Malaysiakini Letter

Personal loyalty - the dark and compromising side

K Haridas  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | James Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty – Truth Lies and Leadership” has stirred the imagination of many in the United States. The former FBI Chief in his interview with ABC has described President Trump as “morally unfit” to be president and as a man who treats women “like pieces of meat” during the publicity tour for his book.

Comey was fired by President Trump in May 2017. Comey writes “Our President must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country. The most important being truth. This President in his view is not able to do that and hence is morally unfit for the position.”

Comey labelled his former boss Trump as a ‘stain’ on all who worked for him. “As I found myself thrust into the Trump orbit, I once again was having flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor for the mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The ‘us’ vs ‘them’ worldview. The lying about all things large and small in service to some code of loyalty that puts the organisation above morality and truth”.

By writing this book Comey is offering a view to people of what leadership should look like and how this should be based on values. For those who value loyalty above all other considerations his statements offer an interesting insight as there are parallels with what is happening in Malaysia. There are leaders who are pathological liars for whom the ends will always justify the means.

There is a very concerning side to the personal aspect of loyalty. When this means protecting your friends at all costs then it is an example of loyalty over-riding ethics and values. Personal loyalty has its limits and only a higher loyalty to one’s own deeply held convictions for justice and fairness, the institution and the constitution will provide the right and honourable context.

As Comey indicates ‘truth’ becomes the greatest casualty. Truth has been withheld from Malaysians with regards the several scandals whether it is the Altantunya incident, the Scorpene scandal, Kevin Morais' death or 1MDB. In all these instances much has been done to shield those in power from consequences and the public from the truth.

The bill for silence and untruth will be presented and all who have been part of these fiascos will have to be held to account. The ‘trust deficit’ is huge and how are we to believe what is being presented by BN and this government as their achievements?

Malaysians will perhaps be shocked when the actual truth is revealed by any alternative government. Be ready for the ‘shock and awe’ that awaits us when and if all this is ever brought to light.

This continuing serious trust deficit makes all the claims made by the BN government suspect because we do know that there has been no transformation in the legislature. The situation is worse than being a mere rubber stamp. The executive completely manipulates and orchestrates how bills are speedily transformed into acts of Parliament.

All their claims are mere propaganda and until these are appropriately inspected we will never know. Yet these impact all of us. When challenged the BN strategy is to focus on ethnic or religious issues. It is either a Muslim/Christian issue or some red herring that blames all things on Chinese Malaysians.

We have witnessed over more recent decades and the time has come to call their bluff on all such cheap distracting strategies. Both Umno and PAS use Islam to manipulate the voters.

In a country where there is so much religiosity and where some are so particular about what is ‘halal’ and how women dress, it is worth asking some hard question to the leaders within Umno and PAS. How do you condone the way the way the MACC and the Election Commission operate?

Ultimately each one of us must be clear on the non-negotiables that we stand for and will not compromise. How serious is the BN government in tackling corruption when they seem to be ready to bring back the likes of Isa Samad and Mohd Ali Rustam two individuals who were barred from Umno elections because of money politics and corruption?

Here again is an example of loyalty displacing integrity in the choice of candidates. These ‘have-been leaders’ are the champions for Umno. They have served their time and it is time for new faces especially if the BN government is serious about tackling corruption. These are the individuals who will hurt further whatever little credibility is left, if any, within the BN coalition.

How can we trust the leadership of this nation when we still have the highest illicit financial outflows per capita and this has been growing rapidly over a decade? Illicit financial outflows are related to tax evasion and corruption.

The Global Financial Integrity Report (GFI) estimates that Malaysia lost up to US$431 billion (RM1.8 trillion) in illicit outflows between 2005 and 2014. One can definitely trust the GFI Report. What does this say about Bank Negara, our banks and our regulatory authorities? All Najib’s talk of transformation comes to nought with such outflows.

With globalisation and a more interdependent transparent world, trust is increasingly a significant factor and provides the competitive edge. The existing trust deficit causes tension which arises from unethical behaviour or ethical but incompetent conduct and gives rise to politics, hidden agendas conflicts and rivalries.

Corporate and government scandals, the rise of the mafia and fear are threats and unless we regain trust and integrity there is very little to offer. This is a key leadership competency in the growing competitive global economy.

As Tom Peters so rightly says, “Technique and technology are important, but adding trust is the issue of the decade”. Recently retired Bank Negara deputy governor Dr Sukhdave Singh in his parting shot stressed, “Leadership is a responsibility and not a privilege”. He reminded his colleagues that ‘nothing shines a brighter light into the depths of your character than your behaviour when you have power over others”.

In a few words, he gave us an indication of what happens within Bank Negara. The demand for loyalty demeans those who have such expectations and develops spineless people around them for whom leadership ultimately is only a privilege.

Let us save our nation from the hands of incompetent leaders and thrust values back into the centre of our lives, actions, conduct and behaviour.
I join hands with the Brig.General (Rtd) Mohamed Arshad Raji of the ‘Patroits’, the Group of 25 and other eminent individuals and parties in espousing change. This is the option that May 9 offers all Malaysians.


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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