It is a bizarre irony that the 65th anniversary of Malayan independence [and self-government for Sabah] was celebrated recently while, for the first time in the country’s history, a former prime minister has his personal freedom confined to the Kajang Prison after he was convicted of corruption.
Many people regarded Malaysia’s sixth Prime Minister Najib Razak’s eventual imprisonment – after years of a protracted legal battle – as an opportune moment to help commemorate the anniversary.
But then, as rightly pointed out by certain critics, it is premature to make Najib’s incarceration an added factor to the celebration when we are mindful that his case is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Graft has become so entrenched, with its tentacles reaching out to many areas of our collective life. Even Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor was found guilty of corruption.
There are many others in high places, especially those in Umno and its associates, who are facing corruption charges. In fact, there are a few corruption cases being heard in court as we speak.
In other words, the 65th anniversary on 31 August [for the peninsula] bore witness to an independent country, the wealth of which is said to have been plundered by its homegrown elite. An enemy within, as less charitable critics would say.
Who would have thought that a nation, supposedly released from the shackles of British colonialism six decades ago, would be brought down to its knees by the political and financial shenanigans of its very own leaders? The resultant national debt is unimaginable to ordinary people, who collectively have to bear the financial burden.
Certain politicians of today, unlike the leaders of the newly independent Malaya, assume positions of power in government with the heinous idea that they must make hay while the sun shines. In short, they abuse the power they hold to ensure ill-gotten gains.
Such corrupt deeds are indicative of human selfishness and greed that are inimical to the notion of keluarga Malaysia (a Malaysian family), whose diverse members are expected to work in their own way for the common good of the nation, as fostered by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob in his Independence Day address.
To be sure, this misconduct of the politicians is antithetical to the love for the country.
In their desperate search for role models, Malay nationalists harked back to the supposed glorious days of Mat Kilau, Tok Janggut and Bahaman, among other heroes of yore. It is most unfortunate, though, that our political environment could only hatch a modern-day Mat Sakau (greedy grabber) instead.
What is also concerning about corruption in contemporary Malaysia is that the perpetrators commit graft with so much arrogance and near impunity that they do not see their misdeeds as something wrong and immoral. It is either that the devil has stolen their conscience or that they are simply first-class actors.
They display no shame and remorse over their corrupt ways, which was an unthinkable disposition in the nascent nation when such culprits would feel shame and be shamed in public.
In present-day Malaysia, on the other hand, there are corrupt individuals who would exploit their notoriety to the extent that they would work towards transforming themselves into cult heroes.
Corruption is so corrosive that a section of our society seems to have lost its moral compass. Some people would even give respect, undeservedly, to the offenders concerned. Worse, there are those who even seek a pardon for the guilty.
In a sense, society as a whole provides a conducive environment for corruption to survive.
It is also disturbing that a political-religious leader could execute a sleight of hand in what looked like a veiled attempt to excuse Malay-Muslim leaders mired in corruption charges, by insisting that the root of corruption in this country lies with the ethnic minorities.
This assertion is bunkum because corruption defies ethnic and religious boundaries, and at the same time, [such remarks are] dangerously divisive in a diverse society, such as ours, that has become more polarised over the years.
If there was a dissenting voice from the Muslim religious circle to counter the said assertion, it was not loud enough to make a difference.
The love for the country requires the scourge to be fought by all concerned people so that they can hold their heads high again. – The Malaysian Insight