Tag Archives: corruption

The people have the right to know …

It is imperative that candidates fielded in the coming Johor state elections make their stand very clearly regarding their commitment to upholding the constitution, wiping out corruption and implementing sustainable development in light of climate change.

What the candidates say about these issues will tell the people what to expect from candidates standing for election at the federal level in a general election.

Firstly, will the candidate commit himself/herself to upholding the federal and state constitutions at all cost? This is extremely important because we don’t want leaders who will circumvent the constitution in order to seize or remain in power in the manner in which the previous prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, got himself installed as the prime minister and in a similar way in which the Opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) is keeping the current prime minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, in power.

Both, in my opinion, are unconstitutional because both did not prove they had a majority by facing a no-confidence vote in Parliament before installing themselves as the prime minister. Because they set a precedent, now state menteri besars, instead of facing a no-confidence vote in the state assembly to prove their majority or the lack of it, are — with the agreement of the state head of state — dissolving the state assembly and calling for untimely elections, as in the case of Malacca and now Johor.

Such head of state and head of state government cooperation is political rather than constitutional and the people have the right to know if the candidates standing for election in the state constituencies will ensure that they will NOT give any opportunity to the head of state to influence political decisions.

Constitutionally, the head of state is above politics and the menteri besar must not make decisions in consultation with the head of state under the guise of “advising” the head of state without first proving a lack of a majority in the state assembly, which the menteri besar failed to do in dissolving the Malacca state assembly last year. Likewise, in Johor, no vote of confidence was called at the state assembly but the state government was dissolved.

The people have a right to know if the candidates will play no part in involving the head of state or his representatives in state or federal politics because constitutionally the head of state can not get involved in politics.

The people also have the right to know if the candidate and his/her party will use a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to form pacts and deals to thrust parties or a coalition of their choice into power in the event no party or coalition wins a majority and this is proven through a vote of confidence at the state assembly.

Again, a precedent was set at the federal level when PH signed an MoU with the Sabri government before the latter faced a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. As a result, there was no proof that the Sabri government was a minority one with which an MoU could be signed.

An MoU is a tool of last resort used by the Opposition to prop up a minority government when no party or coalition gets a majority vote. The process of proving a majority outside of an election is undertaken in Parliament and the state assemblies as is the democratic convention practised by all democracies.

No party or coalition can declare at a press conference it has a majority or failed to get a majority and then use that to justify taking over a government or calling for elections. It must first be proven through the parliamentary/state assembly process. First, the largest minority coalition will be called to face a no-confidence vote. If it fails, the next minority coalition faces the vote and it goes on one after another. If it is proven that no party or coalition has a majority, then the Opposition has the moral grounds to enter into an MoU with a coalition of its choice and prop it up as a minority government of the day.

In the Malaysian case, that parliamentary process was bypassed and an MoU signed with an unconstitutional government, hence making the MoU unconstitutional as well.

The people have the right to know if this infraction of parliamentary procedures will be repeated.

The MoU can also be abused. In a recent report in Malaysiakini, it was stated that election watchdog Bersih had called out Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg and other Gabungan Parti Sarawak leaders for using their position to campaign by announcing projects or allocations, officiating at government events, and signing state government MoU for projects.

The people have a right to know if such MoUs will not be entered into by the candidates and that the spirit and letter of the constitution will be strenuously upheld.

The last two issues have been much discussed in the media so I’ll just mention them here.

Secondly, the people have the right to know if the candidates will expose every act of corruption in the state without fear or favour. Can the candidates promise to work towards instituting policies that give no room for corruption?

Thirdly, the people have the right to know if the candidates will ensure sustainable development practices so that the state is well-prepared for natural disasters.

If the candidates address these issues, and their responses are well-received by the people, it may encourage a higher voter turnout by people truly hopeful of a better future. And, that may work out in the Opposition’s favour, not just in the Johor elections but in the general elections as well.

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All I want for Christmas …

… is some truth in local politics! I want some honesty in the way plans are hatched to win the support of the majority Malays currently represented in the opposition. No backdoor entry into government. No lying to the people about who you are.

My appeal to the politicians: Please show some honesty. We are not stupid and can read the signs fairly clearly. So, no more dumping of resources and opportunities to the majority Malays in the opposition camp in order to win some over to the Malay parties in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, sometimes even at the expense of non-Malay rights.

Such vote buying amounts to corruption because everything, including wrong-doing, is overlooked for the sake of grassroots support. Politicians need to draw the line when a particular course of action trips over and beyond the boundaries of moral conduct.

Surely, our politicians know the ethical boundaries that the voters hold, beyond which they will not tolerate? If they do, they should operate within those boundaries. If for whatever reason they cross those boundaries, they should know it is time to step down. There’s no point in denying it or covering up for the sake of grassroots support.

There is a risk of being honest. You may not get what you want. In this case, Malay support from the opposition bench. But, is that so bad? Right now, the government is in a much better place than before as it is led by Malays representing the minority urban Malays and non-Malay bumiputras and non-Malay minorities.

There’s time to win Malay support through effective policies which recognise effort and rewards it. It will not happen immediately but it will happen in the near future. For as long as the PH government has the support of minority groups, it has time to train the Malays to come up without spoiling them with freebies which do nothing to motivate them to strive for excellence and financial independence.

Minority support is not guaranteed, so, it is imperative that the PH government shows evidence of introducing reforms to recognise non-Malay rights.

Politicians should know the preferences of their voters and know when to step down or give up a position when they know they can’t meet up to their voters’ expectations.

The merits of resigning …

Former chief editor of the New Straits Times group and veteran writer Kadir Jasin recently wrote in his blog in his personal capacity that voluntary resignation was an option for leaders implicated in scandals.

In the context of the sex video which is alleged to feature Economics Minister Azmin Ali, Kadir said it served as a litmus test and whether Pakatan Harapan leaders would “do the right thing”.

Kadir’s suggestion merits consideration. In a democratically elected government, the leaders are ultimately accountable to the people. People elect leaders based on what they say, stand for and the image they project. It is the responsibility of the leaders to honestly present all the facts about themselves so that the people know who they are voting for.

If for whatever reason, a leader withholds a fact about himself or herself or about a past misdeed or a current association which he or she knows fully well will influence the vote or support for him or her, that leader betrays the trust of the supporters.

That personal characteristic or deed may not be wrong but if it’s unacceptable to the people and the leader knows that bringing it out to the open would risk the loss of support, and he or she keeps it hidden, that leader fails in honouring the trust of the people who put him or her in public office in the first place.

As Kadir pointed out in his blog, many leaders who know the pulse of their supporters have resigned when their secrets became public knowledge.

Whether a leader resigns or not depends on the high moral standards he or she holds to. A person with high morals will resign as in the case of the examples Kadir gave in his blog. (The case of Lord John Dennis Prufumo who was sacked and later jailed for having an affair with a call girl was the famous example he listed.)

One with lower moral standards may not as in the case of former US President Bill Clinton who is known for operating in the grey areas of morality.

When it became public knowledge that he had sex with an intern while in office in the White Office, Clinton hung on to his position. It kicked up a storm of public protests but he weathered it and held on to his position with only a slight slap on the knuckles in the form of impeachments for perjury and obstruction of justice. He was acquited of both charges because the Senate was unable to get a two-thirds majority for conviction.

Clinton stayed in office, but the damage was done. He will go down in history — despite his accomplishments — as the president who had a sexual affair with a 22-year-old intern. In addition, the Democrats lost the subsequent elections — a loss which was largely attributed to his affair.

Malaysia is currently making history. We threw out a corrupt regime and we need to make sure that the leaders we install have the trust of the people. Our leaders need to ask: What will history say of us?

Historians are going to thoroughly examine what transpires now to record them as historical facts for posterity. Generations to come are going to study about the history that is unfolding right before our eyes. History will not lie. So, if leaders have been implicated in scandals, resignation is an honourable option if they don’t want salacious or criminal facts about themselves to be recorded in history books!

Resignation does not mean an admission of guilt; it simply says the leader assumes responsibility for himself/herself and those involved or associated with and puts the voters and the nation before one’s own interests.

Getting out of the hot soup would give the leader the chance to take stock and gain clarity. Whether the scandal is a crime or a moral issue, or whether he or she is an active participant or one by association, the leader will be able to change and reposition himself or herself according to the expectations of the voters.

At a future date, that leader can seek reelection. If the past scandal comes up again, the leader can honestly and confidently declare he or she is no longer associated with it; it’s history, not where he or she is now.

There is always a chance for a comeback if people believe in one’s honesty.