There is little doubt that Chandra Muzaffar is probably the most reviled and vilified public intellectual today. Every few months, with another Chandra article, comes another anti-Chandra riposte that is largely character assassination. Yet sometimes he makes sense.
The trouble is, he mixes the common-sense words with an apologia for the current Barisan Nasional, together with his series of attacks on Anwar Ibrahim’s integrity. And every time he does, there is an explosion, in various forms.
The latest attack by Choo Sing Chye, widely reproduced around the opposition web, is an attempt to hoist Chandra by his own petard by recalling what Chandra the social reformer had written in years before. Other attacks on Chandra come with reminders that this widely-respected social reformer of the 1970s and 1980s turned his back on Anwar Ibrahim and Parti Keadilan and wheeled into the embrace of Mahathir Mohamad and the Barisan Nasional.
In trying to look up the background about this latest attack (Chandra’s work is very low on the personal horizon, there’s too much going on), I came across Chandra’s piece in February:
Makes sense to me.
If Pakatan Rakyat takes power this year, it will inherit a government system that has been morally, institutionally and personally corrupted by half a century of twisted Barisan Nasional rule. Changing the system will take time.
Pakatan leaders will need to change the workings of the civil service, get anti-corruption agencies to work professionally, get lawyers and judges to restore honour in the judicial system, restore honesty in the workings of the federal and state governments, and at municipal councils.
It’s a huge mountain to climb.
On top of that, every Pakatan politician getting into power must face their own challenge to personal honesty and integrity. Because nothing succeeds like success, Pakatan politicians will be wooed and sweet-talked by new business and corporate friends, people with money to spend and the will to spend it when it matters, in order to make more money.
To take one example, every arms merchant will try to take advantage of public anger about Altantuya and Scorpene submarines to push out DCNS. Is Pakatan angry about DCNS, about Altantuya’s murder, about RM580mil kickbacks — or is Pakatan being supported by competitors of DCNS?
That’s how the world works. It is only common sense to always keep that in mind.
Chandra is not the first to observe that changing the people in power does not automatically mean an end to corruption. All through history, people have found that the revolution is eventually perverted by the very people who rode the wave into power.
Thus, the people must remain on their toes.