May 31, 2015
MY COMMENT: There is a Malay saying that describes most aptly what is happening in Malaysia today under the Najib administration. It goes like this: Harapkan Pagar, Pagar Makan Padi ( literally it means in English, depend on the gatekeeper, the gatekeeper steals the rice). Yes, Najib and his Cabinet as gatekeepers and their officials have betrayed us.
We all have spent countless hours on this blog discussing the need to protect this intangible capital called TRUST that underpins personal and social relationships, business and public administration and the need for our government to be open, transparent and accountable; we emphasized the importance of sound management of our economy and fiscal responsibility; we comment on corruption, fiduciary duty of company directors and public officials.
We raised concerns about our ballooning national debt now close to RM600 billion (and that does not include private sector and household debt), and the Malay economy. We have warned the recalcitrant Prime Minister cum Finance Minister that Malaysia is in a financial crisis. This crazy debt financed spending which is justified as being good for sustained economic economic growth must stop if we are to avoid joining Greece which has difficulties in paying its creditors including the IMF.
The 1MDB financial scandal involving debt to the tune of RM42 billion by a single entity is already having a negative impact on public and investor confidence in the way the Najib administration manages our country’s finances and makes and executives public policy.
The ringgit has already taking its toll against the US dollar on foreign exchange markets. This is because the Najib administration has consistently refused to explain what happened to the proceeds of the RM 42 billion and tell the truth. Even our Auditor-General is taking his time to come out with his report. The top managers of 1MDB too have acted irresponsibly by not turning up for a meeting with the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee to answer questions on 1MDB activities and financial accounts. The time is now to come clean on 1MDB and other matters, if you have nothing to hide. Don’t treat us Malaysians as dumb and stupid people.
I hope my readers around the world will read about what has been happening in Malaysia since 2009 when Najib Razak took over the reins of power as Prime Minister from an equally inept predecessor.
Don’t be taken in by the highly paid consultants and propagandists.If possible come and visit to the country and talk to civil society leaders and those outside officialdom. Yes, we have impressive skyscrapers and modern shopping centers but underneath all that is a nation without a soul and compassion for the struggling middle class and the poor.
It is a sad reflection of the quality of Malay leadership right down the line. Added to the image of the Lazy Malay native is that of a corrupt, unscrupulous and greedy plutocrat. May you learn from the Malaysian experience to know that rampant corruption, abuse of power and professional incompetence will destroy a nation and its moral and ethical foundations. We are not “a City Upon a Hill” but a nation deep down in a coal pit –Din Merican
The ‘guardians’ have betrayed the nation’s trust
The current polemic in this country, specifically on the ongoing saga relating to the financial affairs of a particular government-owned investment company and other trust agencies in Malaysia reminds me, to paraphrase what one western author wrote more than two centuries ago:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
The situation is clearly ruinous for our country. It affects not only the sentiment among the business community, but much worse, and more detrimental, is the negative repercussions on the psyche and motivation of the entire Malay community, young and old, in towns and in the kampungs, given that the scandal involves almost entirely Malay politicians and professionals, and sacrosanct Malay Muslim trust agencies.
It truly saddens me; the betrayal by these Malay professionals, who are the trustees for the community, have supremely failed to protect the interests of the community. It is unimaginable that they have the audacity to betray the trust of the poor Malays who painstakingly saved their hard earned savings with the sole aim of financing for their pilgrimage.
Regardless of the heavy hand of sinister influence and pressures assumed to be exerted by the gamut of players in the political world, these professionals’ first and only fiduciary responsibility is to exercise the duty of care in the best interest of their depositors and stakeholders. They are ultimately responsible to no one else but Allah and their community. That is the true measure of their mettle as Muslim professionals.
One is prompted to ask if these “guardians” have an ounce of morals? From their irresponsible acts, which are currently being uncovered and peeled like onions, they are akin to slowly driving nails into the Malay’s flesh. They are, in actual fact, traitors to this nation.
The money lost can be recovered, those assets that have been sold can be substituted, but the loss of trust and pride are priceless, and possibly will take a very long time to be redeemed.Worse, it has a negative and long-lasting impact on the future of the honest, educated, and hard-working, Bumiputra professionals and managers.
We have come a long way in developing Malay professionals and managers, but the ill-advised action of the select few has destroyed what we toiled so hard to achieve. The great men of yester years sacrificed and invested their sweat, tears, and blood to be successful, and to become a role model and inspiration to the poor and underprivileged Malays.
The Malay professional class was truly professional then; although the majority depended on the public sector, a sizable group managed to seek independence in the private sector, even outside the country working for major banks and corporations, as well as consultancies.
Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH–The Pilgrims Fund Board) is a classic example. The idea of the establishment of the institution came from among the luminaries of Malay thinkers and intellectuals — a real hero — Royal Professor Ungku Aziz.
And the first Managing Director of the first board of management of LTH was the highly respected Kedah-born Malay professional Tan Sri Hanafiah Hussain who was the first Malay to become a chartered accountant, and the founder of the first Bumiputra accounting firm (Hanafiah Raslan and Mohamad).
They, and other Malay professionals then blazed the path for LTH to be not only one of the richest and profitable trust agencies in the country, but one of the most respected Haj institutions in the Muslim world.
The same goes for Permodalan Nasional Bhd. Its first chairman was another highly respected Malay — the late Tun Ismail Ali, the first Malaysian to be appointed as Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia, and once the Executive Director of the World Bank in Washington D.C.
We had class, flair, and panache in those days.However, the current leadership of these institutions are nowhere near when measured against these great Malay professionals and managers. The current cohorts, albeit not all, are in reality, in full frankness, individuals sorely ethical principles and devoid of moral convictions,wanting in observance of tenets of good governance and selfless service to the nation. They have let us all down miserably. They are disgrace to the nation, and, in particular, to the Malays. Their meek rebuttal or justifications are an insult to the entire Malay community.
While it may be perfectly understandable and unsurprising about those acts pulled off by these politically-appointed individuals or pseudo-professionals, the blatant betrayal by the professionals in these now tainted institutions cannot be forgiven.
Separation must be made between genuine and pseudo-professionals. The latter are not professionals but have been put to run these important, and sacred institutions, for none other than political reason. We have seen many government-linked investment companies, and government-linked companies, led by this kind of people, instead of real professionals. The former, while they are truly professionals, are sometimes no better, given their abject poverty in morals and ethics.
Because of them, the entire Malay professionals are being seen as untrustworthy, incompetent, and a slave to their political masters. Their “bebalism” — or collective stupidity, as coined by another great Malay intellectual, Professor Syed Hussein Alatas, has grievously tarnished the reputation of their cohorts, and the younger generation. Kerana nila setitik rosak susu sebelanga.
To me, this is the worst outcome of the entire saga. Not the impact in terms of monetary or financial repercussions, but the long-term damaging psychological and sociological impact on Malays.
Is there any possibility of redemption left? Is there hope for the Malays? Yes, we can do two things to regain back the trust.
First, the entire top management and Board of these tainted institutions must resign, or be sacked immediately, and if any legal transgressions have been committed, they must be brought to justice. We should not have much sympathy for them.
Second, and with immediate effect, only those Malay professionals with high integrity and who are well credentialed, with demonstrated capability, hardworking, and honest, should be allowed to serve in the position of responsibility in these trust institutions.
No politicians, no court-jesters, no shady characters, and definitely no inefficient and corrupt individuals should ever again be allowed to run these trust agencies. No two ways about it if we are serious to regain and re-build the trust and the confidence again. Importantly, the trustees of this nation and its institutions must not forget their amanah, and they must not betray the heavy trust reposed upon them, nor take advantage of their position.
It’s worth reminding what Sheik Haji Abdullah Fahim sagely said half a century ago: Jangan pula ada pemimpin kita mengaut kekayaaan di atas belakang rakyat…sesiapa yang berjuang dengan nama Allah dan berniat baik sentiasa dalam keredhaanNya, tetapi, sesiapa yang lupakan niat, khianat, dan tamak akan dimurkai Allah, akhirnya menjadi hina.
*Awang Puteh is a researcher for a major think tank.