APRIL 6 — Most of us are tired of politicians. In a real and honest world a politician is one who represents the people, a very high calling, a noble profession. These are individuals willing to sacrifice much to represent the average person on the street. They are willing to forego their own interests to meet the needs of the many. They are prepared to speak up when injustice is done and to make decisions which benefit the majority of the people. These are the persons we elect, not just the party they represent, but persons of integrity.
Unfortunately, the reality is that politicians have become self-serving individuals out to get as much power and material gain as possible. Willing to subvert basic human rights and compromise on vital issues just to meet party or personal needs.
The shame of Malaysia is that despite the vast riches of our land and more than 50 years of independence, the average person is still poor. The authorities want to continue to show nice statistics on poverty reduction but those of us who work on the ground know the immense struggles of the people in the bottom 20 per cent of our society.
Our transformation plans are great for the rich and upper-middle class but are not going touch the poor. The poor in Malaysia are neglected and thrown crumbs while the rich and powerful continue to exploit them. The gap between the bottom 20 per cent and the top 20 per cent of our population has widened considerably in the past 50 years. It is obscene that our poverty income level is set at around RM800 for an average family of 4.5 persons. We would seriously like to see politicians and their families live on RM800 a month. Many of our leaders live on RM800 a day!
A meaningful assessment of poverty in our country will place the poverty income level at RM1,500-2,000 for a family of 4-5 persons. From government figures, this would mean that 30 per cent of our population are still living in poverty.
It is sad that only a tiny minority of our leaders can be said to inspire us with their lives. The majority live such lavish lifestyles that it is impossible to identify with them or appreciate that they are working for the people. That they are helping their family and friends is without a doubt. It is almost impossible to find a poor politician in power or a poor family member of a politician. That a single son of a leader can have RM1,000 million in assets is mind boggling.
In our time there are few leaders who inspire us, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the King of Bhutan (and his father before him), Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi stand out as examples.
At his installation as leader, Khesar said these remarkable words: "Destiny has put me here. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother and serve you as a son. I shall give you everything and keep nothing. This is how I shall serve you as King." And, unlike our local leaders, he has lived by these words. A man of humility and one who serves, not lords it over the people; a true “servant leader”.
We are not pessimistic but realistic about our situation, a situation that is not unique to Malaysia. But we are writing to ask that we move forward. Away from working for the poor in the community only when the elections are around the corner. Away from communal politics and self serving interests.
We ask that we move forward such that politicians return to their noble profession. Forward to where we become colour blind and elect a government that comprises people from diverse political platforms and beliefs, all working to improve the situation for the people, not their own. Where leaders are respected and inspire us with their simple lifestyles. Where we focus less on the rich and powerful and invest our efforts in the poor and marginalised.
Helping the poor will grow our nation as a whole and contribute to the economy of the nation. May this election finally move the people of Malaysia forward and bless the common child, woman and man on the street.
Our nation will be measured by God not in how many professionals we train or Nobel prizes we win or twin towers we erect, but in the way we treat the poor and disadvantaged. Not with pity and our charity (giving from our excess) but with sharing their lives and our wealth.
As a nation we are a family. When one member suffers all of us are affected. Our motto as a nation and a government should be “servant leadership” and “leave no one behind”.
* Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS and Datin Dr Lim Swee Im read The Malaysian Insider.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.