Ignorance, incompetence and dishonesty seem to be the qualifications for high political office, and we have cronies who defend the indefensible, laments K Haridas.
One of the significant tasks of political leadership lies in the creation of institutions, structures and systems that nurture freedom, justice and democracy.
There is the often asked question, “Where are the leaders of tomorrow?” An important question precedes this inquiry. “Where are the nation-building systems and institutions that will create the leaders of tomorrow?” These were the concerns that guided Thomas Jefferson.
It is in this area that the ruling political leadership has failed us miserably. They have not nurtured institutions of excellence that make us proud of our democracy. On the contrary, many institutions including the ruling political party exhibit tendencies that have stunted the free expression of the spirit of democracy.
Their singular focus seems to have been on power, control and corruption. Unlike poverty, corruption is acknowledged to be the greatest threat to public institutions.
After more than five decades of Independence, we are today witnessing both a crisis of confidence and credibility. We lack leadership that can make a difference. Those who do speak out are either in the Opposition or will soon be in jail for sedition.
Where are the institutions of honour and respect in Malaysia? Bank Negara has had its share of scandals leading to earlier governors resigning. We all know how our Judiciary was mauled and made a tool of the Executive. It has yet to regain credibility. The legislature remains a rubber stamp while independent commissions like the Election Commission lack the bite and edge to stand up to the Executive.
Are our educational institutions inspiring and producing students of excellence? Why are many parents taking their children out of the KBSM curriculum and enrolling them in the IGCSE (UK) ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels programme?
We suffer continuous political interference in education. This has left many disillusioned with the educational system and government schools. In addition, the international rankings achieved by Malaysian universities leave much to be desired.
Those with money may exercise options with prudence but the general public are left worried. Some have opted for Chinese independent schools. The government and the education department must realise that the quality of education provided to the children of today will determine the quality of life for them and the nation tomorrow.
Power interests based on race and religion are often manipulated to serve political interests. And with stability being a key indicator, we have lost time and now find ourselves landed in a situation where scandal after scandal continues to rock this nation. When leadership is divorced from ethics, then greed for power and money takes over.
This is the ideal recipe for corruption. Already we have a political structure where the nexus between money and power is acknowledged. Politicians who have indulged in corrupt practices and who have been found guilty by the discipline and ethics committee of their political parties are then honoured with top positions in government-linked companies.
This has given others greater courage to indulge. The difference now is the staggering amounts of overseas money involved, with politicians at the highest level banking large amounts into their personal accounts.
An independent task force set up to investigate this issue was made impotent through the blatant misuse of power by the Executive.
Following the admission of four candidates of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) into the Executive as a result of a cabinet reshuffle, the work of the PAC was brought to an end. This was evidence of the so-called ‘independence’ of the inquiry committee. Some much-needed time was bought by those involved, possibly to cover their tracks.
Meanwhile, the attorney general was unceremoniously dismissed prior to his retirement. He has been silent since, and despite appeals by the fomer deputy director of the Special Branch, the attorney general has not had the courage to be honest and face the Malaysian public. He has much to reveal – but what prevents him from doing so is a story in itself.
Those with the courage to take a stand are promoted and transferred or transferred with immediate effect. This damages institutions like the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency, the Attorney General’s Chambers, the Public Services Division and even Bank Negara. So far no action has been taken under the Anti-Money Laundering Act to perhaps even question AmBank or the recipient of these large amounts of money.
All this says much about the state of our nation. These are indicators that we have to take seriously for they have an impact on the credibility of the nation. Yes, we need transformation and change, but more importantly, we need people with leadership qualities who exhibit a commitment to and conviction for values and ethics.
What we witness instead are fear and silence, and this says a lot about the prevailing moral and ethical haze that has hit the nation. The only difference is that these fires are from within the nation. Do these not describe the fruit of years of autocratic rule?
We need a reality check that spells out why we are in this present state. Without such an endeavour, we will not be able to make a difference and bring about both the transformation and the change required.
Many in government know intrinsically what is needed but lack either the guts or the independence to take a stand. So the situation meanders on as we begin to accept the unacceptable as the rule of the day.
Our government has failed at maintaining law and order. We seem to have too many public servants but too little public service. In several parts of Petaling Jaya, resident associations are going back to engaging private security companies to patrol and protect their areas.
In addition, we are facing challenging economic realities. The ringgit has weakened and the person on the street is feeling the pinch. Petrol prices have risen again and, with the GST, there is little to leeway to stretch the ringgit.
We have failed to develop our human capital. To have nearly two and a half million foreign workers and possibly a similar number of unregistered foreign workers is a heavy price to pay. They are also allegedly a source of corruption amongst various regulatory bodies. They become a tool in hedging the fair salary that Malaysians could earn. Competitiveness is used to justify their presence, and many are also badly treated.
Yet, by far, the government has failed to provide the moral and ethical leadership that is required. The government has failed to earn the respect of large sections of the public, and it plays the race card to prop up its support.
As John Stuart Mills so rightly said, “The worth of a state, in the long run, is the worth of individuals composing it. A state which dwarfs its citizens in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes – will find that with small men no great things can really be accomplished and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything will, in the end, avail to nothing.”
With the devaluation of so many of our public institutions, we have allowed the Executive to apply the astounding doctrine that they enjoy the liberty to appoint men and women who subscribe to the whims and fancies of the ruling party and elite. This has contributed to the demise of Democracy in many nations. The fundamental issues remain moral, political and constitutional.
Mediocracy reigns, and we are regularly exposed to the stupidity of our politicians and spineless leaders. Ignorance, incompetence and dishonesty seem to be the qualifications for high political office, and we have cronies who defend the indefensible.
We stand in need of dedicated men and women whose call can resonate in the hearts of our trusting citizens and teach us by their quality of leadership and the stewardship of their lives what mere belief and precept can never impart.