Wednesday, September 22, 2021

With the country adrift, what will save Malaysia?

Steve Oh

COMMENT | Since the inception of Malaysiakini, I have contributed countless articles, mostly touching on the morality of governance.

Malaysiakini remains a credible and unfettered platform for that purpose - to openly advocate for, among other things, administrative justice, a decent society and the upholding of truth in reporting.

More Malaysians are speaking out, organising themselves, and acting to effect change; otherwise, silence will be manipulated as consent and worse, victimised as the 'silent majority'.

The common thread in most of my writings, for all they are worth, is the politics of righteousness.

Righteousness is another word for moral integrity or uprightness, something given short shrift in much of governance today yet it is foundational to a democratic nation's success.

Appallingly, the kind of politics we have seen so far with its ceaseless scandals has damaged Malaysia and its image abroad. It is in danger of destroying the nation.

The sickness is politics without moral scruples. It is the disease of political expediency, corruption, decline, and inevitable doom. The rule of law has yet to chew up the felons, though it has bared its teeth and bitten a few big political fish.


In my last article, I advocated for Anwar Ibrahim to replace Muhyiddin Yasin. It did not pan out as I had hoped. I received brickbats from his detractors for my suggestion.

Anwar Ibrahim

I understand, for Anwar has warts and weaknesses like everyone and when names are mentioned, people take sides. I did not opine that Anwar was perfect or without flaws; only that he could be more suitable than others under the circumstances.

And I remain open to other suggestions. What matters is the cat that does the job - not the cult of personality.

Meanwhile, the quality of governance is fast diminishing and GE15 may offer hope, if a repeat of GE14 happens, that is, only if the alternative politicians rise above their petty gripes and personality grudges and sacrifice for the people's common good.

Anwar has to get whatever monkey off his back, be a developmental leader - not be impetuous, lose friends and credibility. Such concerns were among the criticisms levelled at him by his critics.

But such flaws are still not enough to write the man off. Some think he will never be prime minister but will it really matter? It does, unless people are happy with the status quo, especially after Muhyiddin's ouster, or can nominate a credible replacement for him.

Govt-Harapan MOU

More dirty and corrupt 'old politics' will inevitably ruin a nation facing serious fiscal challenges in the future. The total cost of running government business as usual is untenable.

That PKR and DAP are rigorously all-embracing of diversity is already a win for Malaysia that regrettably has reverted to more race-centric and Islamo-political agendas. It's an evidence-based observation.

More and more Malaysians are sick of the way the country has been destroyed by the politicians who have run and still govern the nation. The cycle of hope deferred with frequent change of country leaders since the ouster of former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has discouraged many.

Institutional reforms in discussions between the government and opposition, while positive, fall short of the radical changes needed to make any significant impact.

Leaders from both sides discuss govt-opposition pact

Why must there be a pact or MOU for the government to reform a flawed system? Isn't reform part and parcel of a responsive and responsible government? Will a politically-contrived MOU alter the quality of governance or change the electoral anomalies?

Who watch the guards?

Moral integrity has all but disappeared in politics. The nation is on the eve of moral annihilation. And the destroyers are the politicians who seem to get away with their crass and corrupt conduct.

Nothing is demanded of politicians to reform their corrupt character. Yet moral character is integral to high office. Who trusts a thief to manage their money?

Two timely and relevant commentaries in Malaysiakini by patriotic Malaysians, 'Now MACC is pinning blame on its own officers' and 'Keluarga Malaysia or Keluarga Umno-Baru' highlight the country's chronic malaise.

There are others echoing the common complaints. The guards taking bribes are troubling. Many have given up on the country.

Former ambassador Dennis Ignatius' recently released book, Paradise Lost: Mahathir and the End of Hope, blames former PM Mahathir Mohamad for, if I may use an analogy, turning the civil service into a termite nest, and facilitating the pests to destroy its infrastructure. It was Mahathir who is blamed for the malaise and the enigma has divided and become the Malay Dilemma.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob

Ismail Sabri Yaakob - the latest country's leader - although the public views him as not the best man for the job - has established KPIs for his ministers. And yet he has made a false start himself

His appointment of failed and floored leader, Muhyiddin Yasin, to head efforts to combat Covid 19 is baffling. Wasn't Muhyiddin the one who had total control of the fight against Covid-19 and put the county under emergency law?

He failed to control Covid-19. Does history have to repeat itself to convince those who ignore it of their folly?

It is crass insensitivity to even suggest convicted criminal Najib Abdul Razak be appointed a government adviser to aid the country's economic recovery. Where is Ismail Sabri's moral compass?

Is common sense listed in the KPI? Placing a felon who stole from the people to subsequently advise the government on how to make money has to be a sick joke. It is a public relations disaster for the government but a boon for Najib.

Has Ismail Sabri himself failed the public's KPI for him to create a just and clean government by his glaringly flawed decisions? Has 'I scratch your back, you scratch mine' taken root in Malaysian politics?

What has to change?

Bad company corrupts good character is a timely warning for all and let's hope the 'I will not be corrupt' politicians left in Parliament will keep that in mind after the noxious Sheraton Move.

Rather than ask who will save Malaysia, it may be more apt to ask what will save Malaysia? Unprincipled politics, recycled flawed and failed politicians, racial discrimination and marginalisation policies, religious extremism and institutionalised flaws certainly won't save the nation.

What has to change is the nation - the flawed mindset of the people and politicians and themselves - and after more than 60 years as a nation under the same political ethos and agenda, surely you would think the people will know what to do.

Again, it is mysterious why the government has to make a pact with the opposition to carry out reforms which are noticeably not substantial enough. They fail to treat the root cause of the sickness.

In an excellent video, Yusuf Hasim, renowned Malaysian adventurer, told interviewer Wong Chun Wai that the government should ban the use of race and religion to disparage others in politics.

When a country is virtually under the control of one race and religion, moves to control others are unnecessary, unfair, undemocratic, and poignantly unconstitutional.

The courts have to affirm their authority above political influence and contrived delays, and ensure the long-drawn high-profile corruption cases are urgently conducted and receive their just outcome.

Otherwise, justice delayed is justice denied, allowing convicted felons to hog the political limelight and worse, get back into power. If punishment for crimes is not expeditiously executed, criminals will be emboldened to commit more wrongdoings.

STEVE OH is an author and composer of the novel and musical 'Tiger King of the Golden Jungle'. He believes good governance and an engaging civil society are paramount to Malaysia being a unique and successful nation

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