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Malaysia’s leadership deficit – not about competency but a lack of character

Fear and insecurity prevail instead of confidence and capability

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The economist Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid made some pertinent points at a recent meeting of the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research.

He stressed you can have the best economic models, but if you have corrupt leaders in charge, then the country will fail, adding that the country is failing and falling.

So we need leaders who are both competent and have character.

Muhammed raised the 1MDB issue and said that Najib would probably be released from prison in 2034, unless he secures an earlier pardon.

But the fact is, it will take the nation until 2037 to settle all its 1MDB-related debts.

Describing the scale of the looting, Muhammed said the repayment of 1MDB debt would be RM15bn for this year and RM13bn for next year – a total of RM28bn. With the weakening ringgit, these figures could well rise further.

Muhammed then pointed at that the budget for Perak for the current year stands at RM1.1bn while the budget for Kelantan is around RM1.0bn.

What this means is that the 1MDB debt repayments for this year and the next could have covered the budgets of both states for 14 years.

Just think of what could have been done for the betterment of people in just these two states. Unbridled greed and power are intoxicating, and the events facing Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor today describe the extent to which corruption grips individuals.

This is the scale of the looting done under the aegis of Umno and the Barisan Nasional coalition.

Muhammed also said that Tabung Haji, the Malaysian hajj pilgrims fund board, lost nearly RM50bn, and this was covered by funds from the federal government – that is, a contribution from all Malaysians; no funds from zakat (an obligatory charity contribution by Muslims) were used to cover these debts.

We all pay for the corruption of our leaders. Add to this the skullduggery in Felcra, Felda, other government agencies and government-linked companies and the scale of the ‘leakage’ is enormous. There will not be stability without social cohesion.

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We have a finance minister who wrote music and sang praises of ‘Bossku’ in support of BN in the run-up to the 2018 general election. This was the CEO of a major bank that had set up a committee to investigate the money laundering case against the chairman of the bank.

It is amazing the levels to which poor governance can be rationalised – and these are the people we are today called to trust? Competent, perhaps, but what about their character? Good followers but definitely not leaders as they do not have the spine to make a difference.

We have to regretfully judge these personalities as they have opted to be in the public space and thus need to be held accountable. The state of the nation over the next five years will depend on the choices we make at this general election.

Where are the moral standards – a personal sense of character and worth that such leaders should exhibit – as they hold key positions of trust? We have to do away with conniving, self-interested politicians, some of whom have been in power for over four decades.

Today, when BN denies them a constituency to contest, they jump to other parties. We must send a singular message to such irreverent politicians, whichever parties they are from.

On what grounds can anyone give a vote to such leadership, some convicted, others standing trial – along with many others who could have stood up but chose to condone this flagrant violation and theft taking place under their own eyes.

Reincarnation as representatives under new political parties does not indicate any change in character. The entire BN, including those now in Perikatan Nasional, have to be sent a clear message.

Some Pas leaders are even condoning corruption. What are their values? Religion without values is sheer hypocrisy.

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Your vote is thus significant, and Malaysians who love their country must cast their votes to make a difference by taking action that delivers change. We have to make a choice and with social media, we can dig into the scandals that afflict leaders like Mahiaddin Yasin, Azmin Ali, Hadi Awang and our present caretaker finance minister.

Even a surgeon cleans his hands with antiseptic soap and washes down before he does an operation so as not to infect the patient. Similarly, it is only logical that these corrupt leaders and those who condoned kleptocracy should not be trusted with the future of this nation.

Again, level-headed ordinary people are all called to provide national service. It is our duty to do so. Each one of us – and those whom we know – can, by our vote, signal the need for change. We have done this before and we can do this again. Despite all the shortcomings and obstacles around us, we have learnt well. We have hope on our side.

There is much from the last Pakatan Harapan manifesto that needs to be fulfilled. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission should become an independent body answerable to Parliament, with independent powers of prosecution. We need to curb the powers of the attorney general. Prosecutors should not be independent and not subject to political interference.

So many corruption cases have graced the pages of our media but we hear nothing of them today. The corruption within the Companies Commission of Malaysia and the resignation of the then chairman – what has come of this issue? What about the governor of Bank Negara who resigned following revelations that the government had used proceeds of a land sale to the bank to help 1MDB.

What about the case recorded under the MACC about the head of the Batu Caves temple management?

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All silence – are we to conclude that the Attorney General’s Chambers has dropped these cases? It would be good to know of other cases which have likewise been dropped.

Another department that needs to come under scrutiny is the Inland Revenue Board.

We have just heard that the late Jamaluddin Jarjis’ family hopes to settle their RM2.1bn disbursement through negotiations. How could he have amassed such wealth, and did he pay the full income tax on it?

Perhaps the powers that be have manipulated many other government departments and agencies.

God, in his wisdom, has given this nation petroleum. But the way Petronas has been abused has yet to be fully understood. As an off-budget agency, Petronas has not been accountable to the people.

Billions have been squandered. A thorough forensic investigation has to be undertaken and any money recovered should be invested in a well-protected sovereign fund.

Think of where we would have been as a nation had we managed our reserves the same way Norway has done. Oil has been a resource curse in countries like Nigeria. Look at Singapore with no resources and what they have achieved.

Had we got leaders with vision and honest stewardship of the nation’s resources, Malaysia today could have been far ahead of Singapore. Instead, with racism and selfish leaders, secrecy and a divide-and-rule policy, we have lost so much.

We have also failed to maximising the potential of our diverse human resources. Our racism has driven out so many Malaysians who would have loved to work here. With mediocrity in leadership, it is all about race, but when it involves lack of accountability, it is another race that is being blamed.

Fear and insecurity prevail instead of confidence and capability, which can only be exhibited by people within a more meritocratic system.

The leadership deficit that we are facing is one of character.

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.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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Khoo Soo Hay
Khoo Soo Hay
20 Nov 2022 8.14am

The country must rid itself of race and religion. We are not of one race and one religion. We must avoid bringing race and religion into our social and media interface in our daily lives. Treat every Malaysian as a human being, which must be to ensure that his life is respected and supported to be part of our Malaysian humanity, to gain foreign respect for the way we treat our country fellows, irrespective of race or religion. We are one, Malaysians!

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