The trust deficit is worsening as we experience a growing disconnect between the government, politicians and the people.
We are probably already nearing a stage of implosion. To continue to sweep matters under the carpet in trying to cling on to power or to wrest power by any means will only fast track the implosion.
Malaysians cannot afford to take a back seat. They cannot merely keep laughing at all that is unfolding. They certainly cannot be content with all the social media griping. They cannot throw their hands up and be indifferent to the great disconnect and growing trust deficit all around us.
The Sheraton Move revealed a great disconnect between plotting politicians and the ordinary people who had taken six decades to finally decide they had enough of blind, loyal support for Barisan Nasional.
Covid has also exposed a great disconnect between policymakers, implementers, political leaders and the medical fraternity. After over two years of battling the pandemic, doctors still need to tell the politicians what is going wrong with the vaccination drive.
Doctors may have to warn the relevant ministers and ministry that the compulsory temperature screening at all public facilities is redundant, as the newer variants of the virus are often asymptomatic. [The government has just announced that temperature screening will no longer be required.]
Today, doctors have to highlight, but often to no avail, that the mRNA-type vaccines may have side effects and, as such, should not be administered in a blanket manner across the entire population.
Many more propositions from some medical and healthcare professionals on the nationwide vaccination programme too have met with little or no response by the government. It shows there is a great disconnect between the government and the professional fraternity.
The floods too exposed the widening disconnect between politicians and the public. That the public were quick to come to the rescue of flood victims due to the slow response from the government shows a serious disconnect between the reality on the ground and the leaders within the corridors of Putrajaya.
Even in the distribution of aid, policing seemed to be the government’s focus. It seems like the powers that be are reluctant to honour, nurture and celebrate the power of the people’s muhibah (goodwill) and Rukun Tetangga (neighbourly) spirit in times of a national crisis.
A great disconnect also prevails in cases of alleged or proven corruption. Ordinary people keep raising the alarm and demanding transparency, accountability and ownership to curb the worsening widespread corruption in the country. But those in power seem to take positions that appear to negate public sentiment, concerns and suggestions.
Rising food prices and the politicians’ preachy rhetoric are yet another giveaway of the disconnect in the country.
All these ‘disconnects’ are worsening the serious trust deficit. In this climate, a general election will only trigger further distrust between the voters and the competing political parties and their candidates.
In such a climate of acute distrust, investors will stay away. The truth is, many long-time investors have left the country and new ones are bypassing Malaysia.
Peddling the story that new investors are coming to the country is plain hogwash. Leaders should be responsible enough to explain why we have failed to retain major investors who were here for decades.
Some believe a general election will resolve the situation and save Malaysia. But others feel that when the entire government and political machinery is compromised and when corruption is so deeply rooted even in high office, any election outcome may be vulnerable to instability.
Indeed, we are at a critical crossroads.
In this climate of grave concerns, fears and lost hope, our rushing to the ballot box may not be the solution.
What needs to happen perhaps is the following.
Civil society leaders and known anti-corruption champions must be assembled and tasked with formulating a national anti-corruption agenda. That masterplan must be accepted and set into motion.
The judiciary must be empowered and freed from the tentacles of the executive and legislature. There must be no place for cartel operatives. Trust and reputation must be the sole currency to free the judiciary and cleanse the institution.
The Election Commission needs re-inventing. Its impartiality and sole loyalty must be to democracy and the Federal Constitution. The commission must be spotless to regain the voters’ trust.
Immediately, outlaw the politicising of religion and race-based political canvassing. Religion and race politics must henceforth be considered as ‘no entry’ grounds for all politicians.
Stop the policing of all things related to the practice of religions. Leave religion to the religious leaders and let the Rulers maintain their role and responsibility on all religious matters pertaining to Islam.
In a nutshell, if we can curb corruption, free religion from the claws of politics, empower the Election Commission and then hold the general election, we would be better placed to reset the nation and avert a catastrophic outcome.
To sweep the truth under the carpet would be a disservice to the nation. Let us save our nation because nobody will do it for us.
Pining for a ‘Jokowi’
Meanwhile, many Malaysians are comparing the many successes of the ‘Indonesian miracle’ brought about by Joko Widodo to a nation of 280 million people spread over some 17,500 islands in just seven years.
Indonesia was not too long ago ravaged by decades of widespread corruption within the corridors of power and poverty among the masses. Today, it is witnessing economic, social and political marvels.
In July 2014, Jokowi became the first Indonesian President who was not from an elite political or military background. Instead, he was once a humble carpenter, industialist and businessman, before moving on to become the mayor of Surakarta from 2005 to 2012 and the governor of Jakarta from 2012 to 2014.
I had the chance to meet him before he became the president of Indonesia. As governor of Jakarta, he attended an Indonesian music and cultural event in Kuala Lumpur, seated among the crowd.
The Indonesians present seemed to love this man who displayed humility and happiness and seemed very much immersed in their struggles and hopes.
Jokowi spoke so sincerely it is not difficult to understand why the Indonesians at the event trusted him so much.
I went up to him later and told him I shared with the people of Indonesia the hope he would make a great president one day.
He beamed his trademark smile. “We leave that to the people and the Almighty.”
That is the magnetic power of Jokowi. A man who resolved to be ordinary for himself but extraordinary for his citizens.
If Malaysians are widely sharing stories of how Indonesia is rapidly moving ahead of Malaysia in returning the country’s wealth to its people, it is understandable.
Given the growing trust deficit in our beloved land, where political instability has plagued us since 2019, and given the decades of corruption that easily adds up to at least a trillion ringgit, if not more, Malaysians are quick to spot leaders who make a difference.
While Jokowi receives accolades around the world, Malaysians are trying not to lose hope. We are praying for a miracle to take root in our land, where religious bigotry and racial divisiveness are used to protect those in power and secure the wealth of the nation for those in elite circles.
The widespread corruption in Malaysia has hurt ordinary people so much. Some were stranded and left homeless in the recent floods. Others went hungry within months of a lockdown, discovering that their ringgit had shrunk when they tried to buy food and other essential items.
Many are depressed about the unending revelations of wrongdoings, mismanagement, dereliction of duty, suspicions and allegations.
Today, who does not know that Malaysia is mired in political instability. In this climate of grave concerns, emotional exhaustion and desperate circumstances, it is no surprise that many Malaysians are widely sharing videos of Jokowi – and hoping for a Jokowi-type leader for our own country as well.