Monday, March 12, 2012

UMNO, DAP, PKR and Corruption: Principle or Ploy?


We have heard the announcement concerning Sharizat’s intention to step down from her cabinet post next month, in sync with the term of her senatorship, over the affairs of the NFL. Her announcement came at the time when the chief executive of NFL, Salleh Ismail, her husband was being charged in court for criminal breach of trust and misuse of public fund in connection with the RM250million loan from the government.

The announcement had solicited various responses from political parties, as expected along very partisan lines. I should like to share some of my own responses in reading them.

Shahrizats’s own statements and action raised some nagging questions. Why step down now, after months of tenacious defense of herself, as well as NFC? We still remember her dramatic antics at the UMNO Assemby , taking on the opposition, her denouncers, with rolled up sleeves and fist clenched. Her defense then was that she was not involved in any way with NFC, she just happened to be married to the chief executive. Why step down then if you are not involved in any way? It is hard for the public to believe though she is not involved in any way with development in the NFC, as her husband and children are directors in the company, drawing huge salaries and perks. Of course ‘involvement’ here does not refer merely to tangible legal evidence but signifies wider notion of ‘interests’ in the way of ‘family matters’.

What has been UMNO’s reaction to the announcement? Generally quiet among the top brass but some had felt compelled to comment I think. The home minister had said he respected Shahrizat’s decision and admired her for it, and urged her to continue to lead the party women’s wing. What sort of a statement is this? It sounded as if this is a purely personal matter which does not involve the public and the nation. It sounds like a company manager counseling a staff intending to resign over her domestic problems, but still needing her services to the company. There are other statements from UMNO leaders making a ‘martyr’ out of Sharizat over her decision. One leader praised her for her ‘courage’, another for her ‘sacrifice’. What ‘courage’ and what ‘sacrifice’? The Prime Minister expressed 'gratitude' for her decision. Why? Is UMNO anxious to stop the inquiry at her level and not higher up the accountability chain?

In my opinion UMNO should indicate, by statement as well as gesture, its stand on corruption. If it fails to do so, it will lose lots of credibility to the opposition and in the eyes of the public. For the sake of its moral and political standing it should send clear unambiguous signals that it abhors corruption. It doesn’t have to apologise profusely or romanticise members entangled in scandals. It conveys very unflattering image of itself in doing so.

I scanned the news to make more sense of this. I read of  the following elaboration. She is courageous in making the sacrifice in the interest of the party, so as not to compromise the party in the coming election. What banality! Shouldn’t the issue be either she is blameworthy in some way or innocent of corruption or vested interests?. If she is blameworthy, the party should accept her stepping down, otherwise the party should insist on her staying as a matter of principle. Why this strange way of bestowing ‘martyrdom’ on her? Doesn't the credibility of leaders matter at all for the party? It suggests both banality and moral insensitivity, despite the pretension. There is also the response that opposition leaders should emulate her noble gesture and step down. Surely this is a rather immature political maneuvering . A better response would be to focus on the issue and then only proscribe it for all, including the opposition. To do otherwise looks like a glaring ploy to deflect and deflate the issue.

There is also the party response in thanking her for continuing with her party positions. There's much accolades on her dynamism as party leader. There is no consideration whatsoever for the issue at hand. I am not suggesting for a moment that the party abandons her or demands that she quit her party position as well. What I find disturbing is the lack of consideration for ethical or moral integrity altogether. Shouldn't there be deliberation at least on her blameworthiness or otherwise on this score before 'thanking' her for continuing?Or shouldn't it be deliberated if she might be a liability for the election if she continue to lead? 

The DAP, PKR and PAS should be credited with its various exposures concerning corruption. They had proved themselves effective in bringing down several UMNO and BN leaders over wrongdoings. They could be a formidable force in cleaning up the nation and its leadership mettle. While crediting them, I should state that they could be even more formidable if they combine militancy against wrongdoings with general or universal moral indignation. What the public finds disappointing is when they seem to be ever vigilant and tenacious when it concerns UMNO or BN leaders, but turn equally militant or banal in their denial, defense and dismissal when it concerns one of their own. Concerning this we have more than ample examples to go by.

The question then is this: For our political parties is the issue of corruption a matter of principle, or is it a convenient weapon to bring down the enemy? It has its uses in case of the later, but it would bless the nation much more if our political parties cultivate a genuine moral indignation against this scourge of corruption beyond partisanship.

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