JUNE 14 — Let me start by declaring myself merely human, one who is especially prone to making mistakes.
My life and beliefs are personal matters that should not be placed under the spotlight. As long as I do not break the law, respect the rights of others, or run for office, what I do should be between me and my maker. No one should come in between to judge me.
I am an ordinary Malaysian citizen.
Unfortunately, those who aspire to run for office and want to champion the well-being of Malaysians do not have such a privilege. Their lifestyle and morality are subjected to public scrutiny the moment they declare their intention to run for office. Anything out of the ordinary will then be judged by those they claim to represent no matter how unfair the whole process may seem.
Their favourite food, their favourite colour, clothes, number of cars and houses, number of wives and children, favourite holiday destination are all up for review in a manner consistent to that of national security.
Anything out of place, no matter how small or big, that points towards a corrupt moral i.e. links to murder cases, thefts, the abuse of power, unexplainable wealth, including those of their family members, must be aired in the open. Though the burden of proof is on the accuser, the accused too must defend himself/herself, both in the court of law and the court of perception which is run by the common rakyat.
Let it be known that silence is not as golden and elegant as it is made out to be. Though keeping mum may not be admissible evidence in a court of law and is seen by some as a good defence, it is damning in the eyes of the rakyat. Perception is almost everything in politics and may spell the beginning or the end of one’s political career.
The confines of morally accepted values differ from one individual/community to the other. For instance, Malaysians may not be as tolerant as the French were when it came to their ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, nor will the French accept Datuk Seri Sharizat Abdul Jalil as their women and family minister after the “cowgate” scandal.
In fact, they may not tolerate many of our present ministers.
So what constitutes an acceptable moral standard? Where do we draw the line between those who are acceptable, the ones that we tolerate by “closing one eye”, and the ones we need to keep away from at all costs?
Our values may differ, but generally those with a criminal record, those who are perceived and proven to be corrupt, those who practise discrimination between races, to those who sow the seeds of racial discord should be banned from national politics.
But out of curiosity, how many politicians in the government and opposition can meet such standards?
As the public began to realise that almost all politicians have skeletons in their big closets, and that some politicians are just better at the art of perception than others, we begin hearing views about the need to choose the lesser of two evils. While that sounds like a good idea, we need to remember that choosing the lesser of two evil is still choosing an evil.
How often have we heard the repeated mantra of, “His morals are too low to lead Malaysia” by those who are perceived and proven to be corrupt; to those who repeatedly scream “They are enriching their families and cronies” when they themselves were investigated for the very same crime 20 years back.
Is the extinction of leaders with good moral standing a reflection of a morally bankrupt nation? Are we facing a vacuum of such individuals among our ranks? Are Malaysians the pot that is calling the politicians black?
After all, the number of Malaysians dumping their babies, the number of teenage pregnancies, the number of crimes i.e. kidnappings, murders, rapes, the mushrooming of massage parlours, the number of media that sensationalise the supposedly immoral, sexual escapades of politicians in explicit detail, points to the making of a morally bankrupt nation.
A democratic government is a government of, for and by the people, which means a representation of us as a society. The government is therefore an important image of who we are as a people, our aspirations, hopes and principles as an independent democratic nation. A corrupt government usually has no one but the citizens to blame.
That is why we should vote according to a candidate’s strength and the values he represents, instead of along party lines. We have repeatedly seen candidates who openly disagree with their parties, to those who hop from one party to the other after the election. Voting along party lines also sends an undeniable message to political parties that we tolerate those who are morally bankrupt as candidates as long as they run under a particular flag.
Not all in the opposition are good, and not all in the government are bad.
Evaluating each candidate and voting on their own merit may spell a smaller majority for the ruling government. Of course I would rather see a principled government with a strong majority running the country but daydreaming aside, I would rather choose a weak government with principled ministers and MPs, rather than a strong government that is morally anaemic, ethically deficient and principally corrupt.
I refuse to believe that Malaysia is running low on those who are capable and ethical to lead us. It is just that the political parties are not looking hard enough for good candidates, fielding instead those who are almost near their expiry dates, the loyally obedient rejects, fuelled further by Malaysians who are very much into partisan politics instead of judging each candidate on their own merit.
I think it is high time we made the politicians work for their money, and showed them that we are not a morally bankrupt nation as our politics would suggest. We are mature enough to evaluate each candidate on their merit and not be swayed by the promises political parties make each time the general election takes place.
The political parties may be morally and intellectually bankrupt, but we Malaysians are not.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.