What is our education all about if we are not nurturing men and women who are ready to speak out for the nation, laments K Haridas.
What does it say about our present members of parliament representing the ruling coalition when:
- our institutions of governance are subverted,
- when promises of more constituency allocations are indicated,
- when the prime minister who is also the finance minister increases the allocations to his own portfolio at the expense of more critical social investment in areas like education and healthcare, and
- when RM40m is the expense for the PM’s air travel and millions of ringgit are spent annually on his house at Putrajaya.
Checks and balances are necessary and critical as these establish the boundaries for good governance, stewardship and management.
The present turmoil and challenges in Malaysia highlight how people holding power seems to be able to override established norms. Those in power seem to be beyond accountability.
For many, this perhaps is a repeat of what has been done before – the only difference being the scale and size, the daring and the guts that those in power presently exhibit. It has worked before so why should it be any different today. While there will be some amount of objection and inquiry the belief that power ultimately delivers gives exploiters the confidence.
Watching with amazement
Recent events further diminish the stature of our parliament. Members are removed while others are sent out of the House for six months with no sense of defence or natural justice. Whistle blowers are held to account, and international media seem to have gained so much credibility.
People can be silenced while others can be bought with promises of increased allocations. This provides free money for MPs without accountability and is perhaps also tax exempt. Why should they then rock the boat?
So our distinguished members of parliament, in the name of supporting their party, condone this by their silence and inaction and believe that this is the culture of democracy in Malaysia. With race always polluting the discourse, issues of right and wrong, of transparency and accountability are just not considered.
Everyone is interested in ensuring that they will remain in power, and the culture seems to legitimise the means used by leader and the silence of the followers.
We, the people, watch with amazement at what is going on before our eyes. An ordinary criminal is punished for stealing out of hunger while politicians with billions in their bank account, brought in for so-called different reasons, cannot be touched.
Institutions of governance are unable to function independently. Those brave enough to question are transferred out and at the risk of losing all their service benefits. Many are cowed while very few have shown the guts to stand up and be counted.
The Public Services Division has had to rescind some such abrupt transfers. The so-called ‘independent task force’ has been proven to be not independent. People are promoted and the work of the task force comes to an end.
The attorney general is removed when rumours abound regarding the existence of a ‘charge sheet’ against the powers that be. A new attorney general, a former state party treasurer and judge, is appointed as a replacement.
It is at times like this that we are able to evaluate the damage done to the notion of the ‘separation of powers’. The judiciary is pliant with judges who are more ‘looking forward’ than ‘forward looking’.
The executive determines who is recommended, who is promoted and who is to be transferred. If we had an independent ‘Judicial Appointment’s Committee’, where no politicians are involved, what a difference this would contribute to the life and sense of justice in Malaysia.
After over five decades of independence, we have democracy in form but not in substance. The very fact that enormous power seems vested in the executive arm of government is testament to this reality.
In a similar vein, no other institution of governance is immune from such interference. All our regulatory bodies like the police, customs and immigration, to mention a few, are equally suspect. The level of corruption in the nation is a further testimony to this reality.
“Everyone does it…”
We continue as though all is good, and with growth rates still in positive territory, so much seems to be rationalised away. The opportunity costs are immense because so much is robbed through in-efficiency, corruption, nepotism and cronyism.
‘Earlier leaders have got away with it, so why should it be any different now?’ seems to be the call of the day. Support for a leader is not gauged in terms of his ability, leadership qualities or his vision but how much he can provide in terms of money.
The Opposition does question and highlight weaknesses, and with advances in technology so much is out in the public domain. Yet the frustration amongst many simmers, as seemingly, nothing can be done. With so much religion and religious expressions and so many places of worship and indoctrination, both in schools and offices, why is there a mismatch between beliefs and practices?
Religion does not seem to give the spine for many to stand up and take issue. It is relegated to another practice that has no relevance to one’s work or conduct. “It’s OK; everyone does it” – so it becomes part of the acceptable culture of operation.
Alternatively, many condone what is wrong because those involved are of their own faith and race. Banking regulations are flouted and there is no accountability for fear of oppression.
Tolerating the intolerable
Unless we have a sense of what could have been possible in this nation, we will not be able to realise or recognise how much we have sacrificed by tolerating the intolerable.
We could have been an example of a vibrant and effective democracy; our economy today could have matched and outdone Singapore and we could have been high on the Transparency Global Index. This would have bought so much pride, efficiency and wealth to the nation.
Instead what are we known for? Sadly, the reality is that we are known for corruption, nepotism, cronyism and racism – a country which is ruled by a coalition of race-based parties, which despite having lost the popular vote, legitimises itself through gerrymandering and an inept Elections Commission.
We have institutions like our Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) whose work is neither recognised nor heeded to by the government.
We have millions of immigrant workers, legal and undocumented, who are brought in by independent contractors who have links with people in government. While they are brought in to serve in specific sectors, you will find them employed in all areas from the wet markets to the food stalls. You call for an electrician and workers from Pakistan turn up. Construction workers can either be Bangladeshis or Indonesians. Visit the digital centres and you come across workers from many countries. Does the grease of corruption extend the immigration requirements to all sectors?
They are industrious and are ready to pay to stay. Some of those unemployed or those whose visas have expired, however, undertake creative self-employment; others apparently become part of the underworld, involving themselves in petty theft and violent crimes.
Everything is regulated; yet we have a resurgence of malaria, dengue and even typhoid and cholera not to speak of tuberculosis.
No one asks the question as to what this does to the unemployed in the country. Their wage potential is dampened. Their only option seems to be to await handouts from the government. Alternatively, some of them become ‘Mat Rempits’ or social dropouts, and others fall into drugs, drinks and gangs.
There appears to be a collection chain which starts from the top and goes down to certain police personnel on the beat. The MACC has got so much on its plate that very little can be done to deal with the massive state of mismanagement.
Government-linked companies (GLCs) are another source of problems. There are so many of them listed in the stock exchange and they compete with the private sector. With their special advantages, they cripple competition, and this illustrates how political economy works in the nation.
There is little if any oversight of the GLCs. Several of them are led by ex-political warlords whose credibility is questionable due to corruption charges by their own party machinery. Certain GKCs are led by such discredited individuals.
People talk about defending Malay dignity but you just have to look at some of these clowns who shout, threaten and even embarrass the royalty as to the leadership they can provide. Yet, this government which talks about dealing with corruption promotes such individuals.
Change will eventually come
What is our education all about if we are not nurturing men and women who are ready to speak out for the nation on issues of credibility, right and wrong? There are so many universities but what is the use of all this learning if there is no evidence of wisdom and action?
The same can be said for our houses of worship. The state of our nation is an insult to our faiths. This is what contributes to the cynicism so prevalent amongst the younger generation.
Meanwhile we can only cry for Malaysia! Nothing, nevertheless, is permanent and change will eventually come. And when it does, let us ensure that the notion of ‘separation of powers’ is indelibly etched into our Constitution.