By Salahuddin Hisham
Despite the overwhelming show of confidence for Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the last party annual assembly before the next general elections next year, there was a tone of caution and concern among delegates.
Umno is not used to uncertainties in the run-up to the general elections because this makes the party nervous. The concern and underlying pessimism could be detected in private conversations at the Putra World Trade Centre, venue of the assembly recently.
After pondering over the speeches and statements by party leaders and counter statements from the opposition, the eventual solution is through dignity.
In the same breath, the opposition to is in a bind, with internal organisational problems, the possibility of a split in the votes if there are more than two candidates in a constituency, corruption in the states they control and the U-turns by their senior leaders regarding their positions of certain issues.
Dignity too is the answer to all their worries. Dignity to a politician is what location is to a real estate man.
It is the state or quality being worthy of esteem or respect. It is referring to the composed or serious manner or style at formal, royal or military ceremonies, but about acting honourably.
The best reference on dignity to politicians lies in the Malay word maruah as in bermaruah in describing the expectation from their actions, behaviour, the manner in which they carry themselves and reputation.
Dignity involves treating others in a respectable way as well as expecting to be treated likewise.
To treat others with dignity means to recognise their self-worth irrespective of social class, educational qualification, economic standing, race, religion, culture and physical disabilities.
Ill-treating others means treating them in an undignified manner and without respect.
Though politicians generally do not consciously act with such intentions, the loss in dignity begins with lies, dishonesty, compromise in value, and actions and decisions without due consideration for its negative implication.
In extreme situations, victimisation, abuse and exploitations arise when politicians – ruling or opposition – stop treating their subjects with respect and dignity but rather with disdain.
One such example is of ministers indulging in corruption to divert development projects away from the needy or award contracts with no intention of delivering the services and facilities to the poor and rural folks.
Dignity can refer to a sense of pride in oneself and also of self-respect.
Basically, it is the way one sees himself and how others ultimately see him. Communication and public relation contribute to it but actions still speak louder than words.
All this talk on dignity is not intended to emulate the dashing character of Don Lockwood as played by Gene Kelly in the classic musical movie Singing in the Rain.
Don told the screaming mob of adoring fans that it was his commitment to maintain his dignity that made him to be the brightest silent movie actor. He claimed his motto in life was “Dignity, Always Dignity.”
However, he couldn’t fool an aspiring dancer, Kathy Gordon, played by Debbie Reynolds, whom he subsequently fell for head over heels.
The likes of Don Lockwood have to do whatever it takes to make it.
And, it is not unusual for the best of us to be pressured into pragmatism in meeting up to expectation but end up neglecting the good values we were raised up with.
For fear of their losing position or to please certain interest or various other reasons, politicians or elected Member of Parliaments or State Assemblymen could ended up compromising on their responsibilities, abusing their authorities, and straying from their original objective that motivated their entry into politics.
The yearning to make it and attain goals some unrealistically set themselves up for compromised their value, and integrity.
Ambitious young politicians aligned themselves to the wrong senior leaders or their pursuit to raise fund for their political activities and immediately, reputations destroyed and leaves behind a permanent negative perception of them.
Over time, the state of being worthy of esteem or respect is gone. Once dignity is lost, it is an uphill battle to regain.
For politicians, self respect is essential in their every words, actions, and facing up to failures. The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself and shy away from temptations. Restrain is the operative word.
Leaders should not astray away from being truthful, honest, perpetuate good value, and wisdom. It is the answer to counter slander, character assassination, misinformation and wrongful accusation.
Politicians staying true to their course that brought them into politics do not get easily strayed by that strong sense of self respect and adherence to dignity as said by Lockwood.
By practising openness, transparency and accountability, it reinforces the people’s trust and belief. No concern of rising cost of living could dissuade them.
All it takes is dignity in treating others and in one’s words, actions and mannerism.