April 17, 2013
Country, and Conscience
by Zaid Ibrahim@http://zaiduntukrakyat.com
In the current acrimonious political environment defined by spite, petty jealousy and grand dishonesty, every conscientious citizen of Malaysia must stand up and be counted. Many of us will vote for the first time; others who have tended towards apathy in the past have a found new spirit of commitment to the democratic process. I applaud these convictions.
As loyal Malaysians, we must do all that we can according to the dictates of our conscience to end the decades of enthrallment exerted by one political force over the rest of the country. It is for this reason, that I now call on these candidates to remember the sacred duty of being the people’s representative.
As Thomas Jefferson observed, “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Parliament is no House for the fearful. It is no refuge for complaisant fools, populist rabble-rousers, apple-polishers, windbags in love with their own voices, or any of the sundry fire-eating opportunists whose sole ambition despite their rhetoric is to feather their own nests.
Indeed, it has long been my deepest belief that the Dewan Rakyat is a forum only for those with the courage to be vigilant and the ability to dedicate themselves fully to public service—those who will speak the truth relentlessly no matter which great power they offend or what vested interest or dirty secret lies at stake.
This I have done throughout my career as a politician, Federal parliamentarian and Government Minister. I have always believed that a Parliamentarian’s greatest asset is the trust of the people. This trust is built on honesty and, ironically, it is the same trust that is always the first casualty in the politics of ambition.
Parliamentarians need to take firm grip on these beliefs even when they have come at great personal cost—and the cause I speak of is that of bringing the Government of the day to book.
Despite the flowery assurances of the Barisan Nasional Government that it is committed to all manner of wonderful “transformation” and that it “keeps its promises”, the administration of Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak has proven itself singularly incapable of delivering the goods.
How long have Malaysians borne the shame of insinuations that their own Government has engaged in massive impropriety! “ like the many questionable defence procurement contracts, missing agricultural “allocations”, abuses by the Royal Malaysian Police, complicity in the rise of the ultranationalist loony Right, even murder—the charge sheet is so long that it would beggar belief even in some unabashedly totalitarian regimes.
Ministers, and even the Prime Minister himself, have gone to extreme lengths to avoid answering questions or to divert public attention from serious issues of governance by creating ludicrous problems intended to provoke racial and religious tension.
This must end. But in ending tyranny, we must be cautious lest we inadvertently propel another form of dictatorship to power. Members of Parliament must pay the price of freedom on behalf of the people they have the honour to represent. Members of Parliament must be eternally vigilant. And it is only Members of Parliament who have no personal, ideological or party-political debts who can fulfil this duty properly.
I hope the newly elected MPs will demand the establishment of an open and independent Royal Commission into the tragic murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu as well as all other deaths—“extrajudicial killings”—alleged to have occurred under the watch of the Royal Malaysian Police.
They must demand a public account of the RM4 billion bond pricing losses sustained by the 1Malaysia Development Fund under the control of Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, as well as other unexplained financial and investment decisions of the Government.
They must re examine the Land Acquisition Act 1960 under which the Government has compelled the surrender of the rakyat’s land, only to hand it over to well-connected individuals for private exploitation. The meaning of the expression “public purpose “ need new interpretation so that the land of the poor will not be taken away at will. They must demand an investigation into all allegations of graft in the Government, past and present, and see that just restitution is made to those aggrieved by any abuse of the law.
Sometimes I wish I could rejoin the fray instead of this leisurely retirement but its not to be. However the needs of our country demand that we all do what we can and speak out on issues of national interest at the highest legislative level in the land. These new Parliamentarians need to assert themselves so they can together build a moral and good Government that will aid the struggle for justice, equality, and the democratic rights of all Malaysians .