A way to wipe the slate clean

DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng and Muda president Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman should be commended for not taking a position in Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s unity cabinet. In doing so, they are respecting the judicial process to dispose of their corruption cases and not hold public office until the courts clear them of all charges.

Although legally they can hold public office on the grounds of being innocent until proven guilty, they are putting the rights of voters first by not compromising the latter’s trust in their elected MPs and holding public office when they are facing corruption charges in court. If an MP is facing court charges, how can he/she be trusted with the resources of the people? To avoid any breach of trust, it would be wiser for the MP to simply not hold public office.

Lim and Syed Saddiq are demonstrating that as MPs or politicians seeking public office, they are putting the interests of the voters above the legal leeway they have. That should be the political convention a reform-minded government should be encouraging. Evidence of such reforms are still yet to be seen.

Instead, a number of politicians facing corruption charges in court stood for election in GE15 and won. Worse still one became the prime minister and another a deputy prime minister. They are simply snubbing the judiciary and implying that the charges are politically motivated. That may be the case but having been elected they must respect the judicial process and leave it to the courts to judge if the evidence proves their claims or not, and abide by it.

Until then, they should not have put the burden of choosing and legitimising a “tainted” candidate on the voters. That is, in fact, giving the voters no choice at all, which is totally undemocratic.

Frankly, it is surprising that the Election Commission (EC) accepted the nomination papers of these candidates. The EC chairman is appointed by the prime minister and that, perhaps, explains why he could not act independently, according to the expectations of the law and rejected the papers. If he had the courage to do it, we would not have leaders whose political integrity is in doubt in the cabinet.

If Anwar, who for more than two decades built his party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), on cries of reform, is truly committed to introducing political reforms in government and rooting out corruption, perhaps, he should consider implementing the main point of the GE15 election manifesto of Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA), the coalition led by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s party, Pejuang.

The main point of GTA’s manifesto is to put the appointment of nine key government officers under the purview of Parliament where they will be selected through select parliamentary committees.

The key officers are the attorney-general, inspector-general of police, chief justice, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner, armed forces chief, chief secretary to the government, Treasury secretary-general, auditor-general, and the Bank Negara Malaysia governor.

If Anwar’s unity government passes a confidence vote in the first sitting of the 15th Parliament on Dec 19, and he is serious about wiping out corruption in government, he should consider implementing GTA’s anti-corruption plan — with GTA’s permission, of course.

GTA is also an opposition coalition and for the sake of the good of the country, it may be willing for the unity government to implement its plan to place the key nine officials in public office accountable to Parliament.

After all, the notion of a unity government was first bandied about by GTA chairman Mahathir when he became prime minister for the second time. It took root post-GE15 due to the king’s efforts with Anwar now leading it. If GTA was approached, some arrangement could be made to facilitate Anwar to execute the plan to give independence to these key top nine officials.

Anwar could at the same time separate the function of the prosecution from the Attorney-General’s Chambers and it may work in Anwar’s favour to clear his name from his pending sodomy case. Selected by a parliamentary select committee, the head of the prosecution may examine all the cases at its disposal and cancel cases that do not merit prosecution. Without executive interference, it would be proof that those cleared of the charges are truly innocent. If Anwar’s case is cleared in this way, the sodomy charge will no longer hang over his head, ever.

It would be wiping the slate clean and starting all over again on a clean footing. The question, however, is whether Anwar has the will to do the right thing and take the initiative and execute a plan to wipe out corruption in the government and prove whether the cases against MPs are politically motivated or not. Are he and his unity government prepared to face the truth?

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