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Is the default culture infecting Pakatan Harapan?

Photograph: mole.my

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The same old people have suddenly become credible enough to undertake the responsibility of looking into procurement and governance in the ministries and civil service, laments K Haridas.

I am particularly disappointed by the special investigation committee on procurement, governance and finance set up to probe into affairs within the Ministry of Defence.

This committee was set up by the cabinet upon the request of the ministry. Their jurisdiction is wide; they will also discuss issues regarding other ministries that need to be probed.

Same ol’, same ol’

I thought things would be different with Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) approach. It seems to be the same old people who have suddenly become credible enough to undertake such a responsibility.

While I do have great regard for chairman Ambrin Buang, it is disappointing that he, having known what was in the auditor general’s report, did not have the spine to stand up to the powers that be.

As an appointee by the Yang Di Pertuan Agong, he could have gone to call on His Highness and requested his assistance knowing the gravity of the issues at hand. That said, he may have done so – I am not privy to this fact.

These are leaders in high positions who are well paid and it is unfair for us not to have expectations that they will do what is necessary. The same goes for Gani Patail, Zeti Akhtar Aziz of Bank Negara and others who knew the rot but did not stand up for the interests of the nation.

It was interesting that Dr Mahathir Mohamad lamented the lack of credible people and that one may need to go down one or two levels before finding such people within the present civil service. Yet he and his cabinet choose people who should have given greater leadership but failed.

Some of them are now selected to be on these committees. We have the former head of the Institute Integrity Malaysia and the present head both in this committee. So much was expected from these leaders that many feel disappointed.

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What have they done over the last nine years of Najib’s rule but follow their leader. Loyalty it seems was more important than integrity. Perhaps there was a level of fear that many of us may not appreciate.

Institut Integrity Malaysia had national integrity plans, trained integrity officers, and one felt that something was being infused into the system. All this failed; so should one not ask the hard questions and hold this institute and its leadership accountable?

If there is no leadership from the top – people taking a stand, walking the talk and paying the price – how are those down the line to be inspired? Even serious-minded integrity officers have had to face challenges but no one stood by them. Why not induct the greatest of them all Senator Paul Low so that PH can continue this sham?

These are the same people, who are themselves tainted but now seem to have some credibility to look into the infections of others. This is akin to what Umno would do and is not in any way different.

Get civil society reps on board

Look at the composition of the committee. Is this a Malaysian committee? Are there not people more credible who could participate in such an investigation committee? Let us call a spade a spade and hold PH leaders to a higher level of accountability.

Good people with credibility like Rafizi Ramli, Tian Chua, Terence Gomez, KJ John, Brig General (rtd) Arshad Raji and his team, and others from NGOs such as the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), Aliran, Suaram can all fit the bill. They bring more credibility than those assembled today.

They will bring a mindset that is quite different from many of those in the civil service who, having spent years serving their masters, lack the moral and ethical spine to take a stand. Recent events have just confirmed this reality. Let us try and recall a ‘towering Malaysian’ who has emerged from the civil service over the last two decades.

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These very people who were tainted by their silence and lack of action will try and justify their inability to take a stand. However they try, we the people expect a higher standard from such leaders for the status and position they hold. If such people do not take a stand, who will? If conscience is rationalised away, nothing valuable remains.

Sadly, PH seems to have forgotten the many who stood by, fought for the cause and took so much action to make a difference. Adn now we see how this opportunity is being misused with the some of the same spineless people leading such investigations. If we are really serious about change, we have to take challenging steps that will make a difference. We need people who will ask the hard questions.

This requires a major shift – not a civil service mindset nor an academic approach. Such a shift could well be provided by those in civil society. Here you will find people working for a pittance. But they are large-hearted in terms of the causes they represent and the commitment they bring to their work. They bring experience, not theories, in standing up for Integrity.

C4 and their initiatives with the Scorpene scandal would give them valuable insights. They will be in a position to make the necessary inquiries that will make a difference. Having an auditor’s mind or claiming to be part of an institute that has failed does not give them this privilege.

Cleanse the civil service

We are not being serious. Let us call a spade a spade. This is the singular failure of the PH component parties, who more than any other group have worked with the alternative sector. Do they not realise they could be sucked into this default culture created by Umno and BN?

Cleanse the civil service and hold accountable those in positions of responsibility. Without such decisive action, why should people even change? To begin with, bring in those who could give leadership with a difference.

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Their key option would be to lay down significant milestones that would be needed in the creation of a new culture of responsibility within the civil service. You cannot wish this to happen for you are working in an environment that is not positive and enabling to the values and convictions that PH holds to be true and needed.

Does PH have a vision for the civil service? If not, they will soon be manipulated by the default and contaminated culture that today prevails in the Malaysian civil service. They will represent the bastion that stands against change and in inculcating a Malaysian spirit.

The government would do well also to appoint a professional auditor from the private sector to become the auditor general if they are serious about change. Such an individual would cleanse the civil service of the mentality that what belong to the government belongs to me. Serious audits with action being taken and people taken to task is essential. This will plug many of the leakages and save us more badly needed money. The leader will set the tone for the new culture.

Having contributed to Tabung Harapan, we have the moral right and authority to call a spade a spade and to express our utmost disgust at the Umno-style of leadership that PH is beginning to follow in this case. Where are the people who stand up for values like honesty, courage, unselfishness and a desire to make a difference?

Civil society groups have much to offer. In the spirit of being Malaysian, consider them. Otherwise, we end up with a ‘ketuanan Melayu’ approach, which was not the cause for which many stood up. If you do not stand for what is right and proper, you will be sucked in by the default culture, which is based on rent-seeking, positions and titles – all reeking of self-interest and greed.

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