RETRO style is one that is imitative of a style or fashion from the recent past. Retro songs, for example, bring back fond memories of yesteryear. During the Hari Raya festivities, Sudirman’s upbeat song Balik Kampung epitomises the exodus home, and Hail Amir and Uji Rashid’s duets are legendary for the season.
It appears that politics in Malaysia is going retro, much to the chagrin of right-thinking Malaysians.
May 9, 2018 is etched in time as the day the shackles of purported poor levels of governance were to give way to transparency, accountability, integrity, meritocracy and good governance. Voters exercised their right to bring in a new government without fully understanding the repercussions.
The majority had been sold on the manifesto with its many promises. Sadly, it now appears to have contained certain pledges which any level-headed person would have thought could not come to fruition given our unique institutional framework and population diversity.
It is in this context that the recent statements by ministers that a high-level appointment was not deliberated at the Cabinet level raises eyebrows. Are they being naïve and missing the point that the prime minister has wide-ranging powers and an enshrined right to make decisions unilaterally? One must remember that it follows the “rule of law”.
With a stroke of the pen, the appointment of the new head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has turned to cinders the notion that Malaysians are ushering in a new era.
A prominent NGO, while welcoming the appointment, is troubled by the process of Latheefa Koya’s appointment. Is this not a paradox? On one hand, we congratulate based on nothing but women empowerment, but on the other, we express concern which is limited to benign disappointment.
Datuk Shukri Abdull, together with the current head of the Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Centre (GIACC) and former MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim, and Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali, former MACC deputy chief commissioner, was literally in the eye of the 1MDB storm when he opted for early retirement and the latter two were, as “mere civil servants”, reshuffled.
As an independent oversight operations review panel member appointed pursuant to the MACC Act 2009, I was privileged to have worked closely with these senior officers and experienced first-hand their operations, challenges, frustrations and limitations. Their professionalism continues to be unquestionable.
The common thread running through this trio is their tendency to speak the truth and not mince their words. In addition, they were dedicated uniformed personnel serving in an enforcement agency with vast investigative experience being crucial to the job. More importantly, they were not members of political parties.
A common criticism of the MACC is that it has not really gone after the “big fish”, notwithstanding the conviction of a mentri besar from the then ruling party for buying property below market value. A rather similar case some years later unfortunately resulted in a “shock” outcome without a conviction.
On a corruption case involving cattle farming, MACC’s efforts were frustrated when a lawyer for a witness refused to cooperate and MACC became embroiled in a court case (the verdict ruled subsequently in its favour).
Unsubstantiated observations and insinuations on the integrity and truthfulness of the existing cadre at MACC as part of succession planning are highly demotivating and also hurtful.
Good governance is not limited to following the rule of law but also the “spirit of the law”, as not all feelings behind enacting a law can be committed to words.
Good governance starts with the “tone at the top”. If there is any semblance of the tone being corrupt, unethical, compromised or self-serving, we as a nation would descend into political mayhem.
Governance is all about processes based on ethics, accountability and integrity. That was the core of the reactor which came alive on May 9, 2018. Where are we now?
Our collective thought process appears to be in a state of disrepair, not unlike some of our public facilities. Many quarters are now questioning the process and the structural weaknesses in institutional pronouncements.
Retro music and songs feed nostalgia. In politics, retro may not have the same effect. We must understand that the nation is currently helmed by a retro personality whose track record on governance speaks for itself.
The new government was not thrust on us against our will but was our conscious decision. We should learn to live with our choices. Those who sang the loudest from the highest steeples should re-examine what they stand for and set in motion what needs to be done to address perceived “wrongs” within the ambit of the rule of law.