Kit Siang should address corruption holistically

From Ronald Benjamin, Free Malaysia Today

In politics, there is a pattern of thought that tends to see the world as “you are either with me or you are the enemy”.

In such a situation, issues are defined along a narrow path, with little room for understanding the broader aspects of the common good.

For example, corruption on a grand scale is not an isolated issue involving individuals or parties. It is fuelled by an economic ideology or a system that favours a certain class of elites to the detriment of ordinary folk as well as the environment.

Today, we observe divisiveness in society around the world with the rise of right-wing ideology, due to an unjust economic system.

Those affected by it express themselves from a nationalistic, ethnic or religious perspective.

Lim Kit Siang, in a recent statement titled “G15: A battle between rule of law and corruption”, seems to narrow down corruption to individuals and parties. It ignores the roots that breed corruption, such as unbridled capitalism and materialism that marginalises authentic human and environmental concerns.

While it is true that it was a new milestone in the justice system for the nation with the conviction of former prime minister Najib Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, for various offences, the choice made by the electorate at the next general election would determine whether corruption can continue to be eradicated.

The rule of law alone is inadequate to rein in corruption if the root causes are ignored.

The veteran DAP leader seems to be caught up in the nostalgia of the 2018 election strategy of exposing the 1MDB scandal that brought about success for Pakatan Harapan.

But there was little thought for the common people who are struggling with the high cost of living and ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, and the existential issue of climate change.

This is one of the reasons Pakatan Harapan could not last long because the moment the 1MDB issue was in the courts, it struggled to get the support of the people in all the by-elections that followed.

Barisan Nasional was successful in instigating the Malay community by claiming that Pakatan Harapan was dominated by DAP. This is typical when socio-economic anxiety takes the form of an ethno-religious expression that favours the extremists and the nationalists.

In the next general election (GE15), it would be wise to connect the fight against corruption with a socio-economic vision that is distinctive from that of Barisan Nasional and Perikatan National.

Today, Malaysians need an alternative socio-economic vision that is far more inclusive and sustainable and takes care of the biodiversity of our forests, the purity of the oceans, and the air.

Corruption is not merely about wasted funds, it has far-reaching consequences that reach out to every aspect of human existence.

The question is what sort of capitalism is Pakatan Harapan embracing? Would it be unbridled developer capitalism or is it stakeholder capitalism?

How will it support workers’ empowerment, rights and development? How would it mediate in a relationship with employers’ unions and other stakeholders to create a win-win solution for the country?

How is it going to protect the environment when the Penang state government is bent on carrying on with an island reclamation project that has significant implications on the environment?

To date, Pakatan Harapan has not even come up with a vision of how it will look at socio-economic matters with a clear distinction.

It is hoped that the coalition – comprising PKR, DAP, Amanah and Upko – would come up with a broader vision of society rather than merely looking for votes on issues related to corruption.

Its campaign for GE15 should be better focused on a new dynamic socio-economic vision, rooted in spiritual values of justice and solidarity that abhor corruption, cementing it with integrity, competence, transparency and accountability.

Ronald Benjamin is secretary of the Association for Welfare, Community and Dialogue.