Whatever the attorney general may conclude, the 1MDB and other corruption scandals are just not going to blow away, says K Haridas.
My faith in the system – in the checks and balances that still exist in the government and in the institutions of governance in the nation – has been seriously shaken.
Where do we witness leadership for what is right? For the attorney general to clear the prime minister after the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission had raised serious concerns remains a travesty of justice.
This begs us to re-examine the state of the nation, its institutions and the leadership. Where have we reached as a nation and how can we continue to articulate issues relating to Integrity, Governance, Transparency and Ethics?
Even if charges were filed they would have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Selective justice – when you compare what Anwar Ibrahim has been through.
Many of us are well versed with the issues relating to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), the sovereign wealth fund. The very fact that the prime minister and finance minister is also the adviser to 1MDB reveals a clear conflict of interest. This in itself is unacceptable. It is time we delineate the powers of the prime minister from that of the finance minister.
It is not rocket science for us not to see the hands of the prime minister in the manner in which he intervened with the parliamentary public accounts committee, by getting four of its members elevated to the cabinet.
He also immediately removed the then attorney general for ‘health’-related reasons by fast-tracking his retirement. The former attorney general is now practising in the private sector and looks to be in good shape.
Then he appointed a one-time party member of Umno and former judge as the new attorney general. This man’s undying loyalty to the prime minister seems to have secured his clearance. After all, the prime minister believes that loyalty is more important than intelligence.
The perception of compromise colours this decision. Surely this raises several concerns in the eyes of the public and worsens the trust deficit. Nothing seems to be beyond arm’s length.
Added to this is tale after tale, the latest being that the former king of Saudi Arabia is the so- called ‘enlightened’ donor. Well, he has already passed on and dead men do not live to tell any tales.
The audacity to say that the money was sent for the last general elections in 2013 and that a large part of it has since been refunded is simply astounding. Had this been done by Pas or the DAP there would have been outright screams of disloyalty and lack of patriotism.
What are we to believe in this climate of deception, mistrust and conflict of interest all bound together through the assertion of power by a sitting prime minister.
If he was honest and candid and had been clear and transparent from the very beginning, then many would still have confidence in his leadership. He has condemned himself and sticks onto power by mere authority.
Already his deputy and a vice president have been removed from the cabinet. Now they are going for the Kedah chief minister.
It looks as if the prime minister is neither too concerned about the integrity of his party nor the country. The bottom line seems to be to hang on to power at all costs.
Those who remain with him will be perceived as comrades-in-crime. There are so few in the present leadership across the entire spectrum of the ruling coalition who show the spine, conviction and character to stand up and to speak out for what is right.
There are many issues which transcend personality – issues of conduct, behaviour and practice – that should not be accepted especially from the present leadership.
At the end of the day, when all this plays out to a conclusion, there will be many whose credibility would be tainted for they refused to remain loyal to the nation and the constitution.
Personal and power interests and their fragrance hypnotises them to remain silent or to take positions that seem so untenable. They remain looking forward to the benefits that could still accrue to them.
There comes a time in the lives of all of us when our commitment to the larger good must count for some convictions. Right and wrong, good and bad are occurrences all the time and we are called to make choices.
In a similar vein, there will be moments when we as trustees holding positions of responsibility are called to contribute something of value. It is this failure that is most disheartening.
The context in Malaysia today is presently very negative. The economy is not doing well, corruption has gained a greater foothold with our position in Transparency International’s index falling four notches.
Our global rankings for what is wrong remain very high. Last year, we were fifth in the amounts of illicit financial flows and third for graft-related stories.
Those in high places seem to be able to circumvent issues and navigate using their power and position to ensure that they remain secure. Scandal after scandal from Cowgate to 1MDB, from Mara to Yapein, to mention the latest, all illustrate how far we have failed in this regard.
Instead, we are interested in halal food, dress wear and symbols while the behaviour of many cannot be regarded as halal or acceptable.
In a country, where there is a lot of talk about Integrity: the National Integrity Plan which is linked to the Government Transformation Programme, the setting up of Integrity Circles, the Corporate Integrity System and the Integrity Pledge – all of which outline good intentions and approaches.
Nevertheless, whether it is business ethics or integrity pledges one has to move from mere compliance to modelling the same at work.
Business Ethics is most effective in those companies led by example by the CEO. This is the unfortunate story when it comes to Malaysia. When the PM suffers from a serious trust deficit, the work of those involved in the area of ethics and integrity suffers due to the cynicism that arises from leaders not practising what they preach.
Where is the accountability and transparency, the lack of conflict of interest and the independence within and among our various institutions of governance?
We have many great believers who promote their status by being seen to be praying, by being in Mecca. If beliefs and prayers alone were to change the price of cheese we would have well achieved this by now. No amount of exhortations and quoting from the Holy Qur’an can replace the litmus test that comes from one’s conduct and behaviour.
This belief-practice gap exposes the behaviour and conduct lapses that is so evident today and exposes the quality of our present leadership.
The attorney general is bringing disrepute to his own office because the perception of openness and accountability is deficient. Many have lost trust in an interfering executive that lords itself over what are supposed to be independent bodies.
Laws like the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Sedition Act stifle open and candid revelations. Instead, we have to resort to international news publications to give us information through the investigative journalism that they undertake.,
Whatever the attorney general may conclude, this issue is just not going to blow away. The amounts are in the billions and until people are held responsible and accountable, no amount of whitewash with cronies blowing their trumpet will resolve the case against the PM.
It is indeed a sad day for the nation when people are ready to sacrifice the integrity of the nation only to save their own skins.