COMMENT | On a wintery morning 10 years ago, I stood up in a pub at the heart of Frankfurt, raised my glass to Malaysians domiciled in Germany and some local Germans, and made a toast: “To Malaysia!” Being a Malaysian, I had often been ridiculed overseas for certain shortcomings in our human rights records, our governance and corruption and the judiciary, which at times, I found difficulty in defending.
But in Frankfurt, I was a proud Malaysian (and still am). For the first time, someone in position and authority owned up to his mistake or folly (whichever way you want to look at it) and took responsibility and resigned.
Adultery, it has been said in jest, is two wrong people doing the right thing, but the then health minister Dr Chua Soi Lek’s indiscretion was no laughing matter. He openly admitted his wrongdoing and openly sought forgiveness before deciding to do the right thing - quit all positions in the party and the government.
Fast-forward to today - the last thing we need is for the prime minister to remind us not to belittle the country. But when facts are presented, it should not be misread or misinterpreted (as always) as attacking the government. Hence, no one should chastise anyone from stating the facts, however unpalatable they are.
On Tuesday, theSun online quoted the premier as saying: "Many people who visit the country realise that the picture being painted by these people is not true. They realise that Malaysia is not a failed state.”
As one who has been often invited to speak at conferences and seminars both locally and overseas, I am always bombarded with questions related to corruption and governance. Would I be running down the country if I told the audience that corruption is rife and governance hardly exists in our system?
For a moment, do not even think of the colossal losses running into billions by what has been termed as a “state sovereign fun” - 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). Let’s look beyond and the string of financial misfeasance is there for everyone to see. From the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) to the breeding of cows and from buying apartments for students at inflated price to the plan to the purchase of submarines - we have heard or read about them all. On a much smaller scale, the auditor-general’s reports published quarterly are catalogues of poor or non-existent governance.
Has anyone taken responsibility and done the needful? We boast so much of our Westminster system but yet we choose to be selective in our application of its principles and doctrines.
What about, so I tell the audience, the audit report being classified under the Official Secrets Act? How does one defend that decision except by inferring that “there’s something serious that the government wants to hide”?
A research paper from the House of Commons states: “A minister is ultimately responsible for all actions by a ministry. Even without knowledge of an infraction by subordinates, the minister approved the hiring and continued employment of those civil servants. If misdeeds are found to have occurred in a ministry, the minister is expected to resign. It is also possible for a minister to face criminal charges for malfeasance under their watch.”
So, how many ministers have resigned when scandals involving their ministries surfaced...