Friday, November 02, 2007

M'sia belongs to us, not the gov't

M'sia belongs to us, not the gov't

Steve Oh
Malaysiakini

Nov 2, 07 7:56pm

Concerned Malaysians will find it hard to disagree with many of the sentiments raised in Madhatter's epitome (May the force be with you) on the state of the nation.

Surely the administration should also be concerned because never in the history of the country has so many top officials in positions of public trust been thrown into the negative spotlight in such quick succession.

From the head of the ACA to the top cop in the country and now judges, not to mention ministers and other high officials, all these very important people have been or are embroiled in scandals and allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

Even if the government is not worried, many Malaysians are, and rightly so. What will attract foreigners to the country is when they know that the judiciary is upright, the government is fair, the police are trustworthy, the people are friendly, the country is safe and honest and so on.

In a nutshell, while investors are attracted by economic considerations, political integrity is also important because today many investors subscribe to the rules of ethical investments. I have read before in some business journal that some investors would have considered Malaysia but bypassed it because of possible complications with corruption.

To suggest that foreigners will be put off by royal commissions is to think that foreigners are as naive as some Malaysian politicians. In fact, the opposite will be truer. When foreigners know that if something goes wrong in a country and that the country's government will act swiftly to redress the problem it reassures them because that is what they have seen in their own countries. They are used to the rule of law, not cronyism.

We see the most scandals in American society yet they have the most foreign investments. Why? Because the system of checks and balances ensures that the crooks will be caught and expeditiously dealt with. They don't mince their word. Even a president with his pants down gets into hot soup. No one is above the law. But in a country where everything gets swept under the carpet and nepotism thrives, that is what drives away the investors.

In a more democratic country, the government would be fighting to stay in office. But one thing it should not do is to browbeat all those who want to help. The prime minister has asked people to work with him so he should not contradict himself by coming down strong on those who are merely performing their duties and fulfilling their moral and civic obligations as much as he is doing his job. It is odd to scold people for doing what you asked them to do.

Malaysia belongs to all Malaysians, not the government, who is only acting as 'trustees' for the citizens to ensure that the country is properly administered. It was never meant that a government is above the people and can create havoc or hardships for them, nor do they have the right to unfairly intimidate the people. Such is an abuse of power.

The people are more important than the government because the people will be there for a lifetime but the government is made up of elected people paid to do a job for a salary from the public purse for their term in office.

The government exists not for itself but the people hence the notion of a parliamentary democracy, something which many politicians have yet to understand, and more importantly practise, if what we see in Parliament is an indication. Ordinary people are elected to posts of responsibility and power so that they can carry out their duties with the people's mandate. That power is not to be abused.

The day the judiciary is seen to be clean, efficient and trustworthy and free of judge-fixing then the people can decide for themselves if they would challenge the executive in many of the policies it has undertaken that are simply unconstitutional. This is the true test of a mature democracy.

All those poor young Malaysians being taught to be responsible in compulsory national boot camps - and some dying from accidents - is indeed subjecting the youth to a lesson in contradictions. "Do as I tell you but don't do as the adults do" is not the lesson they need. Sometimes I wonder if the tall twin towers are a symbol of that folly, that the nation is slowing sinking in a quicksand of double standards.

It is not that adults commit wrongs that is the problem. It is when they are not being punished that sends the wrong message to our young people. We teach young people to be responsible and warn them that they will be punished for their misdemeanours but don't apply the same standard in real life when adults in public office are alleged to have done something wrong.

When police investigate only the government's enemies but not the people's then that too is disturbing and another reflection of this double-standardness.

If found guilty, the assets of the corrupt should be confiscated. In fact, there should be a law to confiscate all the proceeds of crimes and corruption. This will send a strong message to everyone that crime does not pay, and if it does, those found guilty will be doing all the paying - paying back to the government all they have stolen, and paying for their crimes in spending time in prison.

Now we learn that poll reform group Bersih wants to hold a rally but it appears that their plan may be scuttled because a permit may not be given. It will be a sad day for the country if law-abiding citizens who merely want to improve a pivotal institution of the democratic process, the all-important electoral commission, by making their point at the rally, should be obstructed.

It will only prove to the government's critics that indeed it is afraid of changes that will remove its unfair electoral advantage because of unfair electoral boundaries. It makes nonsense of the ballot box if it is not fair. It puts paid to the people's hope of fair elections. Bersih is doing the Electoral Commission a favour and deserves our support.

Years ago it would be unthinkable to imagine that any other political party could form government but today a Malaysian has gone into space, a former prime minister accuses the government he left behind as "rotten" and "a police state", a former deputy prime minister has been sent to jail for sodomy though we all know it was a conspiracy, etc, and in the light of such unexpected and unimaginable events - anything is possible, even the change of government, if only for the better.

In a proper democracy, opposition is not a dirty word. It is a crucial check on the government to ensure it does not go astray. A democracy without a strong opposition is like a boxer with only one arm. A strong democracy needs two arms - one of the government and the other of the opposition.

It is time the government restores the rights of the opposition so as to improve the democracy Malaysia deserves. By repressing the opposition, the government is also repressing the rights of the citizens who need their representatives to bring their concerns to Parliament. There is a dire need to change the false perception that being against the government is synonymous with being against the country. Fortunately, this is gradually happening as political groups like PKR, which is Malay-dominated, become more influential.

That we have a law like the Internal Security Act used on innocent people like Abdul Malek Hussin is utterly incredible and reprehensible. It exposes the decadence of our political culture and our souls. The use of torture by the police is against international conventions and our sense of human decency. Those who tortured Abdul should have been charged. The ISA should be dumped.

It is such cruel acts of the government against their political opponents that will deter the investors, not the just decisions of the courts that redress the wrongs. The ramifications of Anwar Ibrahim's kangaroo court case still reverberates around the world in informed circles. They are what destroy confidence in the country.

The ill and unfair treatment of the opposition and dissidents in Malaysia must be seen as an attack on the democratic process of the country. When their voices are snuffed out by a biased speaker of the House, when the media blocks out their message, when they are put in jail, democracy is a farce. The unfair treatment of foreign labour will also attract bad publicity for the government.

If we fear God we should not fear man, who is but his agent to instil law and order in society. All temporal high officials are nothing more than the people we have placed to do a job. They are not 'gods' that pop down from the sky with special divine powers that we should fear them. Even if they are 'gods', they should know that a Higher God watches over them.

There are no gods in our midst, only demons. We should not be demonised by bad governance because Malaysians were not raised in a bad culture of evil but the good culture of truth, honesty and justice enshrined is so many public declarations such as the Rukun Negara, etc. Malaysians are not violent or evil people but kind and hospitable, generally law-abiding and family oriented, and deserve to live in a society that reflects their positive communal values and features.

I guess when the community has exhausted all lawful means to conduct its activities and the authorities continue to exasperate and obstruct their efforts they have no choice but to resort to what all peace-loving reformers have done - peaceful civil disobedience. I doubt the jails will have space for 10,000 peaceloving Malaysians who merely want to exercise their democratic rights to improve the political state of their country.

"Give me liberty or give me death," is a well-known saying. Is that not why not every politician, judge, policeman, journalist, and many others including ordinary citizens will never be corrupted because they value high moral values more than power, prestige and money, and will not join the company of the corrupt. They value their independence and freedom. Some principled judges, many Malaysians, are above cronyism and don't need the shelter of patronage.

Those drunken with power and the mad pursuit of money and pleasure-seeking that their offices afford them and renegade in the proper administration of their country will ultimately pay the price for their folly. It is a reminder for those in power that if they push the people beyond a certain breaking point, they will rise up in opposition.

Sukarno and Marcos squandered the chance to inscribe their names in history's hall of fame and instead today we see what they have left behind - impoverished societies, where their young women have to go abroad to slave for others and be abused. Today, in Zimbabwe there is no cooking oil, no water, no flour - only a slow lingering death among the people, thanks to Robert Mugabe. Such is the legacy of corrupt leaders. They leave behind a trail of suffering.

We must avoid falling down the slippery slope as they have. Our safeguard is a pure judiciary, a good government, a sane parliament, a free media and citizenry of courage and vision.

Indeed, God bless Malaysia.

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