Letters to Editor: Perak In Turmoil

Politicians under investigation or charged for corruption ought to have been taboo by any political party except the most unprincipled.

By STEVE OH, Sin Chew Daily

The political turmoil in Perak is a sad indictment of the ethics of politicians and an urgent need for reform. While it is the right of every politician to party- hop for whatever reason, the acceptance of two PKR state assemblymen facing charges of corruption into the Barisan fold is worrying.

Most will agree with Dr Mahathir Mohamad who reportedly slammed the UMNO leadership for 'stooping low' in accepting the troubling two. It brings into question if the government which recently rushed through the establishment of the MACC to curb corruption is serious about stemming corruption. UMNO's action will only fester corruption because corrupt politicians will think they can offer themselves to the highest bidder to escape from the arm of the law and their troubles.

Politicians under investigation or charged for corruption ought to have been taboo by any political party except the most unprincipled. Those who believe in winning at all costs don't deserve to win because there should be ethics in politics even if it is soiled by dirty politicians.

The arm of the law has been seriously shortened because of political interference and it can't be good for the rule of law. Political patronage ought not to undermine the cause of justice especially when the judiciary reformation is far from finished. There are questions as to the independence of the judiciary and the police and justice not seen cannot be justice done.

Politicians should be free to switch sides and leave their political parties and join another or become independent because they have a right to conscience. If they no longer feel right to support their party's policies or leadership they are free to go as they choose. But they ought to do it for the right reasons and in the right manner.

In the Perak situation it is insulting to the rakyat for the politicians who have left their parties to claim to be independent when they are apparently aligned with one side. This is an act of public deception and should not be encouraged. Those who claim to be independent ought not to be the defacto members of another party. They should be truly independent and be seen to be independent. But it is unlikely these instant independents will survive a fair election.

In the imbroglio, the conduct of the politicians involved leaves much to be desired. Their disappearing act, denials and duplicity in saying one thing and doing the opposite, take the public for granted. Their words cannot be trusted any more and that is the price politicians pay for their puerile and duplicitous conduct because voters remember their misdeeds. It needs be said that politicians need to show a higher standard of conduct in such circumstances.

There ought to be reforms in law to make it illegal for a key witness embroiled in serious allegations of a political or judicial nature especially involving corrupt practices and high officials to be prevented from doing a disappearing act. If they need to disappear they ought to obtain the permission of the police who should be responsible for keeping a tab on their whereabouts. These people should then be available to help investigations. Instances of key witnesses suddenly disappearing only hampers the truth from being known.

It is time to make politicians more accountable for their conduct. Voters can of course vote out the delinquent ones but there has to be greater accountability of personal conduct between the elections and politicians prevented from any untoward and unethical acts. Whatever the solution it must involve bringing the conduct of all politicians to a higher standard than what the public has recently seen.

It is irresponsible of politicians to be not at their desks to solve the serious economic and social problems from the global crisis and to be sidetracked by parochial political issues. Surely the people deserve more from their government which has yet to prove they have the economic problem under control when the threat of increased unemployment looms large.

With rising costs of living and low wages even for graduates, the country cannot afford the luxury or rather, the folly of having politicians indulging in their political scraps and personal ambitions while everyone else is worried about their future, and the country's prospects.

Political corruption will continue to destroy the rule of law in the country that no longer exists in a blue ocean of opportunities but the cruel high seas of competition from emerging countries that have caught up and provide better conditions for foreign investors. If politicians still think the political golden goose will continue to lay their golden eggs they will be in a rude awakening. Petronas is already feeling the crunch of the fall in oil revenues. Everywhere countries are desperately fighting for survival, yet Malaysia seems still in a 'holiday mood.'

It may turn out to be a costly Pyrrhic victory for the 'winners' in the Perak coup because the conduct of those involved has left much to be desired. One showed he is as whimsical as woman's skirt blowing in the wind, without any political conviction and full of capriciousness – a double turncoat, another a sore loser and politics sees no worse spite than a woman ignored and injured, and two troubled politicians facing serious criminal charges display their wild political instincts to survive, proving the political animals they are.

What is also sad and must be increasingly unacceptable to a growing public moral and social consciousness in the country is the high-handed manner in which public funds are shunted about without reference to a proper development plan by the federal politicians. It is common knowledge that Opposition-ruled places are deprived of funds, a form of electoral blackmailing which would be unacceptable and seen as an executive abuse of power in more developed countries.

Every place deserves to be developed regardless of who controls the state.

The game of politician-baiting is a double-edged sword. Politicians who cross -over to other parties for the wrong reasons especially selfish ones deserve the public's disapproval. They create a climate of suspicion and instability which can't be good for anyone. Democracy demands that the people be given the right to give the mandate to govern to democratically elected politicians. Only then is the right to govern of the people.

The coveting of power by poaching, soliciting and other means, legal, corrupt or otherwise, should not be adopted as the modus operandus of the politicians. If there is honour among thieves there must be honour among politicians. Otherwise they do not deserve the mandate to govern. If politicians still don't know the rakyat no longer supports corrupt and conniving politicians who are big on rhetoric but puny on performance. Politicians have got to learn to earn the people's votes and not still think vote-bying is still a cinch.

Power won by corruption and deceit is immoral and illegitimate and let us hope voters will make themselves heard when it counts. That UMNO's image has been tarnished as Dr Mahathir Mohammed suggests is reasonable and fair comment. There is no glory in having politicians already charged for corruption in your team. It is an insult to the people's moral sensitivities and a 'desperate act' as Mahathir rightly criticised.