by J Jeyasingam
Imagine the anger and disappointment that many concerned Malaysian must be feeling, given the barrage of corruption-related scandals that keep slapping us collectively in the face.
Corruption is not a recent phenomenon: it has been around for decades. The problem is, it has grown in size and scale over the years. Sure, there were allegations of impropriety within government in the first years of independence but they were minor.
But they were nothing compared to the major corruption allegations and scandals that surfaced in the 1980s, when Malaysia, as a ‘tiger’ economy, enjoyed years of heady growth.
The government dished out major business contracts to the private sector, and its involvement in business grew entrenched. The term ‘mega-contracts’ became popular when the government awarded infrastructure projects to private companies, sometimes without open tender.
Back then, the ruling coalition had an unshakeable grip on power. With this came intense jostling for top positions within the major ruling coalition parties. Rumours swirled about business funding for key individuals in politics.
Arguably, the feudal system of a layered leadership – from the undisputed leader to his right-hand men and women and then to their lower-level leaders and so on until the grassroots level – was firmly established during this time.
The glaring characteristic of a feudal system in politics is the power-loyalty-service-reward factor. Leaders with the largest influence over their party, its members and the voting public reap the largest rewards, namely key positions in the party and ultimately powerful ministerial positions.
All this remains valid to this day apart from a brief hiccup at the 2018 general election, when Pakatan Harapan won power and started to rein in government involvement in business. The respite was short-lived as governance returned to the old players after the shock resignation of the PH prime minister in February 2020.
So here we are today with the explosive 1MDB-related mega-corruption and embezzlement cases still inching their way through our courts at what appears to be a snail’s pace.
The major players in these cases are either still missing or free to go about their business until their final appeal in the highest court of the land is completed, whenever that may be.
Ironically, the very institution tasked with weeding out and charging the corrupt – namely, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission – has been tainted by a scandal involving its chief commissioner.
Another institution, the Securities Commission – a statutory body with broad powers to regulate and ensure trust and confidence in the capital markets – has been drawn into the investigation of the MACC chief, presumably to ensure the proper conduct of all market participants.
But the Securities Commission itself witnessed the eruption of a corruption-and-misconduct-related scandal, allegedly involving its top officials and its board. A report has been lodged with the MACC on this.
And so, an apparent ‘war’ has broken out between these two institutions, involving investigations of their respective senior officers and board members, making it appear a farce to the public.
Are we in danger of tumbling down a slippery slope, where the very core of the upholders of law and order in the country has been violently shaken? Have the bastions and safeguards put in place to protect the public interest been compromised?
We have all had an overdose of corruption scandals and charges and court cases for years, but things seem to be only getting worse.
We have a 70-member strong ministerial cabinet for a nation of 33 million people – an overbearingly large number of ministers for sure. Yet, they seem to have an appalling lack of seriousness and will to serve the people or to give us comfort that the treasury and the country are in safe hands.
Mouthing the words ‘demi rakyat dan negara’ (for the people and country) is mere lip service. The lack of action is glaringly telling.
Are we now realising that things will not get better, that the situation seems only to be getting worse?
Taking it one step further, perhaps it is time we voted out all the old men set in their tired old ways.
Perhaps it is time we brought in young and fresh faces with nobler principles and ideals to navigate us out of this quagmire, to pull us back up from that slippery slope of moral decay that threatens us and generations to come.
J Jeyasingam is a stockbroker by profession – but these days mostly just taking stock of where we are going as a people in this beloved nation of ours. With a wife and a son to remind him that no person is an island, he believes we must all stand shoulder to shoulder as a nation and rise to every challenge