Sunday, March 7

Walking the talk on integrity


PUNDITS often call the period running up to elections as ‘the silly season’ — for good reason.

Some politicians think it gives them the licence to make all kinds of outlandish claims, whether it be promises they cannot keep, accusations they cannot prove or excuses they cannot justify.

A tiresome task as it is, it still falls on the rakyat to sieve through all the hoopla, noise and spam to extract the information necessary to help them make the best possible decision when the time comes to tick the ballot box.

In short, the rakyat have a duty to settle for nothing less than fact, truth and justice for their own good. Sadly, fact, truth and justice often don’t seem to be forthcoming from our politicians during the silly season.

It is expected for politicians on one side to point out the failings in their opponents at every opportunity but the situation becomes ridiculous when the flaws they so gleefully point out in the other are just as enthusiastically ignored when it comes from within their own party ranks.

Take for example Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s recent signing of Transparency International-Malaysia’s Election Integrity Pledge.Bernama said the PM also made a public declaration to support integrity and be fully committed in curbing corruption in the country and during the 13th general election.

The prime minister had also given his commitment that as soon as the names of the BN candidates were announced at the nomination, he would ensure that all of them signed the pledge.

On Tuesday (Feb 26), The Borneo Post carried a report quoting two Sarawak BN politicians as saying the opposition’s refusal to sign the pledge proved they had failed to walk the talk in calling for transparency.

It should be noted that DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang claimed on a blog entry dated yesterday (Feb 26) that several Pakatan Rakyat leaders have already signed the pledge well before the PM.

In the same post, he stated his desire to sign the pledge as a meaningful exercise, and thus, proposed a 10-point addendum (, implying that he would sign the pledge if the points were incorporated into the pledge.

Political showmanship aside, the main thing Sarawakians will take away from this latest exchange is that politicians on both sides are not exactly tripping over themselves in a race to imprint their John Hancocks on the pledge, despite being audacious enough to claim a moral victory over those on the opposite side who have not done so.

It would be inherently more meaningful to the common folk if all leaders, regardless of political creed and colour, were to take the initiative to lead by example, instead of only doing something in the interests of the rakyat when it is politically expedient or they are forced into a corner to do so.

Why the need to wait until the PM has announced the candidate list or for the pledge to be amended before signing it? It would be a point in any politician’s favour to sign the pledge on their own free will and as soon as possible, regardless of whether they are candidates in the general election or not.

Feel free to milk as much goodwill and publicity from such as event as possible but please don’t indulge in the doublespeak which is so prominent during the silly season.

Of course, as the cynics will pounce on, just because someone has signed the integrity pledge doesn’t mean he or she intends to keep to the word and the spirit of the word. But that is a topic for another day.

While getting all politicians and leaders to sign the integrity pledge before the GE may not do much to improve Malaysia’s dismal score of 49 out of 100 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index results in 2012, it would be a good starting point to improve public perception over the integrity of those who claim to hold the moral high ground.