Managing the rakyat’s frustrations

Wanted statesmanship: A leader is also loved when he strives to raise the dignity of the average citizen regardless of ethnicity, religion or social class. – 123rf

A PERSON’s capabilities are only seen during times of crisis. The same is true for political leadership.

We do not say that a leader is great because he spends on grandiose projects using the taxpayer’s money to carve out his legacy. We only consider him great when he allocates the country’s resources wisely and thriftily to increase the general welfare of the people.

And when he spends the money to increase the number of educated citizens, in terms of thinking abilities, skills, citizenry, compassionate and humanitarian values, and ensures that every citizen who wants has access to free education up to the tertiary level.

A leader is loved when he strives to raise the dignity of the average citizen regardless of ethnicity, religion or social class. When he allocates budget to ensure that every citizen has access to affordable healthcare, housing, sustainable transportation facilities, employment opportunities, and the basic amenities required to live a life with dignity.

At the end of the day, the budget comes from the rakyat in terms of the taxes that he pays and the national debt that he and the future generation have to carry. It is not the personal resources of the leaders to do as they wish or to enrich themselves and their cronies by carving out the budget among themselves.

Projects and policies should be rakyat orientated and not personal enrichment orientated. I believe that the rakyat feels nauseous when they observe leaders’ families amazing wealth through government projects and spearheading government related businesses.

The rhetoric of “agama, bangsa dan tanah air”, notwithstanding, the income gap between the elite politicians and the ordinary Rakyat is vulgarly huge. The culture of “know who” instead of “know how” breeding incestuously among politically-linked businesses is seen to be destroying the country’s economy.

When there are so many problems in the country presumably caused by the very leaders entrusted to serve the country, the rakyat’s trust in the political system, processes and even in the key national institutions erodes.

How difficult is it for leaders to understand that the core of a nation are the people themselves? First of all is the inculcation of a sense of belonging to the nation. Every citizen must feel that they are the children of the soil of the nation which will protect them and which they will protect.

Second is the politics of division based purely on ethnicity or religion in accessing the nation’s resources and opportunities - it is a sure plan to destroy the fabric of the nation in the long run. Common sense tells you that human beings do not like to unjustly discriminated.

This is not the same as affirmative actions taken to develop marginalised or discriminated populations in the country. Indigenous populations in both West and East Malaysia, for example, may require positive actions specific to address their social and economic needs.

Malaysians have bountiful compassion in them and with proper leadership, they would assist to uplift the living standards of their less fortunate citizens.

People are frustrated because of the feeling that political leaders are manipulating the worse nature of human beings instead of appealing to their better nature.

Exclusive and divisive speeches and policies do not help to bring together the human capital needed to develop the nation. On the contrary, it accentuates poverty by centralising wealth in the hands of the political elites, their families and their cronies.

The discontent and division created does not bring forth national cooperation to develop the Nation. It paves the way for greed and corruption.

The economy suffers through rampant corruption and erosion of key institutions that are supposed to ensure transparency, integrity and accountability of the ruling government. If this happens, a vicious circle is unleashed where domestic investment drops due to loss of confidence, decline in businesses, rise in unemployment, misallocation of resources and so on. The end result is an increase in collective unhappiness in the country which may lead to social unrest and poverty.

Frustration also stems from the perception that the political leaders are not able to manage and address these socioeconomic, political, governance and ethical issues.

The recent past years have brought to the fore what had been lurking in the background like termites. It is horrifying when people are beginning to discover not only a total lack of compassion but absence of ethical behaviors among the politicians.

Ethics, I believe, is an essential foundation of governance and a civilised society. The conduct and speech of leaders ought to be governed by ethics. In the past many years, politicians themselves have been levelling all sorts of corrupt and immoral behaviours against each other in public and in the plain hearing of the younger generation. It also destroys the image of the nation in many ways.

A human being also needs the freedom to live a life that he chooses for himself so long as he does not cause any harm to anyone – freedom of expression, freedom of faith and the freedom to embrace the arts. To me, the citizens can easily have these rights, responsibilities and privileges so long as the State recognises its role as a facilitator.

The political state is there to facilitate the lives of the citizens and not to unduly burden them. However, it appears that no politician is championing the freedom of the rakyat to live with dignity. Frustratingly, the rakyat is asking: in the midst of so many skilled and experienced politicians, when will the compassionate statesman be born?

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