A disgraceful legacy

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The longer Najib stays, the greater will be the cost to the integrity of the nation, writes K Haridas.

I would really like to believe the prime minister but he makes it so very very difficult.

The interference with the independent task force so subtly done was read clearly by many intelligent Malaysians and this cost him dearly. Then the removal of the deputy prime minister and another cabinet minister further soiled his hands. The sudden appointment of the new attorney general raised concerns in the minds of many.

Now we have the sacking of Muhyiddin; the deputy president of Umno clearly says that he has seen the evidence that implicates Najib. Is this a conspiracy to topple the deputy president of Umno to save the president’s skin?

The former attorney general has meanwhile got his lips sealed perhaps out of fear.

So the ‘wayang kulit’ continues, and everyone is innocent except those who question the standing of the prime minister. Those who do so are perceived to be out to topple him.

This is a misconception. There are many who are only interested in holding the prime minister and finance minister accountable for the RM2.6bn billion donation and the 1MDB fiasco. It is not rocket science to know that he is perhaps guilty by MACC’s own definition of corruption with regards donations.

Yet, no one wants to bell the cat. Meanwhile, the integrity of the nation is sacrificed. If only the prime minister would have stepped aside and allowed an independent group to look into this matter, the public would have accepted the decision. Such internationally acceptable practices do not seem to go down well with Malaysian politicians and our cosmetic democracy.

But when the independent task force’s work was interrupted, it raised concerns with fingers pointing to the prime minister. It is important for him to realise that the public at large smells his involvement in what is a continuing disgrace to the nation.

How long is he going to compromise Institutions of governance to protect himself at the cost of integrity? Already, the trust deficit is huge, and by his actions and that of his cronies, he is further defining his own probable sense of guilt.

Marcos was innocent until People Power knocked him out. Similar disgrace fell on Suharto when he was deposed. We know of several Korean presidents who had to face time in jail. Yes, the truth will eventually come to light, and when this happens, the credibility of many will equally be sullied because of their silence and their lack of courage to stand up clearly for what is right.

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Anyone who is innocent and above board would be ready and open to investigations to clear their name and be ready to face whatever consequences that follow. We have seen time and again interference, and those who know the truth are fearful of possible consequences.

Hence, the former attorney general is silent. His loyalty to Mahathir is no more valid currency; hence this is what happens to individuals who are not committed to principles but motivated by blind loyalty to individuals.

What has become of us as a nation and as a people? Do our leaders exert such fear as to protect themselves at all costs? With the death of the late DPP Kevin Morais and other scandals linked to murder and banishments, a real sense of fear obviously prevails. Is this the ultimate legacy of Umno?

One sees more and more Malaysians standing up and saying ‘enough is enough’. What has come of our legislature and MPs from the ruling coalition? Umno has failed the nation, and if this saga continues there will be very little trust left, and the entire coalition will in the end pay a heavy price.

This will be the result, and the longer the saga lasts many more individuals will by their silence and fear do great damage to their own integrity by not standing up and taking issue on matters that are of great significance to the nation. Wilful silence is not going to help the likes of Paul Low, the Minister of Integrity, Transparency and Human Rights.

How can we have a prime mininster and finance minister who faces allegations from well known international media and who refuses to be cleared by an Independent body continue to provide leadership with integrity? What we witness is survival at all costs using power, position and entitlements.

Already the newspaper The Edge has been punished, though they were vindicated by the courts. Now we have action being taken against The Malaysian Insider. The ex-deputy president of Umno and former deputy prime minister has come out clearly indicating that he has seen evidence that shows grounds for the prosecution of the prime minister and this further corroborates issues raised by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and Sarawak Report.

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With the local mainstream media fearful of the licence regime, we have to resort to alternative media like the online publications to evaluate the veracity of what is going on. The ruling elite by their very negative actions add credibility to the alternative and international media. How sad it is to realise that our own mainstream media have very little credibility.

Mahathir started the manipulation of our Institutions and their independence. Today where are the Institutions that will stand up to scrutiny against such a powerful and autocratic executive? There is obviously the belief that if many bind together long enough, then they can sell their innocence.

Whatever the reality today, the perception of the nation and its ruling elite remain at best negative. In their silence many know and realise that great damage is being wrought on the nation as a whole.

Decisions are being postponed as can be seen from the stand of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC). In a subservient culture where entitlements and benefits rule the day, it is even more difficult to get at the truth. Meaningful leaders shy away from standing up for what is right, as can been seen from the positions taken even by the MACC oversight committee.

What we are facing today is not a leap into corruption. The state of affairs is one where corruption has become endemic, and the Umno-BN government has to be held to task for the present challenges. Not only Mahathir but Abdullah Badawi and Najib have all contributed to where we have reached.

This unfortunately defines the legacy of Umno. The only difference is that Najib is cornered, and he must feel victimised because the others have got away, and some now take the moral high ground.

The longer Najib stays, the greater will be the cost to the integrity of the nation. International media have all gained greater credibility as they expose the skulduggery around IMDB, the so-called donation, and the different versions of the truth that Malaysians have been fed over the last months.

Identity issues remain a challenge, and when issues are thus manipulated, the real truth becomes hidden by irrational emotional reactions. Very soon, the key issue becomes lost and we take polarised views.

The attempt by the ruling coalition to do so remains the greatest challenge we face. Through playing politics this way, they stir raw emotional reactions that could then justify them taking harsh measures to enforce their power. The National Security Council Bill is a weapon in disguise for such purposes.

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A key issue that needs to be considered is what happens next? Najib’s resignation alone would not deal with the rot evident within Umno. Let us for a moment consider the credibility rating of leaders like Zahid Hamidi, Ahmad Maslan, Rahman Dahlan, Nazri Aziz, and Salleh Syed Keruak. Blind loyalty in the end will lead to them to selling their soul through compromise, loyalty and sheer belief in their leader.

The new ‘Third Force’ will have to agree on points that will ensure that democracy will be reinforced in the nation. The separation of powers will be critical to this reality. In a similar vein, we have to re-establish the independence of commissions like the MACC, the Elections Commission, the Judicial Selections Committee and even new commissions so that adequate checks and balances will exist to ensure that what has happened will not recur and that we learn from the present fiasco.

The positon of prime minister should also be limited to two terms, and the positon of finance minister and prime minister should be distinguished. Anend to race-based politics and the emergence of a cause-based focus based on justice, fairness and equity for all Malaysians would be a new window of opportunity for the nation.

If we do not agree now on a broad agenda for the future, merely being anti-Najib is not going to give substance to the cause. If we wait till Najib’s resignation and then begin to look at what needs to be done, it would be too late and the chances of an agreement would be even more difficult. This will be akin to the state of the anti-Assad forces in Syria.

Modern progressive states face the challenge of both managing and integrating diversity and plurality into the equation of justice and democracy. The schisms that exist within communities, ethnic, tribal and class on one side and other identity issues will all have to be discussed, and a dialogue process for nation building put in place.

In Malaysia, we will need to move beyond race-based politics to one based on the principles of justice and fairness for everyone. We have to move beyond the entitlement mentality and save the nation from this disgraceful legacy.

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