ARE we becoming a nation of cheats and hypocrites, where the corrupt ones are heroes and the bigots and racists hailed as saviours?
Some believe integrity, the very foundation of honesty and consistency of character is fast evaporating. We have changed as a nation, sadly not for the better. We have indeed compromised on virtues that we held dear. We have failed miserably on the integrity front. We are simply losing the will to fight for the values, beliefs and truths that make us better Malaysians and the country, a better Malaysia.
Just look around us, people are stealing in broad daylight, fake vaccination certificates are sold, officials take bribes, many lied unashamedly, our environment is wantonly desecrated and leaders do not feel any remorse for any wrongdoing.
Dishonesty is a virus that is endangering the future of the nation. The coronavirus that is currently creating havoc to the nations of the world, God-willing, can be contained. But the dishonesty bugs are more dangerous, contagious and destructive. The impact will be felt forever. And it will taint our reputation.
The saddest part of it is that we have lost confidence in “the system” and the people manning it. There is so much distrust in the air. So much so that people believe they have to depend on each other rather than the establishment.
As the recent big flood proved, inaction and hesitation or plain incompetence on the part of the officials resulted in the lost of people’s confidence.
Of late the commotions at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is disturbing. But we have to look beyond the current case of its commissioner as argued by Datuk Hussamuddin Yaacub of the RasuahBusters movement. We have to look at the root problem as well.
One of the legacies of former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was the setting up of the Malaysian Institute of Integrity (IIM). He too came out with the National Integrity Plan (NIP) which was later replaced by the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) during Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s time. The objective was to develop capabilities and competencies of the public and private sectors on matters pertaining to governance, integrity and anti-corruption initiatives.
Malaysia aspires to become a corrupt-free nation. IIM is to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the implementation of the NACP. Under the leadership of the ever vigilant and capable Datuk Dr Anis Yusal Yusoff as its chief executive officer, IIM was the beacon of hope for the nation. IIM was abuzz with activities with discourses and conversations. The “integrity movement” galvanised by IIM was taking a life of its own, covering all levels and sectors of the government and society.
Today, IIM is a pale shadow of its former self. Perhaps it was a mistake to place IIM under the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC). IIM should stand alone and act independently.
The GIACC was the product of the 2018 General Election. As part of the pledge, the Pakatan Harapan government addressed corruption and governance issues. Reforms were promised, some implemented, many unfortunately lost in transition.
A Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption was also formed. The GIACC was a commendable initiative, perhaps aptly reflected in the title of the book edited by Anis Yusal and Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed, Recentring Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption in Malaysia: New Institutions, New Priorities, and the Will to Change. Abu Kassim, the former MACC commissioner led GIACC on its inception.
The GIACC was largely ignored when a new government replaced Pakatan. Continuity is never our strength anyway. Maybe the Perikatan Nasional government and the current one have too many things on its plate.
The question of integrity and governance are the red button issues in the newspapers, the airwaves and social media. Ignore them at the government’s peril. The perception that many of the institutions entrusted to uphold the highest standard of integrity have failed us should be a wake-up call for the present government.
Abdullah was spot on when he said back in 2004 that the biggest challenge in our journey to become a developed nation is the strengthening of ethics and integrity. It is supposed to reflect the hopes and aspirations of both the leaders and the people.
Yet we can’t be honest anymore. We are grappling with our own moral compass. We have lost the ethical principles. So too the good value systems that we cherished all along.
Whatever happened to us over the years?
Johan Jaaffar is a journalist, editor and for some years chairman of a media company, and is passionate about all things literature and the arts. And a diehard rugby fan. The views expressed here are entirely his own.