POST the 14th General Election, Malaysia finds itself at a critical crossroads. Where do we go from here with a new government in place after being let down and trampled upon, cheated and conned by a group of fraudsters masquerading as a legitimately elected administration?
The fact that we as a people allowed these leaders to plunder our nation is a huge embarrassment to all of us. We all carry a burden of shame in the eyes of the rest of the world.
In the words of the famous Turkish novelist, Orhan Pamuk, (with reference to his own country): “...Turkey is in a state of terminal decline.” If we are not careful, the same could be true of Malaysia.
Are we heading towards an unstoppable downward spiral with politicians, leaders and the government having lost the moral authority to rule? Never before in the history of our country has the issue of the quality of leadership become so important for the future of our young nation. In the current situation, the need for leaders with courage, integrity and wisdom has become vital. If leadership fails, the nation fails.
The problems we face are not new (historically); other nations and societies have faced similar issues of a corrupt leadership and incompetent governance (French Revolution and Ottoman Turkey, before Mustafa Kemal, for example). Corruption was a major problem but worse than that were the deliberate acts of inciting hatred and disunity among the populace.
One of the most famous of the Muslim (Mughal) emperors of India was Akbar the Great in the 16th century. Akbar’s reign was recognised as the Golden Age of Muslim rule in India.
In his book, The Argumentative Indian, Nobel Laureate and distinguished economist Amartya Sen states: “Akbar’s pronouncements of four hundred years ago on the need for religious neutrality on the part of the state, we can identify the foundations of a non-denominational, secular state which was yet to be born in India or for that matter anywhere else in the world.”
Sen adds that Akbar abolished discriminatory taxes imposed earlier on non-Muslims, invited many Hindu intellectuals and artists into his court and even trusted a Hindu general to lead his armies.
Akbar had the courage and wisdom to state in no uncertain terms that “no man should be interfered with on account of religion, and anyone is to be allowed to go over to a religion that pleases him.”
He frequently arranged dialogues among Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jains, Parsees, Jews and even atheists.
As mentioned earlier, Akbar appointed capable non-Muslims into his administration. Notable among them was the brave Rajput warrior Man Singh, who served as a leading general in Akbar’s Army. Another was Raja Todar Mal who was the Finance Minister.
With regard to Malaysia post- GE14, as I watched the RTM broadcast of the new prime minister announcing the Cabinet appointments, the first thing that struck me was the possible similarity between Akbar and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Could it be that Dr Mahathir would emulate Akbar, appointing ministers and officials on the basis of sound qualifications and capability and not arbitrary selections influenced by race and religion?
Comparing Akbar and Dr Mahathir, one would have to conclude that the former was more successful in terms of uniting his diverse peoples and equitable distribution of wealth.
So Dr Mahathir is no Akbar, at least in his previous avatar as PM, but he has been presented with a second chance (which is very rare) to remedy the faults attributed to him in his earlier reign.