The speech made by Barisan Nasional chief Zahid Hamidi at the recent MIC annual general assembly has set tongues wagging – on social media and elsewhere – among Malaysians, particularly those who are concerned about rule of law, justice and democracy.
Zahid, who is also Umno president, said the coalition had to gain a “dominant victory” in the snap general election that he managed to help push, so that certain BN leaders, including himself, would be saved from criminal trials.
He reminded the BN leaders present at the meeting that they were also “on the waiting list” to be charged in court, implying that “selective prosecution” would be committed by Pakatan Harapan if it came to power again.
His statement has sparked shock, condemnation and a few theories from observers.
One school of thought has it that the man who is eyeing the prime minister’s post has accidentally spilled the beans; another says he displayed raw arrogance; while the last perspective reduces [his outburst] to sheer stupidity.
Whatever the case may be, his statement has serious implications for our political culture, institutional independence and integrity, rule of law, justice and democracy.
For one thing, the Bagan Datuk MP has implicated certain BN leaders in alleged criminal deeds – people who are supposed to lead the country if their coalition attains electoral triumph.
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Such smudging of the public image of the BN’s who’s who, even if inadvertent, would necessitate their explanation to the general public in order to clear their name.
Additionally, enforcement agencies, such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), may need to launch an investigation into such unsavoury allegations.
It is not enough to claim, as MIC president SA Vigneswaran did in his defence of Zahid, that the opposition has misled the people by taking the BN leaders’ statements out of context.
Avoiding legal prosecution through political power suggests not only a mockery of the rule of law but also a dark design to bend the judiciary to the whims and fancies of the party in power.
Such objectionable moves are certainly not what we would expect of a new government.
This is not something we would anticipate from Zahid, who once said that he had faith in the judiciary from day one of his trial, soon after he was acquitted of 40 corruption charges over the foreign visa system (VLN) contract.
The political stability that Umno professes to offer to the electorate after the election would require an independent judiciary that defends and promotes the rule of law, justice and democracy.
Whoever becomes the next government, Umno or otherwise, must not interfere in the affairs of the Attorney General’s Chambers and judiciary to ensure that there is no selective prosecution and that justice will prevail in the interest of ordinary Malaysians.
The independence of state institutions, such as the Attorney General’s Chambers, the MACC and the police, is also of utmost importance in the electorate’s hope of a post-election Malaysia that would be able to rid itself of corruption. We have seen enough destruction brought about by this scourge.
The sincerity of leaders is generally appreciated by ordinary people, as it helps to build trust between them. It also heightens their political integrity and professionalism.
Yet to indicate in broad daylight that gaining political power is the only way to save your own skin and those of your friends is galling. – The Malaysian Insight