The ‘thrill’ of being escorted by police outriders could be a motivating factor that resulted in the son of an MP recently having the privilege of a traffic jam in Penang being eased for him.
But given how things have evolved in our society, it is also possible that having a police escort may be considered a status symbol by certain quarters in the elite class – that is, it indicates that you have arrived in more ways than one.
More importantly, such behaviour symbolises a tendency of certain sections of the powers that be to blur the vital line that separates the state domain from the private one. Unless this distinction is recognised and respected, an abuse of power can occur.
Given that many of the ‘line-crossers’ are Malay-Muslims, an example from the Ummayad caliphate may well illustrate this simple and yet important point.
The eighth Ummayad caliph, Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, was said to have two candles to light his office as he was very meticulous about using state treasure in the interest of his personal integrity. He consciously used the state-owned candle when writing official letters and his own candle for composing personal letters. This was aimed at avoiding ethics from being compromised, no matter how small the issue was.
The caliph also did not make use of the state’s postal service and transportation vehicles for his own benefits. He used them only for official purposes.
There are, of course, other examples to show how careful and prudent he was when it came to using state resources.
Sceptics may consider the above examples as frivolous, especially when the lesson to be derived tends to escape the attention and conscience of the people concerned.
On the contrary, the above instances should be enough to underline the importance of integrity, honesty and trust, which the caliph embodied.
Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz is a hard act to follow by today’s ‘standards’, which shows how far we have gone off track, particularly among politicians.
Nonetheless, religiously adhering to these golden values should serve as a bulwark against misdeeds that can degenerate into much more unethical and criminal conduct, such as stealing from the national coffers – an act that should not be a source of misplaced pride.
A transgression of this crucial line can occur from something some people would consider small or negligible, such as ordering your university driver to pick up your son from school on a daily basis – and using the official car to boot.
Holding a political party meeting in a ministry’s conference room, for example, is also crossing the line, as it involves a state resource being used for party purposes.
Our political history is replete with cases of ruling parties that misused their incumbency as caretaker governments by making use of government resources, such as public broadcasting stations and the Information Department, in their electoral campaigns. They should desist.
Apart from using certain relevant laws, right social values must be reinstated and re-emphasised so that the use of state property or agencies would immediately alert the people concerned to the fact it would be wrong to misuse government resources for personal ends.
The line must not be crossed. Otherwise, a wrong becomes right and, say, pilfering public funds to buy expensive yachts or palatial mansions for personal benefits would remain a norm.
Having a police escort for private purposes is, therefore, just the tip of the iceberg. – The Malaysian Insight