Blessed are you

IN my hometown church on the Second Day of the Lunar New Year, the pastor said: “Blessed are those who come to the Morning Worship Service.”

My mind screamed: “What a statement. I was thinking of attending the Evening Worship Service. Would I not be missing all the blessings if I did? How blessed would I be then?”

And the pastor was quick to “tick me off,” saying: “Blessed are also those who come to the Evening Worship Service.”

And talking about blessings, the Lunar Year of the Rooster has brought with it the promise of a slew of new blessings for Sarawak – a new Chief Minister vowing to continue the legacies of his predecessor with a new team he leads and the signing of the corruption-free pledge by the Cabinet Ministers, led by the Chief Minister. Just name it. Sarawakians are blessed.

There is a renewed sense of hope for more blessings with the advent of each new year. No doubt about it.

There are, of course, more ways to offer one other blessings in welcoming the new year. And noticeably, many revolve around the desire for wealth and riches – in another word – money.

To name several examples:

Bu bugao sheng – may each step take you higher.

Gong xi fa cai – wish you wealth and prosperity.

Caiyuanguangjin – may wealth flow in.

He qi sheng cai – may harmony bring wealth.

Jinyu man tang – may your gold and jade fill the halls.

Yi ban wan li – hope you put in a small investment and reap a huge profit.

Zhao caijinbao – may you find wealth and treasures.

Da ji da li – may you have great luck and great profit.

Sheng guan fa cai – may you get promoted in government service and be blessed with material wealth.

These wishes are the norms in Chinese culture and people do not feel it strange or shameful to wish people well in their finances and, be showered with all these money-related wishes in return. So, it is gong xi facai everywhere.

However, sheng guan fa cai is probably one of those wishes which imply corruption – to a certain extent – when a wish is made for someone to make a fortune after being promoted in government service.

The originator of this saying was Chinese author Li Bao-jia (1867-1906). In the 44th chapter of his book guanzhangxianxinji (exposing officialdom and bureaucracy), he wrote: “Others become rich after being promoted to their government positions.

“God knows we become poorer after holding government positions, we don’t have anything to pawn anymore. If it goes on, what can I do?”

In ancient China, partnership in corruption and bribery was often between government officials and emperor.

The emperor had no absolute property rights, so he had to work together with the scholar-bureaucrats attempting to assert their influence over the other courtiers and penetrate the inner sanctum of the royal court.

Later, the partnership in sins was extended to businessmen, officials and state tripartite.

This partnership explains why Chinese officials were able to make a fortune – and also why sheng guan fa cai was (apparently still is) a much desired and adored wish or blessing.

Undeniably, this not only happened in China but many other countries as well, including ours.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the signing the corruption-free pledge by Datuk Amar Abang Johari together with his Cabinet ministers, shortly after his elevation to the chief ministership, does show the state government’s seriousness in ensuring a transparent administration that has vowed to do away with corrupt practices and power abuse. Sheng guan fa cai is ostensibly not on the wish-list of our state ministers.

We, of course, are also looking forward to the creation of a mechanism for government officials to do due diligence to weed out inertia and incompetence jamming the delivery system.

It is interesting as well to note that relative to population, the Malaysian civil service has earned a rather unflattering reputation as the fattest in the world – with one civil servant to every 19.37 citizens.

Second Finance Minister Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani, a chartered accountant by training, has expressed concern about the bloated civil service of 1.6 million, causing government expenditure to rise yearly.

“When I first entered the Cabinet, the country was facing a variety of dilemmas – floating oil prices leading to reduced government revenue, ringgit devaluation, high living costs and political controversies which have made my work more challenging.

“One of the issues we have to address is the ever-increasing government operating costs and expenses. For example, we have about 1.6 million government servants making up the most populous civil service globally,” he noted.

With no plans to downsize despite remunerations and pensions to civil servants and pensioners hitting a staggering RM93 billion, we should, as Johari pointed out, be looking for more productivity and display of fairness by ensuring promotions commensurate with performances and qualifications.

If genuinely adhered to, this emulable principle speaks volume for the will to ensure good governance and the fulfillment of the “corruption- free pledge” solemnly avowed by the state government. And towards this end, we have full trust the Chief Minister will take the lead.

Indeed, if the fruits of development in our Fairland Sarawak are equitably distributed and shared, the resultant prosperity and the good reputation of the power that be, stemming from its sense of fair play and fair treatment thereof, will be something to crow about – Year of Rooster or otherwise!

While we wish for more blessings, we have to also acknowledge how blessed we Sarawakians are, considering in the eyes of the world at large, the miscreants of officialdom, the persecutors, the bashers and the social climbers (by whatever means) are increasingly being touted as the blessed ones.

But there is heart-felt solace to be found in the sermon during the Morning Worship Service in my hometown church on the Second Day of Lunar New Year which took the Beatitudes from the book of Matthew (5:1-12) where our Lord reveals to His disciples and the multitude who turned up to hear him, who really are the blessed ones.

According to the Beatitudes or the Sermon on the Mount, the blessed ones are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the merciful, the peace-makers, the pure in heart and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness but are persecuted for righteousness’ sake and because of our Lord.

Let each and everyone of us be guided by the teachings of the Beatitudes and live by the words spoken on the Mount by our Lord – humility, righteousness, peace and trust in God – amidst all the sufferings and persecutions, and be truly blessed.

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