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MGG: The Breakdown Of Moral Authority
By M.G.G. Pillai

12/12/2001 2:21 am Wed

The Kuala Lumpur International Airport is a world class structure with world class touts. The passenger is harrassed the moment he arrives, and the authorities turn a blind eye. A letter in the New Straits Times today (10 Dec 2001, NST, Letters) says this gives the country a bad name. He is wrong. It is the breakdown of moral authority that does. This is but an example. The CLP scandal is another. The missing answer scripts for the SPM examination another. The scandal in the courts in the reign of the former chief justice continues under the new, with matters addressed only when they hit the public eye, and everything else swept under the proverbial carpet. Rules are changed at random, not after careful study but because the chief justice needs something to say to journalists. Every privatisation of government utilities has failed, in tens of billions of ringgit in debt, and the government takes much pains to exculpate those responsible. Senior government servants themselves are not beyond moral sanction to take money meant for the hardcore poor.

This is not all. The Government turns Malaysia into an Islamic state because it wants a march over PAS. But in stealth, sans debate, and contrary voices silenced. The non-Malay political parties in the National Front, there on UMNO's sufferance, would not protest, or insist on stricter consitutional observances, and pass off as if nothing had happened. The MCA organised a forum to debate it, but its "rotting fish head", Dato' Seri Ling Liong Sik, had nothing to say and would rather an UMNO minister explain it. To this day, we do not know how MCA views UMNO's declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state; we know that is angry with the DAP for consorting with PAS, but not supporting its Islamic worldview.

That is bad, we are led to infer, but not when its allows its political partner, UMNO, to declare an Islamic state. And MCA claims it is the most important non-Malay party in the coalition! Ditto, the MIC, Gerakan. The only semblance of opposition comes from Sarawak and Sabah, but they keep their counsel, and the more determined Kuala Lumpur is to ensure an Islamic state there, the more likely Kuala Lumpur would have to rue the day as Islamabad had to in 1971 when Bangladesh became a reality.

There is a link between cheating in examinations, cheating in privatisation, cheating in the administration of justice, cheating the hardcore poor, cheating in declaring Malaysia an Islamic state, and cheating in the national worldview. It comes about when it is the national view that everyone is, or ought to be, on the take. The government encourages it by refusing to address it. Each time a scandal breaks out, the reaction is the same: something must be done about it. A few chaps are arrested. The governments evades the issues until it can no longer. A new scandal is unearthed. The government forgets about it. It is laid to rest. To rise again more virulently down the road.

Each time it is deflected, Malaysia's soul shrinks. Since public debate is considered un-Islamic -- at least according to its official publication, now withdrawn, "Malaysia is an Islamic state" -- we know why National Front ministers and leaders sidestep debate to prove they are more Islamic than PAS. PAS, on the other hand, or so UMNO infers, is un-Islamic because they relish an argument. That this virtually divides Malaysia into three distinct nations is blithely ignored, as the distinctly rival Lebanon in religious harmony.

But it is convoluted arguments like these that strengthens Malaysia's path to despair. UMNO can push through an Islamic agenda because its coalition partners are only too happy to let UMNO have its way in return for support against the community they represent in the government. There is no serious debate on anything. Not in parliament, not in even within political parties. There is nothing wrong with an Islamic state if it is brought about by consensus. Half of Malaysia's population are non-Muslim, and their views are ignored. If they are not, let the non-Muslim coalition partners categorically state they agree to Malaysia being an Islamic state. With no ifs and buts.

All we know of Keadilan these days is that one supreme council member called another a pariah. That was enough for the MIC president to protest. Keadilan, so we are now told, is therefore a party unfit for Indians. We refuse to address the issues except by diverting attention. The only time this was not -- the humiliation and destruction of the then deputy foreign minister, Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim -- the country rose in unison to question. The after-effects of that still dictates Malaysian politics. But since the man is in jail and unlikely to surface for another decade or so, it is forgotten, though it is alive to spring a surprise when least expected. But the moral authority is shaved yet again. Even in Tabung Haji, where missing funds are the norm. Usually in the hundreds of millions of ringgit. No one cares! And the DAP is surprised that in an Islamic state that Malaysia proclaims she is, non-Muslims are deemed as zimmis! Why so?

M.G.G. Pillai