Resignation is a good move

Budget 2023 was retabled at the Dewan Rakyat today as the latter was dissolved before the budget was passed in October last year. In the next couple of days, the experts will discuss its pros and cons. Hopefully, it will not divert attention from the equally significant issue of good governance.

When Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) Tasik Gelugor MP Wan Saiful Wan Jan resigned from his post as PN information chief following charges in court for corruption, it was an example of good governance. He was charged in court with two counts of corruption early this week, the first for soliciting a bribe of an unspecified sum and the second for receiving a RM6.96 million bribe related to the Jana Wibawa programme that was instituted when PN president Muhyiddin Yassin was the prime minister.

Wan Saiful has claimed trial to prove his innocence but resigned from his position in his party, Bersatu, which is a partner in PN. A point of note is that the Jana Wibawa programme has been cancelled under Budget 2023. It will be left to be seen if others investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in connection with Jana Wibawa will also face corruption charges in court.

Nevertheless, it is commendable that Wan Saiful chose to resign. Hopefully, it will be an example others will follow.

If MPs hold public office, they too, like Wan Saiful, must resign from their positions. This is the political culture that must be practised by our politicians. Anyone holding public office must resign from their positions if they are charged in court whether for corruption or any other crime or suit. If they are acquitted of or pardoned for all charges, they can return to their positions.

If the person charged is an MP, he/she need not resign as an MP for the duration of the case until found guilty. Whether that MP can continue to represent his/her voters will depend on the decision the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat makes according to the law or the MP’s party makes.

Former prime minister, Najib Razak, remained an MP while his corruption case was going on on the grounds that a person is “innocent until found guilty”. That’s true but it would have been better if he hadn’t in order to ensure good governance. Anyone charged in court will raise doubts about his/her integrity and whether he/she can be trusted with taxpayer’s funds and resources.

Politicians should not force such doubts on voters as voters may react and vote against them. To avoid the risk of losing votes and demonstrating that the MP is worthy of the voters’ trust, it would be better for MPs facing court charges to step down from public office.

Wan Saiful and PN have set a bar for political conduct. Although PN became a government through a coup, without the mandate of the people, it appears as if it is taking measures to correct itself. It’s a good start and if PN MPs continue holding themselves to the highest standards of public service, it can only augur well for the coalition.

The big question now is whether the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led unity government will do the same with regard to its ministers who are facing court charges. Against Wan Saiful’s resignation, Anwar’s unity Cabinet, which includes Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and other Umno MPs facing court charges in court, doesn’t look too good.

PH started off well, whipping up support with its calls for reforms and good governance. Now, in government, while implementing some reforms, it seems to be acting no differently than previous administrations with regard to good governance.

PH needs to be very careful how it conducts itself in government. If it doesn’t, it may lose its pole position as the advocate for reforms and integrity in government as other parties and coalitions take over that role.


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