The Association for Community and Dialogue is concerned about Pas president Hadi Awang’s statement that asset-declaration initiatives are derived from communist and socialist philosophies practised by the DAP.
Hadi went on to say that the socialists want to limit wealth, but the leaders of socialist countries are the richest. He did not provide concrete examples to back his claims. His statement indicates the intellectual bankruptcy and moral relativism of the Pas leadership, interpreting issues of integrity from a political, ideological angle.
While it is true that some leaders in so-called “socialist” countries acquire wealth with impunity, one has to distinguish between a modern, accountable and transparent socialist democratic system and an authoritarian political socialist system.
Hadi must also ask why prosecutions in the 1MDB case are happening only after Pakatan Harapan took over the government. Was the scandal not due to the authoritarian legacy of Umno leaders after the 1980s as accountability in corruption-linked matters has never been part of their DNA? Was it not due to the wealth accumulated by individuals whose assets have never been declared in an honest manner?
The importance of asset declarations stems from the importance of integrity in public office. In modern public management, which is derived from moral philosophies, integrity starts from the person who holds office. The declaration of assets cannot be construed from a political-ideological basis, but from the perspective of the common good.
Western nations, especially Scandinavian countries, have moved ahead of many Islamic nations due to the socialist philosophy of their previous political leaders. Countries like Norway, Sweden and Denmark, which are progressive and wealthy, have modern healthcare and education systems, which are a legacy of Christian service for the common good.
It all started with leaders who developed the capacity to work for the common good instead of accumulating wealth for selfish gains.
For example, in Norway, a government pension fund was established in 1990 to invest the surplus revenue from the country’s petroleum sector.
It has more than US$1tn in assets, including 1.3% of global stocks and shares, making it the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. In May last year, it was worth about US$195,000 per citizen. Many companies with vested interests are excluded from this fund on ethical grounds.
Going against vested interests, the fund managers run it with the socialist mindset of serving the common good. Not everything is derived from Marxist ideology. There is no black-and-white thinking – something demonstrated by Pas leaders, who like to make a distinction between their ideological understanding of Islam in opposition to others.
It is time Pas learns that not everything that is socialist is communist. It has to learn the modern principles of competency, accountability and transparency, which are rooted in the spirituality of the common good. It all starts with individuals of integrity.
Politicians can start proving their integrity by declaring their assets. Malaysia is in dire need of leaders with integrity. One cannot assume that if one subscribes to a certain religious ideology, one is perfect. Integrity has to be demonstrated through action to serve the common good.