Commentary Politics

A pledge is mere talk

zahid-and-mahathir

Written by Aziz Hassan

August 7, 2017.

Recollections & Reflections – A weekly column

IF there is something that continues to amuse and amaze it is this– how people in leadership positions go ga-ga over slogans and pledges.

The one pledge that has been given good press coverage is the one between the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and both the public and private sectors, driven to an extent by the repeated statements by the agency to ask more to sign up.

Recently a senior civil servant mentioned about the few hundred pledges signed by the public sector. Impressive number but one that doesn’t translate into anything else in practical terms.

A few weeks before MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad made an issue of the Penang government’s reluctance to sign it. Ironic that there should be a shove for Penang to do it when its chief minister has a corruption-linked charge pending before the courts.

Amazing because even agencies known to the public to be rife with corruption have signed the pledge, which makes it amusing too because no matter how many declarations or pledges a department signs to give the impression that it does things above board and does not tolerate any nonsense, the people know what’s happening on the ground, where the palm greasing occurs.

And when this happens, the credibility of everyone involved in getting the pledge signed is affected and doubts surface regarding the sincerity in signing it.

Of course there is nothing wrong per se in signing any pledge but the crucial part is what happens after that.

What if those working with employers who have signed the pledge are brought to court and found guilty for corruption? Nothing happens, except that the image is tarnished but does anyone really care about this? For a public sector employer it’s not going to reduce the budget it gets from the federal government. Neither will it be told that it will have to reduce its staff strength as punitive action.

Which in reality means that a pledge of this nature remains just that, a pledge, and is not expected to stop the corrupt from being corrupt.

It’s not how many companies or ministries or state governments that have signed this pledge that will determine what the public thinks of the MACC, the current management of which appears to be not shy of publicity, but how many cases it wins in court.

It’s all about that last mile, not how many people it arrests every year or how many datuk seris or tan sris are arrested for investigations.

Which reminds us of the tan sri who was arrested in April following a report from the Johor Sultan, remanded and then released on bail. He remains free and has yet to be charged. It is widely known that this businessman from Klang has some state rulers amongst his friends.

We also cannot forget about the 18 Customs officers, including senior ones, who were arrested in September 2015 and then just as quickly had the charges against them withdrawn en masse.

Before that there was the case of former Kedah Forestry director Kasim Osman who was arrested and then charged in 2010. This was his only court appearance on being charged and nothing else has been heard about the case since.

Word in the north, where he lives and plays golf as a recreation, is that there was interference which led to his case vanishing just like that.

The MACC needs to do more if it wants to enhance its credibility and win unwavering public confidence and get rid of whatever cynicism against it.

It owes the people an explanation, certainly on what happened to the Customs case and the one against Kasim.

The rich going after each other

The people are finding it titillating, these accusations and reactions on the wealth of some politicians.

The best part is that those known to be quite rich in their own right are asking for investigations against others. Politics at its best, this one.

The question is is it morally and ethically right for former prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed to now reveal what he knows from the asset declarations by people under his charge? These declarations, while not categorised as official secrets, have never been officially made public. Why this is so we have never been told but closer to home, Indonesia reveals these declarations to the public, even down to candidates for gubernatorial elections.

Another point is that if whatever wealth Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi had built up then was a problem, as insinuated by Mahathir, why wasn’t any action taken against Zahid?

But despite what Mahathir has done, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he and his rich sons who have been involved in business for some time should also be the subject of investigations.

If merely being rich is a good enough reason to investigate, imagine the number of Malaysians who must be investigated. There has to be more compelling reasons and some semblance of proof to begin with.

What makes it truly a circus is to hear blokes known to be rich to also be asking for an investigation. What a world.

 

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.