I have come to a conclusion. That much of the malaise that Malaysia is afflicted with nowadays is caused by, or at the very least related to, the word “trust”.
Let’s face it. There is an obvious non-appreciation of the word “trust” in our country. That leads to a misunderstanding of the concept of trust. Which in turn results in an almost total lack of respect for the concept. Ultimately, that leads us to where we are now. A state where “trust” is almost a dirty word and trustworthiness is a virtue so underrated that nobody even pays attention to what it means and what it entails and demands from us.
Legend has it that the former Chief Justice of India, the Honourable Justice Bhagwati, had two cars. One was his privately-owned car and the other one his official car provided by the state by virtue of his position. He was also provided a driver. His complete appreciation of the concept of trust ensured that his official car, and driver, would only be used for the purpose of undertaking and performing his official duties and functions. That would mean his official car, and driver, would never be used to fetch his wife from the hair saloon; to send his kid to the school or to send his cat to the vet, for example. For those, he would use his privately-owned car. But of course, that was Chief Justice Bhagwati.
Try telling that to our so-called leaders. I could just imagine the incredulous look which would ensue after you had softly and ever so gently articulated that kind of concept to them. And I have been careful to say “our so-called leaders” as opposed to just “the BN leaders”. I am sure those so-called leaders from the Pakatan Rakyat are just the same. Except for one or two, I suppose.
I was trying to make an appointment with an Exco member of a PR-governed state the other day. I was told that he was busy with Manek Urai. Which makes me wonder, is it taken as a God-given right for these people to abuse the position which they are in and the trust which is burdened upon them by the people through the ballot box?
During every by-election, and also the time preceding a general election, we would see hot-shot leaders from the government, including members of Cabinet, descending upon the constituency like some Valkaries from heaven. They will shower good words, hug some babies, throw free laptops, school uniforms, Class F contracts and what-have-you. It is like Zeus has suddenly wakened up and realised that the world needs feeding. It is like we are all peasants who need to be fed and humoured during certain season of the year. It is like all of them, the bourgeoisie and royals, must be amused by the spectacle of us, the peasants, tussling for food and gifts in a Peasants Banquet at a nominated time and place.
Sometimes I wonder whether we have consigned our conscience to the deepest recesses of our soul. To a place where we store everything which we do not want and which we do not hold dear. But the thing is — and this is an inexplicable paradox — we talk, shout and scream about religion and being religious all the time. And being religious would of course bring with it the notion of being good. And being good of course entails the concept of fulfilling one’s trust and avoiding a breach of the trust. In Islam, as far as I know, breach of trust is one of the big sins. But do we actually care?
How many times have we heard that Malaysia is an Islamic country? How many times have we been reminded that all of us must be Islamic? But despite those calls, we continue to abuse the very trust that the people have burdened upon us. We continue to misappropriate the assets and belongings of the people which are vested in us on trust for the benefit of the people. Or is it a fact that being Islamic to us is all about praying five times a day, not eating pork and performing the umrah twice a year?
Quite obviously, to the Executive, the people demand accountability and the total fulfillment of the trust. The people want every single minute for which they are paid for to govern this country to be spent governing the country and not to pursue personal or party agenda. Civil societies demand that all party agenda and personal pursuit be done after working hours, at least. Let’s have all party meetings at night. And all party campaigning after office hours. Let’s utilise the assets of the state only for the pursuit of the state’s interests and goals and not for some personal achievements.
We have seen ministers, Exco members and various functionaries of the state (both from the BN and PR, I must add) not doing the job for which they are paid for weeks on end. They would be camping at the constituent where a by-election is being held, day in day out, in order to campaign for their party’s candidate. They would be using state assets. That is an abuse. A blatant abuse if I may add. And it is not so much the abuse which is of concern. It is the blatant display of abuse which is disconcerting. What nonchalant attitude do we have towards the trust of the people?
Contrast that to the position taken by Sayidina Abu Bakar, in his first speech after he was elected as the first Caliph, when he said:
“O people, I have been elected your leader, although I am not better than anyone from among you. If I do any good, give me your support. If I go wrong, set me right. Listen, truth is honesty and untruth is dishonesty. The weak among you are powerful in my eyes, as long as I do not get them their due, Allah willing. The powerful among you are weak in my eyes, as long as I do not take away from them what is due to others, Allah willing.
"Listen, if people give up striving for the cause of Allah, Allah sends down disgrace on them. If a people become evil doers, Allah sends down calamities on them.
"Listen, you must obey me as long as I obey Allah and His Messenger. If I disobey Allah and His Messenger, you are free to disobey me.”
Clearly, foremost in Sayidina Abu Bakar’s mind was the interests of the state and the people, especially the less fortunate ones. And he was full of humility, describing himself unworthy of the position bestowed upon him. He was also mindful that he might err, in which case he implored the people to correct him to the extent of disobeying him.
Must we, the people, shout and scream that the position bestowed upon them come as a trust? That the powers which come with their position are powers which are deemed necessary to perform such trust? And will they ever, ever understand and take heed? That such a basic concept of leadership, position and power can’t be grasped — or refused to be grasped? — is reflective of the semi-feudal political demography that we all live in.
And to think that we want to be a developed country by the year 2020! Developed in what, if I may ask.