Welcome to Malaysia, where political dishonesty is fine


  • Heart Talk
  • Monday, 24 Feb 2020

IS HONESTY still the best policy? Is it also vital to keep your promises? At least that’s what I was taught by my parents to do while growing up.

And the teachers kept drumming it into our heads in school. Well, I am not sure if this is true anymore after seeing the political and sports shenanigans that’s happening around us.

The massive attempts by football players in international leagues to completely put on an act for the referees when making dubious claims is disgusting.

Oh, how they contort their faces and claim innocence despite knowing they were the causes of the fouls committed.

And you have the hand- and face-gesturing claims that they make for a mere throw-in or a corner kick when they obviously know that it was not theirs.

To the millions who are their fans, they are sending a message that it is okay to be dishonest if you can steal a goal to win.

I am not sure if the younger generation knows how the former football great from Argentina - Diego Maradona - blatantly used his hand to score a goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final.

He went on to cheekily to say the goal was scored by the “Hand of God.” There was no Video Assisted Referee or VAR at that time.

His display of utter dishonesty was made worse by how the team was celebrating the goal that was blatantly stolen off England. To make matters worse, Argentina went on to win the World Cup, and the world forgot Maradona’s greatest act of dishonesty.

I hope he would admit he used his hands at least on his deathbed.

So there are political lies and also sports lie, which in most cases are simply told blatantly as long as they win in an election and a game.

At least in the sports arena, the introduction of VAR has exposed some of the dishonesty that happens.

Guess what, Malaysians?

The ones lying to you are the very people who actually pass the laws that require you to be honest, pay your taxes, tell the truth in court and pay penalties for violating these laws.

Unfortunately, there is no VAR in politics. However, there is something much bigger than that in a democracy – people power.

With social media, politicians better remember that the red card is in the people’s hands ready to show politicians the door in every election.

There were times in our lives that we may not have been extremely honest with ourselves, for one reason or the other. But that is between us, our conscience and the Almighty for those who believe that we have someone up there watching over us.

You deal with your own lies and dishonesty within yourself and the people around you. But if you lie and are dishonest for political reasons, beware the wrath of all.

What’s happening now is what I term as a moral breakdown among our leaders who appear to be telling us that you don’t have to keep promises, or keep to your words.

And that it is alright to cohort with those who had contributed to the destruction of our beloved nation.

Last week, we saw the best (or is it the worst?) actions of all the political parties in Malaysia. It was a political drama at its worst for Malaysians, a plot that seems to say it is okay to lie and dishonest in politics and stay in power.

It is still running, with new episodes mixed with unbelievable twists and plots.

There were massive attempts to make Dr Mahathir keep his promise of handing over power to Anwar on one side and on the other, the losing parties manoeuvring using race and religion in trying to make him go back on his promise.

To the many Malaysians who believed him and gave the full support, it was utterly disgusting. Dishonesty to the core, they say.

Another shocker was when Dr Mahahtir told a youth forum last week on the two men in history he admired most.

The first was Prophet Mohamad for some very good reasons that we all know. But the second man and the reasons he cited threw me off guard a little.

It was the 18th century Russian Czar Peter the Great. Dr Mahathir said even though he did not agree with the way Peter the Great killed and murdered the people, he had managed to change Russia through his leadership skills.

He added that when Peter the Great took over, Russia was poor and the living conditions were bad.

I beg your pardon? I am not sure if he is even aware that he is telling the youths that it’s okay to be cruel and kill innocent people if it means you do it for the betterment of the nation.

This was definitely not what my parents, school and my religion taught me.

If you are leading the nation and were voted into power with promises and pronouncements that you’d keep your pledges and clean up the nation of past dishonest practices, then you have to answer all the questions being raised now.

So all the four component parties in Pakatan Harapan agreed and, in fact, promised each other that Dr Mahathir would hand over the post to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at an appropriate time.

An “appropriate time” was said to be two years after the last election, which is three months away.

But we are now suddenly told that it is okay not to keep your word on this.

The MPs in Parliament decide on whether Anwar has majority support.

There is a technicality here: “Yes, I will hand over but...”.

Here, promises and honesty appear to take a back seat but the proponents justify this in the interest of the majority.

Whose majority?

The people’s majority or the majority of those wanting to be in power?

There is a strange set of values among some Malaysians these days that seems to say they it is really okay to be cruel and dishonest as long as there is something in there for them. Honesty makes people feel good about themselves, but it is difficult to be living honestly all the time in life.

Political honesty is not any different from real honesty. Honesty is when you speak the truth and also act truthfully.

Many of us think honesty means not telling a lie but it means more than not lying. Let’s be clear here that an honest person does not do things that are morally wrong.

What we are witnessing today is the culmination of absolute dishonesty that has unfortunately some commentators arguing that you do not need absolute honesty in politics. The truth is, everyone should question what they are saying.

Sure, lies by politicians are not criminal acts but there are many good reasons why we should penalise political lies severely.

The voters must act as VAR or we have to face this filth every few years.

In the meantime, brace yourselves for more political and sports lies because our system of winner takes all is too entrenched. Pessimistic? Yes, unfortunately. After the fall of New Malaysia that was so promising, we have been set back by decades.

K. Parkaran was a deputy editor at The Star and producer at Aljazeera TV. The views expressed here are solely his own.

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