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Money, the common ‘religion’

We hope that corruption will one day be a thing of the distant past

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It is sad that our nation seems so bankrupt with regard to moral and ethical leadership, writes K Haridas, who says it is time for political change.

When one witnesses a wrong being committed and remains silent, this amounts to condoning what is wrong. Both silence and continued association reveals an inability to stand up for what is right. And so many well-intentioned and educated individuals continue tolerating the obvious wrong.

What does this result in? This develops the mentality “It’s OK; everyone does it”. It establishes an operational culture that condones what is wrong. The very fact that no one or only a few take a critical position gives strength to those who act in an unethical manner.

Why is it that institutions like ‘Institut Integriti Malaysia’ (Malaysian Insitute of Integrity) keep silent? By their very silence, they are seen to be condoning what is blatantly wrong.

All this indicates that the executive wields so much power that there is fear. It is true that they can transfer people and create much trouble for civil servants. Yet there are intelligent ways that have to be employed to express what they stand for. Otherwise, they lose the very integrity they are supposed to espouse.

Soon everything is tolerated. As Voltaire so rightly said, “when it is a question of money everyone is of the same religion.” Perhaps this is the glue that holds the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition together.

It is sad that our nation seems so bankrupt with regard to moral and ethical leadership. Even our so called minister for integrity has lost his spine! When good men and women with intelligence, education and power are unable to see right from wrong, they sow the seeds of cynicism.

These very leaders will at some point have to answer to their own conscience. Beliefs are mere costumes that can be changed daily. This means nothing except identifying oneself with a brand or a belief group. Yes,

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I am a good Muslim, Christian or Hindu, to mention a few. This does not mean any inner transformation. That is why mere belief never makes a difference. To say that you only fear Allah or God and then undertake all sorts of mischief is an attempt to put a shine on one’s self.

Self-interest blinds many, and they unwittingly sacrifice their integrity for mere power and association. Perhaps we who do not wield power can judge easily, but this behoves the question as to their motives and convictions.

What is it that motivates people to keep together with a band of crooks when what is done is so obviously unethical? Professionals of all kinds from all races and religions rationalise their convictions. Political expediency is the name of the game.

When you know that your leader has been implicated in billions of ringgit of misadventure that has led to a massive misappropriation of funds, how is it that you can continue to not ask questions of conscience that are so critical to leadership and service? Everyone in the leadership of the various component parties of the BN has to face this reality.

The audit of 1MDB is now in tatters, several banks are being investigated, there are individuals who are in prison. But in Malaysia they have done little to call in the first CEO and others whose names have been highlighted by Bank Negara.

By their silence, many are convicting themselves. Together they serve their own self-interest in terms of money, positions, titles and status. They are confident because the system is so much aligned in their favour.

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They believe that they can never be dislodged. With fixed deposits states like Sabah and Sarawak, the present coterie of leaders remain confident that they will return to power at the centre when elections are held again.

It is going to be a challenging task to get our democracy back into shape. This must be our singular aim. Opposition parties have a responsibility in this regard to come together and create a viable coalition that engages the BN on a one-to-one basis.

Every party in the opposition will have to sacrifice in order to achieve this goal. This larger goal of re-establishing our democracy will only gain ground if they are ready to spell out their agreement on re-establishing basic fundamentals. We need as a people to gain back our sense of freedom guaranteed by our Constitution.

Once the ruling coalition is defeated, a new consultative committee needs to be set up that spearheads a look into the following:

  • separation of powers being spelt our between the judiciary, the legislature and the executive so that we do not have a repeat of the situation we now find ourselves;
  • independent judicial appointments;
  • a truly Independent Elections Commission;
  • election funding and party funding to be transparent and clear;
  • separation of religion from state affairs;
  • clarity with regards the executive and its powers;
  • abolition of the National Security Council Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, and the Sedition Act;
  • the finance minister to be separate from the prime minister;
  • an independent and recognised human rights commission;
  • the powers of the attorney general to be regulated; and
  • the MACC to be given the right to prosecute and its independence spelt out.

While there may be many more to add, the fact remains that the challenge facing the nation is to rid ourselves of the present crony-led government that has brought so much harm and embarrassment to the nation nationally and internationally. Freedom from this Umno-led government of hypocrites is a must, and we need to establish a partnership that respects human dignity and rights.

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Without this freedom we will continue to be trapped by the mindset of race and religion and miss the larger sense of freedom based on transparency, accountability and fairness.

In the last elections the non-Malays sent a distinct message to the component parties of the BN. Many of their leaders lost while those who managed to get re-elected got in by a slim majority. Obviously the money must be good for them to remain and not re-examine and bring the needed changes.

Any decent political party that relies on the support of the people would have done some soul-searching. This the BN has never done because of its confidence in the much maligned Elections Commission and the unfair delineation of constituencies.

Ultimately, everyone has a sense of self-worth. When politicians miss this sense and believe that it is their God-given right to rule and to be arrogant, then it sets off a siren for all who love this nation to come out and ensure that the entire BN machinery is defeated.

We owe this to our future generations. An important step towards creating a hopeful future is developing the ability to envision it. Can we count on the opposition to lead us in this direction as another five more years of the same will only ruin this beautiful nation?

More than issues of race and faith is the need for people who are good and straight and who live by their convictions for the good of this country to speak out and vote right.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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K Haridas, an Aliran executive committee member, is the current honorary secretary of the Business Ethics Institute of Malaysia, chairperson of the Association For The Promotion Of Higher Education In Malaysia and chairperson of the Malaysian chapter of Initiatives of Change International.
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