedom that guarantees the development of the full potential of the individual. 

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Good governance requires certain conditions and standards to blossom into a colourful, fragrant flowers. The form of government matters a lot in laying the foundation of good governance. Democratic government, though sometimes a bit slow, provides an ideal ground for good governance to thrive.

Democracy is government of the people, for the people and by the people. Under no circumstances should it be a government off the people, far from the people and buy the people. The day such a distortion happens would be a sad day for democracy and good governance.

Good governance and leadership are the yin and yang of a country. Enlightened, value-driven, balanced, bold and visionary leadership is essential for good governance.

An impartial, apolitical bureaucracy is a must for good governance. It requires selection of personnel with proper aptitude and attitude, relevant training, and the removal of the corrupt and dead wood.

We have seen evidence of the steady erosion in governance in Malaysia. It is time the people see the writing on the wall.

We either govern well or we perish.

R Murali Rajaratenam is a senior matriculation lecturer in public relations, human communications and public speaking at a local private university. A former journalist, he is also involved in corporate training, event management and media relations

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