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Let the truth be told

Photograph: The Star

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If we are serious about change, let us also deal with all the sacred cows that remain beyond reproach, writes K Haridas.

Daily the news keeps trickling in, and as I had indicated in a previous piece should Pakatan Harapan win the elections everyone would be shocked at the state of affairs in the nation.

It is confirmed that our debts at the moment stands at some one trillion ringgit. The last nine years under Najib Razak have been exceptionally destructive in more ways than one. There will be more episodes awaiting us.

“You help me, I help you” was the refrain and with cash as king, we now realise how many individuals have succumbed to his wishes and sold the soul of the nation. The entire civil service is contaminated not to speak about government-linked companies and and investment companies.

Many succumbed and you can barely use all the fingers of one to hand to count those from Institutions of governance, the civil service, the police, the judiciary and even from the royalty who stood up and spoke out.

What does this say of our nation and our people? We can blame and give enough reasons to justify. There will be attempts at rationalisations like pointing to fear and insecurity .

But until we are ready to take responsibility and look within and face our own inner worth we will never understand why. There is so much religiosity in this nation but when it comes to expressions of faith and commitment we fail badly.

So many benefited for Najib’s ‘rezeki’ (livelihood), but with the change of government, they will now have to face their ‘takdir’ (fate) under Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Hypocrites of the highest order

This only goes to show how little faith people do really practise in reality. Religion and being religious is very different from having a faith. We have so many temples, churches and masjids yet we cannot find enough practitioners to save our nation from within the establishment. The cost has been huge.

A person of faith can believe or otherwise in God. What is more significant is that such a person has an internal moral compass and they live what they talk about. They are congruent, in harmony, and have the capacity to discern and act within the dictates of their conscience. Such individuals can neither be bought nor bullied.

They gain their qualifications not from Harvard, Oxford or other prominent Institutions. They cultivate their inner life and exhibit a sense of humanity. Silence and listening to the inner voice shapes their responses. They can be people from different religious backgrounds.

There is so much cynicism these days and this is because many young people see through the hypocrisy of their elders. Islamic groups like Pas, which is supposed to champion issues like anti-corruption, are more interested in hudud and how others should live their religious life. These are hypocrites of the first order.

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Umno talks about race, religion and royalty, and today we can judge for ourselves their contribution. A focus only on race undercuts the Islamic notion of justice. Also race is not a foundational corner stone of Islam.

Yet, in Malaysia we have Islam a la Umno, which is pedalled for votes as though, after 67 years of independence and rule by Umno, Islam was suddenly under threat.

Umno does not learn and does not possess the leadership with an open mind to assess the climate of today, the needs of Malaysian society and where they intend to take this nation forward in the next 50 years. A focus on race is not even a starter, and this immediately cuts the party away from the Malaysia that a vast majority of Malaysians envisage.

Political and state-run religion can cut both ways. In the guise of Islam, the Umno-led administration even gave free trips for pilgrimages. Look at the character and conduct of so many of their leaders, and the question arises if this is what defending Islam is all about. The entire civil Service and administration has been contaminated.

Does defending Islam mean condoning corruption, dishonesty and a lack of integrity?
We have the likes of Zakir Naik, who says publicly that if you have to choose between a corrupt Muslim leader and a good non-Muslim leader, then you have to choose the Muslim leader.

What nonsense is he spouting and what an insult to Islam as many understand it. And yet where are our muftis and scholars, who are silent when such stupidity invades our digital media.

I am happy that Umno still has this focus because they will never get far. They may have competent people like Mustapa Mohamed (Tok Pa) but very few if any who exhibit leadership with character. To them money is what matters in fighting for leadership – not your character, convictions and vision for the nation as a whole. You are a disappointment, Tok Pa.

My best wishes to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, for he has never exhibited leadership and ideas that are progressive and inclusive. Yet he is a better bet that Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the religious school student who would even lie for the sake of his leader. Perhaps the police should take another look at case of the beating up of his daughter’s boyfriend.

These are not the people we want to lead Malaysia. Secondly, Zahid seems to have reincarnated in Bagan Datuk, when it is understood (and even Wikipedia states) that he was born in Indonesia.

It is good that Hishammuddin Hussein is not standing as he has done enough damage not only to the standing of his grandfather and father but insulted his own intelligence by standing for race, religion and royalty. How far will this get him? He should ask himself what is deepest convictions are and where he wants to see diverse nation by 2050 and how can lead everyone by promoting an inclusive vision for all.

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Role of royalty

And lastly, let us look at the royalty, who were established as the new idols by Umno. You cannot talk about them but just accept them with the good, the bad and the ugly as part of Malay culture and tradition. Yet time and again they have failed us because good Malays have failed to hold them to the highest standards, instead of just revering them.

They remain ‘raja-raja Melayu’ something so exclusive that the rest of us Malaysians can only look at them with fear and trepidation. This is 2018 and the royalty should also understand that they are constitutional monarchs within Malaysia and not absolute rulers.

When Pakatan Harapan institutes its Freedom of Information Act, then all the details regarding their payments and expenditure will be available in the public space.

They are rulers representing all of us, and the terminology has to change. Their dignity should be above reproach if they are the custodians of Islam. We respect and honour them and likewise they hold a duty of care for us in the way they conduct themselves.

In the name of race, let us not build a cocoon around them. It is easy to condemn people regarding allegations when the government of the day does not correct the news in the digital media.

Is it true that a member of royalty has secured royalties worth few billion ringgit for investments in his state? Is it true that an individual was killed by a royalty using his golf club? What about gambling in casinos in London and loosing heavily. An illegitimate child born to a member of the royalty and now we have a golden airplane owned by one?

All this in a country where 50% of Malaysians earn below RM2,000 per month. Correct our perception because this is the digital age and you cannot hide behind your throne nor the government of the day conceal us from facts and reality.

However if their lifestyle and conduct is unbecoming, they should not take on this august role. If they choose to serve, they should be open to criticism. Islam is against all forms of idol worship and even if half of what journalist Kadir Jasin indicates is true, it is bad enough.

Respect is just not given, and for all of us and even royalty, it has to be earned. This is an age where we have to speak truth to power as well as have the capacity to humbly apologise if we are wrong.

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Tell us if it is right for the ruler to be away on the night of the national election? If we are not going to be open and give them a fair chance, we will end up nurturing demagogues in our midst as we have seen in the case of Najib Razak.

The truth is painful but it has to be said. We can never sugar coat when their dues come out from the consolidated funds of the treasury. It is the truth that sets everyone free.

Speaking truth to power

If we are serious about change, let us also deal with all the sacred cows that remain beyond reproach like ministers, leaders of government-linked companies and even judges.

We do so not because we want to spread disrespect or cast aspersions but there is a need for accountability and responsibility in the way everyone conducts themselves and behaves, more so if they represent national identity. At a time when the nation needed them, many were missing in action. What, if any, was their collective contribution?

Today, the citizens have contributed over RM60m to the Hope Fund. This gives us the moral authority and credibility to expect the highest from all sectors of society. To say that Kadir Jasin has crossed the mark is to overlook the serious and costly harm to our national image that has been brought about by the behaviour of people in power and leadership who aim to protect race, religion and royalty (the 3Rs).

Are we as citizens to ignore this? We have done so for far too long. The time has come for those in power to be open and inform us about our inaccuracies and misconceptions. This Umno did not do because this was part of the 3Rs.

Were the rulers also susceptible to “you help me, I help you”? Were some of them also recipients of proceeds from 1MDB? Thank you, Kadir Jasin for being brave and honest enough to state what needs to be said even if your in-accuracies have yet to be corrected or clarified.

This is the role of the media, and for too long our licensed regime media has been silent in these areas. Let the truth be told. Not everyone will be happy because they are not used to such expressions.

But a vast majority will be grateful, for this is done with the interest of the nation in mind and with respect for boundaries within which we should all conduct ourselves if we choose to be in the public space.

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