Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely!
In the last few weeks we have seen a very public display of the sorry state of our nation. Zooming in on one incident and one person's display of unsustainable appetite and the lack of integrity in dealing with public office, one wonders how many more have gone unpublicised and hence unchecked.
In reality, the Zakaria Mat Deros problem is widespread. In reality, the Government has to account the cost to our ailing nation. Malaysia is drowning in greed.
To plead ignorance of our sorry state would be irresponsible. This country is not one that is lacking in wisdom and bright intelligent citizens. Those heading our public service are not fools. Many have been and are still being trained in INTAN and overseas organisations and universities with a variety of courses on the process of accountability, governance, management and transparency.
So why have we become a nation of sufferers of selective hearing and chronic blind spots?
Journalists in the government-controlled morally crippled mainstream media are not fools, as they proved their worth in Zakaria's case. Surely there are thinking people amongst UMNOputra who can see that the country's resources cannot sustain the National Coalition of big appetite. Greed and obesity in its most tragic form.
Lord Acton, a 19th century British historian, observed that a person's sense of morality lessens as his or her power increases.
He wrote that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
How very relevant to modern day Malaysia. Pause a while and think about these two quotes:
"In the regulations it does not say that people who break the law cannot be appointed councillors. We appoint people according to their party positions. I will follow the orders, which say appointment of councillors has to be according to their party positions. So if there is any problem we will refer to the party management", said Khir Toyo in reference to why the teary Zakaria Deros held on to office.
"The Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) has no powers to initiate investigations on reports and charges of money politics and bribery within Umno", said the de-facto law minister Nazri Aziz.
Shameless in their lack of integrity and absolute in their lack of morality these two public people were quoted saying this publicly.
The real message is that UMNOputra is above the law.
Fifty years of National Coalition power in Malaysia has resulted in an endemic selective hearing, blind spots and a tiered social structure. Tier A: the blue blood National Coalition members who are above the law; Tier Z: the likes of you and me, who have to put up with repressive laws and regulations. It is both tragic and a great example of Lord Acton's "absolute power corrupts absolutely"!
When are we as a wholesome Malaysian society - not just as Malays, Chinese or Indians, but as a society regardless of party politics going to insist on things being done with integrity, professionalism and with management accountability?
When are we going to insist that all local councils are elected by the people they are supposed to serve, not appointed by political parties?
After all, local councils are service organisations and not political organisations, therefore we should insist on council members being service orientated and not merely political hacks.
To have a political hack who blindly follows political instructions will mean that we have a replica of Khir Toyo blindly saying that he was merely following party orders that said it is OK for â€œpeople who broke the lawâ€ - in other words criminals - to sit in local councils!
It is the role of councils to plan and run essential services, and through that, manage taxpayers money. It is not a small job, it is a job that requires great integrity to ensure social justice and vital services to the people, regardless of race and creed. It holds the power to ensure the rakyat gets the level of services that they need; it means planning for the poorest of the poor, managing equality from the haves to the have-nots.
Hence those who wants to be elected as local councillors must be able to demonstrate their capability, expertise and values such as basic human decency.
When are we as a society are going to demand merit-based appointments in our local councils and beyond that to our public service?
The fact that the Prime Minister had refused to ask Zakaria Mat Deros to publicly declare his assets is in itself a sad indictment of our nation. How much did his mansion cost? And what has been his salary? Has he had a big inheritance? If not, where did the money come from? Apparently, not only are we not entitled to know, the ACA shouldn't even ask!
When is our society going to have a healthy cynicism?
By any standards, in the wake of this Zakaria Mat Deros incident, you and I are entitled to expect the ACA be boosted with more resources. Only a properly resourced ACA, staffed by competent non-corrupt people and allowed to investigate all breaches of the law and corrupt acts, will allow the beginning of a long journey to fight corruption.
It will require a Coalition with a political will bigger than the greed and appetite of its members. It will require urging and movements from the public to demand a stop to intergenerational transgression of public resources.
On top of that, the public must be continuously educated to not vote for clearly corrupt people, regardless of their party, race, religion, colour or status.
At the end, you and I - the public - have to change our attitude of high level of tolerance to corrupt behaviour.
If we continue to give away our power to a coalition of the corrupt, we deserve nothing more and nothing less than the Zakaria Mat Deros of this world.