Thursday, August 13

Have we become a failed nation bereft of all decency?


IT’S been a pretty nasty few weeks for decent minded and right thinking Malaysians across all walks of life, and from both sides of the political divide as well as from the full spectrum of the socio-economic structure.

Besides being locked down, stressed, and uncertain of the future amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, almost a full three months has gone by without much relief other than that the statistics are currently showing some signs of a slowing down in the number of infected cases and the accumulated mortality rate.

I was personally astounded and shocked, and couldn’t believe it when the news heralded the discharge of Riza Aziz, a step-son of the former prime minister, from the court charges of laundering US$248 million, and that he walked away free from any further action other than having repaid or will repay a fraction of the amount as charged.

Again, earlier this week, former Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman had his 46 criminal offences charges of having corruptly received US$50.1 million dropped on advice of the newly-appointed attorney general.

The reasons given for both these shocking turn of events have at best been limp and unconvincing, even to the layman.

At the same time, in recent weeks, we had read news stories of petty thievery, a case in point, a worker in Terengganu jailed for 15 months for stealing some petai (a bean-like vegetable). I would also remind you of the case of Shashikumar Selvam, a 22-year-old worker who hung himself in his cell after having been jailed for 10 years – his crime? He was caught stealing rice and two cans of sardines. Although this happened on May 22, 2015, it still serves as an example of what is actually going on in our courts of law, from Perlis to Sabah.

For many years now, there has been an ongoing series of high-handed and over-the-top sentencing meted out especially for petty crimes committed by the average Joe, who is usually poor, downtrodden, and with no influential or expensive legal aid other than what is provided pro bono by the court.

What does it all show and what can it mean to us, the man on the street?

It can only mean one thing.

It would very much appear as if Malaysian law and those who enforce and pass out sentencing are either over-enthusiastic, heavy-handed, heartless, or are not in touch with the times. We are no longer in the days of Les Miserables or the old Raj, where the colonial masters or the omnipotent ruler can have his say like “off with his head”, as in the days of the Romans when prisoners were thrown into the arena with lions to fight and gladiators to make fun of.

But it appears pretty much like it in a sense.

There is that very real evil which exists and which everyone talks about, gets bandied around, and goes viral on newsgroups and WhatsApp groups, and social media like Facebook and Twitter – the evilness that has a name – cronyism, entitlement, corruption, and political patronage.

All these are tied together and cannot escape – the stench is obvious and the stain would stay forever, whichever camp you may be from – no one can really escape its claws.

It pains me to say that, in my humble opinion, we are reaching, if not have already reached, the ultimate low right now.

Where is the simple decency left for the rest of us? Where is the justice that we are entitled to? Should we allow such evil political clout or a feverish clinging on to power and status to continue unabated without being challenged? What is left of honour and respect? Human dignity and honesty, a sense of fairness, and the opportunity to live a reasonably good life?

Have we as a nation and a people journeyed so far to become not unlike the animals that we used to hunt in the jungles or have kept in the zoos?

In all my years observing the political intrigues and the shadow play of what we now call the ‘Deep State’; the back-stabbings, betrayals, and party-hopping of past governments – be it Barisan National or Pakatan Harapan at the federal level – I have never as yet seen misdeeds and wrongful doings as what’s going on right now. Machiavelli himself would be delighted with all these dirty deeds if he were alive today.

Let’s now talk about GLCs – the government-linked companies, which have become a hot potato and a highly contentious issue. How on earth is it possible to appoint to the highest position – the chairmanship – of any independent body of any group of professionals someone who’s plucked out of a political party just because he’s an MP (member of parliament) without any training or knowledge in the same field, simply to ensure his loyalty and to ‘buy’ him over with the hefty remuneration and perks of the job?

And not just one, mind you, we are talking of at least 17 or more of such positions among government MPs at last count.

The other reward which the new Prime Minister has initiated is to appoint some MPs to positions similar to cabinet ministers those special envoys to be based abroad to look after various regions, as in the Middle East; Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan; and so forth.

Wouldn’t this both negate or make duplicitous the respective consuls or ambassadors already in place in these countries or group of countries?

Wouldn’t it in fact be us the taxpayers who are footing all these extra expenditures at all levels?

At the end of the day, if current politicking and speculations are to be believed, all I have said could also disappear and change overnight with a handful of crossovers among the MPs – another upheaval in the halls of Putrajaya. Who knows what’s going to happen come July when Parliament actually sits, and when there’s supposed to be a motion for a vote of no confidence?

Then again, the whole entire circus would repeat itself. Who suffers most from all this? Not the politicians – it’s us, those who voted the MPs in, those of us who pay our taxes diligently, and those of us who sit on our armchairs and read all about it in the news or watch it on the telly.

All we really want, all that we pray for, is for a government that is decent, upright, hard-working, and stays on course to oversee the nation through these trying times and make everything work for a truly great, harmonious, united, and equal Malaysia. May God help us all.


Comments can reach the writer via [email protected]