Accountability – before and after the general election

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Graphic: vonyaglobal.com

Those in senior leadership positions who were involved in abuse of power and corruption and those who remained silent both need to be held to account, writes K Haridas.

Many leaders both politicians, administrators and corporate heads are today left stained by their own acts of omission and commission during the Barisan Nasional (BN) era.

It was unashamedly an administration based on loyalty to the leader – loyalty to such an extent that ends often justified the means, leading to serious irregularities, which were just overlooked intentionally or manipulated.

We have in our midst today people who are honoured with positions, privileges and titles who are also downright crooks. We let it be and the result: our politicians got bolder and until we landed up with a kleptocracy.

Those in senior leadership positions who were involved and those who remained silent both need to be held to account.

Had we brought to account the corruption and irregularities that were happening in Sarawak, we would have set a different benchmark. The land was raped, the jungles destroyed, and people in power and their cronies turned into millionaires, if not billionaires.

But our leaders at the centre needed their political ‘fixed deposits’ to remain in power. Even to this day, a certain man continues to hold an exalted position in that state. This must be addressed urgently.

The right people?

After six decades of wanton corruption, the people have made a decision, and change is the order of the day. All those who are stained will have to be held to account.

It is all very good to say that the former Bank Negara governor should be appreciated. True, but the reality is that when the chips were down, she did not stand up.

Some argue her sense of fear was perhaps understandable. Yet, the fact is, she was well paid to do a job, and to some extent, she did it well – but failed to give leadership when needed. People who hold high positions have greater responsibilities, and when they fail, everything drops to a new low.

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To presume fear is one perspective. But if she had shown gumption and stood up, many Malaysians would have rallied to her cause. This is yet another perspective. The same applies now to Tony Fernandez.

Further, as Bank Negara governor, she was an internationally acclaimed personality, and the government of the day would have been cautious in its approach. Personalities like her have to clear the stain, stand up and take responsibility, apologise and move forward.

Only then will they regain respect and become mentors. Was she also silent because of the unsavoury news which emerged relating to financial dealings in which her family was alleged involved?

Gani Patail, the former attorney general, also failed us by his silence as did a whole lot of glamourous leaders. By their acts of omission and commission, they let our democratic leader soon become an autocrat and then, in natural progression, a kleptocrat. They created this demagogue.

We now have Daim Zainuddin, whose own legacy and that of his cronies leave much to be desired. When such former leaders enter the public space, they will have to defend their own blemished credentials. Being holier than others now will not gain Daim any respect.

Again, Mahathir is selecting the wrong people. Consider, how MAS was exploited, Perwaja, Fleet Group and the numerous other scandals that Mahathir and his team got away with when they were in power. This is the time to train others, and potential leaders within Pakatan Harapan need to be given responsibility.

When the soil of the land is mixed with intense doses of corruption, the combination breeds a culture of cronyism and nepotism that keeps the Emperor alive. They then sing his tune, and he is only given information that feeds his pride and ego. Soon he grows out of touch with reality.

Those around him – for their own survival and greed with their titles, positions and power – become part of all the mechanisations that continue. Najib really believed that everyone had a price and was convinced that ‘cash is king’.

We are all responsible for the creation of this demagogue, but the story has a great ending in that eventually the people disrobed him and his team. Today we are in a position to witness this disrobing as more lurid stories emerge in the coming days.

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Yet, if we are to learn and move forward, a price has to be paid by many who let this happen, especially those in leadership, by their silence and acquiescence.

To make a difference and one that is sustainable will require that those in power are held accountable. A personality like Nazir Razak has to cleanse himself and step down from CIMB. He allowed his account to be used and a charade was held where the bank set up a committee to inquire into this account and the role of the chairman. Amazing, they cleared him! The Anti-Money Laundering Act was not even considered.

The perception was that wool was drawn over the eyes of the public. We are not so stupid, and if he had any iota of ethics, he would have taken responsibility and resigned. People would have respected him.

These are the people who will have to pay the price if we are to ensure that others who now come into the scene realise that with leadership comes very severe responsibility.

Ethics and accountability

Accountability is the word, and let us not be sentimental in this regard, irrespective of the personalities and their contribution. The nation has not only lost financially but its image has received a thrashing that will take time to erase.

Accountability, prior and after the fact, is both needed, and this has to be considered in the context of what it means to be a patriot. It is said that the right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.

Creating a culture of ethics and accountability should not be based on pledges and integrity plans. It requires leadership from the top and compliance undergirding all efforts. Whistleblowing is critical and empowering integrity officers to do their job is fundamental.

We had a minister in charge of integrity, a whole department and even an institute. Where did they fail? They have to be candid and tell us if we are going to walk down the same road. All these people were well paid and no excuses can clear them of the stain other than a sincere acknowledgment of their failures. This is the essence of accountability.

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The same goes for the Malaysian Institute of Integriy, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Bank Negara, the Royal Malaysian Police, the National Institute of Public Administration (Intan), the Public Service Department and a whole lot more.

So much was talked about Islamic values in administration. What went wrong? We must over the next months ask difficult questions and hold people accountable for their silence and for participating in the greatest global fraud ever.

I hope the incoming finance minister would have an exit interview with the recently retired Bank Negara deputy governor Sukhdev Singh. This would shed some light, which would be critical regarding the billions spent by Bank Negara in buying properties.

Lessons must be learnt for the sake of the future and a price has to be paid. Everyone has to be honest first with themselves and with others for their individual and collective failure. A cleansing is necessary if we are to regain a sense of integrity that is vital for the future. Let us not be like the ostrich and bury our heads in the sand

We need to look straight ahead and in the eyes of one another if we are regain the nation pride and chart our destiny afresh. The only groups that stood out were civil society organisations and opposition politicians and those within government who were sacked from their positions for speaking out.

Pakatan Harapan must lead by conscience and courage, and as everyone is equal before the law they must exhibit this by their actions. We welcome Anwar Ibrahim’s release. Let him take the helm as soon as possible as promised. He and his family have paid a huge price while the Daim’s of life have enjoyed their lives.

There are people today who are in a position to handle the challenges before us. Let those with credibility take the helm; otherwise, we will continue to rationalise, excuse ourselves and not make this a turning point for our nation.

I pray that Mahathir and Anwar can address this and not have the uncalled for wisdom of Daim. The people’s commitment is to ensure that items in the manifesto are implemented to a time frame, and we hope in the first hundred days major promises are delivered. Otherwise, Pakatan Harapan will begin to build up a trust deficit.

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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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2 Comments on "Accountability – before and after the general election"

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DR. Patricia Martinez
DR. Patricia Martinez

This is an excellent article. I have always maintained that the former Governor of Bank Negara betrayed Hussein Najadi, us the people and shirked her responsibility with her silence. But now is vocal about not needing the GST etc. when she had nothing to say as the powerful head of our Central Bank.

Same with Daim: what on earth are people like him being resurrected for, the man who enabled the Cronyism under Mahathir to flourish and mature into flagrant corruption?

Too many – even those who speak up righteously now like Rafidah Aziz and that eminent group of Malays….. dumbed down their consciences when it was self-serving to do so THEN, reaching the zenith of their careers under Mahathir. My disgust overfloweth at our amnesia….

HHLim

A needed statement. While gradual change, also led by and retaining old guards, is more feasible and widely acceptable, civil society must continue to nudge the new government to reach for higher standards.