By Tunku Abdul Aziz
(Director of the International Institute for Public Ethics)
I AM not normally given to indulging in an overdose of self-pity and introspection. However, of late, what with the killer haze obstructing my sighted vision, I have been reduced to relying mainly on my mind’s eye.
When I visualise the totally unnecessary turmoil our country has been forced to endure day after day with no end in sight, my faith in our instinctive wisdom as a people to be united by a sense of common humanity has been utterly and completely shaken.
For what it is worth, in the larger scheme of things, I know I am not alone — but this is no compensation for the collective emotional pain that a misguided political ambition had inflicted on us all.
TUN MAHATHIR SHOULD DISABUSE HIMSELF
On Aug 16, 2006, the New Straits Times published an opinion piece that I had sent from New York where I was then working.
I implored, out of respect and concern for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that he should, for the sake of keeping his dignity intact and sparing Malaysians further embarrassment, disabuse himself of any notion he might entertain about his indispensability to the Malaysian body politic.
My concern was that his one trenchant broadside after another aimed at removing his anointed successor, the luckless Datuk Seri (now Tun) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, from the nation’s highest elected office was impacting negatively on the nation’s development.
Many thought it completely unfair that Pak Lah should have been harassed mercilessly and otherwise treated so shabbily with scant regard for the dignity of his high office or his feelings for that matter. Despite it all, he remained unflappable, polite and solicitous as ever.
He suffered one indignity after another in silence, which must have made him often wonder what mortal sins he had committed in the sight of God to deserve such fate.
In the end, his resolve to do his best as prime minister for the nation was beginning to show signs of wearing very thin with the incessant distractions and outlandish imputations of improper motives.
I had occasion to urge Pak Lah, as many of his sympathisers must have done, to stay the course. Pak Lah had had enough and decided to throw in the towel.
The nation’s sigh of relief was palpable and we thought now that a decent human being had been sacrificed on the high altar of party politics, the wrath of the high priest of Malaysian politics would have been appeased and the nation would be allowed to move on.
NAIVE TO BELIEVE MAHATHIR WOULD STOP
How wrong we were. The taste of blood was intoxicating and it would have been naïve to believe that Dr Mahathir would have called it a day and declared a 10-year moratorium on bringing down another prime minister except by legal means.
No such luck in this case, I fear. We have now gone far too far, and the whole country is in the grip of an utter sense of helplessness, despair and confusion.
This has not been helped by a welter of disinformation that is to be found in the cyber world that passes for irrefutable evidence of serious improprieties by the government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s leadership.
ALLEGATIONS UNFOUNDED BUT LIES CONTINUE
Sadly, the apparent crisis is a deliberate fabrication with the sole aim of forcing an elected head of government out of office. Allegations of theft and fraud in the conduct of 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s (1MDB) commercial operations have proved to be unfounded, and yet the lies continue to be repeated.
The overwhelming majority of our men and women in the street who have not taken enough trouble to try and understand what is really at issue are being persuaded to accept as gospel what they are being told by those with a political axe to grind.
The focus on 1MDB should have been confined to looking for elements of fraud, misappropriation of funds and possibly corruption.
Yes, it is true it has made losses, but it is not a crime to lose money in the course of business. Surely, you cannot even hang a cat for that; let alone bring down a prime minister and the government.
It beggars belief that sensible people who should know better are happy to be led by the nose and stampeded into opting for the law of the jungle and, in the process, discarding the rule of law and the idea of natural justice.
WE NEED A BREAK
I believe Malaysia deserves a little break from the many destructive distractions that have given the world a largely distorted picture of the country.
Let us step back and allow investigations currently in progress take their course. Let us agree to respect and uphold the majesty of the law.
Let it not be said that Malaysian faith in the rule of law is superficial at best and fickle to boot. If we make a conscious decision to forsake and abandon the rule of law that defines the orderly conduct of civilised social intercourse for man’s baser instincts driven by instant gratification, then we are doomed to wallow in moral and ethical degradation.
I end this cheerless article by doing what I did in my NST column of Aug 16, 2006, imploring Dr Mahathir to lend his considerable influence to help pull our country from the brink of an avoidable precipice.
I may not always see eye to eye with Dr Mahathir, but as I once wrote, “Even his detractors will readily admit that no one has done as much as he to instil a sense of national pride and confidence in his countrymen and countrywomen based on solid social, economic and political achievements”. Continuing I went on to say that “Dr Mahathir is not a spent force. His charisma and the respect we have for him will ensure that he will always have a positive role to play in building a new Malaysia, not necessarily in his own image because times have changed.
“The Malaysia that he can help to build will be an amalgam of material progress a la Vision 2020, equal opportunity for all; zero tolerance for corruption and unethical public behaviour.”
And for good measure I added, national integration based on shared values and opportunities.