Loyal Followers

Monday, July 20, 2009

Macdeth Act II - an open letter to Berita Harian

I read with disbelief - and not to mention, a certain degree of disgust - your article titled "Kematian Teoh timbulkan pelbagai spekulasi politik" appearing in your newspaper yesterday.

It is a measure of the depth of the racialist pit in which you are and the extent of your warped mind that such article was published by you, a newspaper which, in your own words, "is able to stimulate the minds in pursuing information where information is the primary source of economical success" (my loose translation of "akhbar yang dapat merangsang minda dalam mengejar arus maklumat yang mana pengetahuan adalah sumber utama untuk kemakmuran ekonomi" as stated on your web site). But then again, coming from you, whose sister paper is the NST, I suppose, is not surprising. In fact, it should have been expected.

First of all, thank you for telling us that it was an "accident". You said, and I quote:

"Apabila mangsa kemalangan pula orang bukan Melayu, yang sebelumnya disiasat orang Melayu, bertambah hebatlah spekulasinya."

I thank you because earlier, we were all made to believe that it was a possible suicide. It seems that you know something which we, the stupid and gullible people of Malaysia, don't seem to know. As you have quite clearly and categorically labeled the incident as an accident, I would be grateful to death (pardon the pun) if you could fill me up as to how the accident happened; who were involved and why it happened. Did the deceased sleep walk while he was sleeping on the settee at 6.30am?

You seemed to take objection that this incident has been politicised. You also deemed it totally improper for some people to use the incident to gain political mileage. I am surprised at how shallow your journalistic power of observation is.

Allow me to tell you this. And I am going to use bold letters, just in case you miss the point. THIS IS A POLITICAL MATTER. The deceased was the political secretary of a DAP representative. DAP, the last time I checked, was a political party. And the last time I checked too, the deceased's boss was a member of the Selangor State Legislative Assembly.

So, in the first place, it was, and still is, and will be a political matter. You cannot run from that fact.

You spoke as if no other party has politicised matters which have got nothing to do with politics in the past. Your political master has even gone to town using the Royal House as a political gimmick in Bukit Gantang. And how about Anwar Ibrahim's private life? Since when has a man's behaviour in bed or on a certain mattress, become a political capital? How about the act of buying cows for sacrifice on Hari Raya Aidil 'Adha, for the obvious benefit of the poor and impoverished? Is that political? And what about the call for the ISA to be abolished? Some people even said that ISA was a "Malay right"!

So please, spare us this seeming and sudden journalistic naivete. Spare us this whole stupidity. We are not stupid.

The next thing that I wish to say is this. Why are you bemoaning the fact that this "accident" has been politicised and used to gain political ground when it is obvious that such political maneuvering and posturing would not have happened if such "accident" had not taken place at all?

It is regrettable that in this day and age that our state agency could still treat citizens like some worthless piece of flesh and bones. It is like the state is a gangland, ruled and managed by fear, where dungeons and hooded men abound, ready to interrogate in the darkness of nights.

Why have you not asked why such "accident" ( I just love that word) had to happen in 2009 in our country?Why have you not championed the rights of the people, since you proudly proclaim that you are a newspaper which is able to stimulate the mind. Whose mind are you talking about? Your own mind? Are you stimulating the mind or the emotions? Or do you actually know the difference?

What I find most objectionable is your attempt at turning the issue into an anti-Malay leadership issue. While you bemoan the fact that this sad "accident" has turned into a political issue, it does not behoove you to shout and scream that the very same issue is a racial one. Two wrongs do not make one right.

Yes, the deceased is a Chinese man. But most and foremost is the fact that HE IS A MALAYSIAN. Every death in custody, regardless of race, creed and breed, will be a tragedy and will be treated as tragic by we, Malaysians. A. Kugan, an Indian, also died in custody, with horrific injuries or mark of injuries. Malaysians of all races denounced that. Malaysians of all races wanted the truth. When Nurin Jazlin Jazimin and Sharlinie Mohd Nashar were kidnapped, the whole Malaysia was outraged.

The whole Malaysia is outraged not because the victims are Indians, Chinese or Malays. Or are you too blinkered to know that? The outrage stems from the fact that the victims were seemingly treated in an inhuman manner, in a manner which is almost animalistic in nature. The whole Malaysia is grieving. Do you think only African American grieve the death of Michael Jackson? Or are you too busy with your racial study to notice?

And what is this about the non-Malays challenging the Malay leadership? In your own stupendous journalistic inquiry, you asked:

"Kenapa Menteri Besar Selangor, seorang Melayu, meragui kebolehan orang sebangsanya bertindak dengan tulus dan adil?"

Huh? My teenage daughter would ask, "wassup with you dude?" Or "can I have some of that thang (sic) which you are obviously smoking?"

First of all, all of us, and that includes those politicians whom you are accusing of politicising the "accident", do not have a clue on who the officers in charge were. Nobody knows their identity, let alone their races. Good God! What are you trying to do? Turn this into a Malay against the world issue? Quite obviously, no?

The truth of it all is this. If you still have no clue, let me tell you. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT RACE THE GUILTY PARTY IS (if anybody is guilty at all). The People will still feel outraged even if the party involved is a Ghanaian who works for MACC! Get that?

It is a shame. I was pleased to note on Sunday that the PM has taken the trouble to express his regret that someone has died, that a life has been lost. He even conveyed his condolences. He even sent his political secretary to visit the family. The DPM has now not discounted the establishment of a Royal Commission. Hishamuddin Hussein has undertaken to supervise the investigation personally. SUHAKAM has said it will commence an investigation. Whatever may be the result and effects of all these promises is unknown. But I would take them all on face value. I feel pleased with the humane approach. It just shows that at least, the PM, DPM and the Home Minister actually saw a tragedy above politics.

And it is a crying shame that you, Berita Harian, have to overshadow the fresh air of humanity emanating from our leaders by the publication of that article of yours.

Shame on you!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Macdeth

I am outraged!!!

I was having a meeting at Bangsar when I received a text message at about 5pm yesterday about the death of Teoh Beng Hock. He was found dead, apparently "on the roof of an adjoining building next to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s building."

716_body

 To say that MACC has been independent all these while  is like saying Pam Anderson has not done a silicon job. It has been known and seen to move with lightning speed in cases involving opposition leaders as well as UMNO leaders who are not in the right camp. At a whiff of anything resembling an iota of wrongdoing, they would raid, arrest and interrogate all and sundry. But if, and only if, the people involved are from the "other side" of the fence.

But when the luminaries involved are from the government side, they would just sit still, like an elephant on tranquilisers. Look at the palatial mansion issue. Not a word from MACC. Contrast that to the hari raya korban cows issue. They did not only investigated. They even passed judgment in full public view even before the AG had the chance to look at the Investigation Papers!

And what about the Linggam Tape findings made by the Royal Commission? No statement. No hurry. No nothing. NFA, said the Minister. Who was interviewed? Who was arrested for taking statements? Was there interrogations until 3.45 am? None of course.

Teoh was not a suspect. And yet he was interrogated mercilessly from 5pm to 3.45am. Why the needs to do so? Can't witnesses be treated with dignity, if not respect? Was he going to run away? Can't he be asked respectfully to come to the office during office hours and interviewed in a civil manner? After all, if he was a witness, his testimony would be helpful and of assistance to MACC.

There are more questions than answers in this whole debacle. Life is cheap in Malaysia. That is quite obvious.

My questions are:

  • why would a young man who was to be married in a day's time commit suicide?
  • why must he, who was not a suspect, be interrogated mercilessly from 5pm to 3.45am?
  • why was he allowed to remain in MACC's office after he was released?
  • are members of the public ordinarily allowed to be in MACC's office in the wee hours of the morning without supervision? Wouldn't this run contrary to the security of MACC, its officers and all data in MACC's office and custody?
  • are members of the public, especially those who have been interrogated, ordinarily allowed to sleep on a settee in MACC's office unsupervised in the wee hours of the morning or any hours for that matter?
  • are members of the public, especially those who have been interrogated, ordinarily allowed to wander around aimlessly in MACC's office unsupervised?
  • why was Teoh allowed to do all of the above?
  • why wasn't Teoh told to go home and not remain in MACC's office as it is a security area?
  • what happened to CCTV cameras in MACC's office (I presume there will be a hell of a lot of them)
  • how come nobody noticed where Teoh, a total stranger to MACC and its officers, was? Where was the security guard?

And look at the picture. Teoh's pants are torn. Why?

No Discussion Please, We Are Malaysians!

There appears to be a trend of sorts when it comes to public discussions on issues, sensitive or otherwise, in our country. Such issues may strike at the core of civil society’s movement or be of importance to fundamental liberties, or related to the proper governance of this country. Whatever they may be, these issues may strike the passion of some individuals or entities or tickle the intellect of some people resulting in a sudden outburst of opinions, views or mere rhetoric. These in turn would provoke reactions, responses, counter arguments as well as, again, mere rhetoric.

The proliferation of opinions and views on such issues is nothing new. Even when I was schooling, I would sometime be exposed to strong and passionate views on important issues from some of my more vocal teachers and lecturers. When I was in the university, all of us in the student council would sometime organise a debate on certain chosen topics which were close to our heart. We would then invite a representative each from the opposition party, the academia, the government and the student body to partake in a healthy, and sometime really loud, debate at the Dewan Tunku Canselor. We would call it “Debat Perdana”.

Those days, such debates would be well attended by the students. The Dewan would be full. Well before my time of course, the University of Malaya used to have a speaker’s corner, something not unlike the one they have somewhere near the Hyde Park, London. Images of Anwar Ibrahim, Hishamuddin Rais et al, with loud hailers in hand, giving rousing speeches would come to mind. That corner however was reduced to a mere corner after the student demonstrations in 1974, when the act of public speaking there was inexplicably – and short-sightedly, I must add - banned.

While the interests were there, and the capabilities as well as the abilities to articulate were present, the views and opinions were restricted to the few people who had accessed to them. The public at large was unable to hear the views and opinions, let alone participate in the process of discourse. The reach of the views and opinions therefore was restricted within a small circle defined by proximity. Added to these physical and technological restrictions the fact that the mainstream media was compliant to the whims and fancies of the ruling elite, opposing views and opinions against the government on various issues were rarely, if ever, heard and discussed.

In current times, there appear to be more and more views and opinions on various issues. I do not think that the people have suddenly become more opinionated or talkative. It is just that nowadays, views and opinions are much more easily made and heard in the public domain. On my part, I think the internet has transformed my life in this area. And I am sure many would feel the same way.

It is ironic that the very person who did not really appreciate views and opinions of others, especially when such views and opinions are in direct opposition of his views and opinions, is to a large extent to be credited for this transformation. It is Dr Mahathir, the anti-Christ of universal human rights, who liberated Malaysians from these physical and technological restrictions. By signing a binding government guarantee not to censor the contents of the internet – in his efforts to market his pet project, the Multimedia Super Corridor, to the international corporate world – he has effectively, albeit perhaps unwittingly, opened up the access to information, news as well as views and opinions to every Malaysian.

Malaysians embrace this new found freedom in all its uncensored glory. The rest, as they say, is history.

I sometime wonder whether Dr Mahathir knew or expected what would happen. And I wonder whether he regretted his decision. But one thing is clear. When he suddenly found that he was on the other side of the fence, he embraced this very technology himself. He started a blog. And his shouts and screams, raves and rants about this, that and the other could easily be digitally heard even as I am writing this. So effectively, and quite amusingly ironic, Dr Mahathir had liberated himself from the very constraints which he perfected. What irony. What drama. Or is that karma?

As is with all new technological wonder, mankind’s ability to positively utilise the technology evolves slowly. In Malaysia, it is even slower than normal. It is like the FELDA settlers who got a million each after selling their land. Some of them just destroyed themselves and their family with the new found wealth. It is the same with the internet.

Despite the ability to access views and opinions of varied intellectual contents and importance and the ability to partake in a meaningful discourse, Malaysians have, by large, failed to positively utilised the ability. I suspect that this inability is genetically cultivated and infused into our society by those long years of media compliant and restrictions – physical and technological – against public discussions or discourse on issues deemed sensitive or improper by the government. Dr Mahathir has a theory. He recently said that the mainstream media editors even imposed such restrictions on themselves!

Years of being fed by a one way approach to news and opinions, the Malaysian public has evolved into a society which is almost allergic to any meaningful discussions or discourse. This also applies to the government and its various agencies. This handicap transforms into a phobia against meaningful discussion and discourse. The symptoms are everywhere to be seen in the public domain. It manifests itself in various forms.

The government, its agencies, agents and servants are the guiltiest of the lot. Faced with a critic, or any semblance of opposite views and opinions, the immediate response would be one of denial. Never mind that the evidence which suggests otherwise is right in front of our eye balls, denial is the preferred response. The case of Kugan is an example.

If denial does not work, the next thing is to downplay the event. This takes place with the full cooperation of mass media machinery which is ever so ready to lie, lie and lie. Take the BERSIH rally for example. NST reported that only 4000 people attended the rally. Another form of downplaying is the act of half-baked reporting. “A Dato’, who drives a black Mercedez and whose name starts with the letter “A”, was arrested last night”, reports the media. Of course when an opposition leader is arrested, the media would scream out his name in bold letters, complete with a huge picture of the leader on the front page. “ANWAR ARRESTED FOR SODOMY”, reports the people’s newspaper.

Then there is the art of not addressing the point but the person who brings up the point. “They are crooks”, said Nazri Aziz in answering opposite views expressed by Dr Mahathir, Hanif Omar and Abu Talib Othman. A commentator on my article, “PAS Should Be Banned” asked “Art Harun, are you a Muslim”?

There is also the Nazi approach. This involves questioning the critic’s intention and telling him that he does not have the right to say so. “Zaid Ibrahim is politicising the matter”, for example, when the matter being spoken about is of course a political matter in the first place! This is followed by the evergreen call to “join politics if you want to talk about it”. The so called Persatuan Peguam-peguam Islam (or Melayu, whatever!) has a unique ability to behave like a scratched Compact Disc when it comes to this call. “The Bar Council should register as a political party if it wants to take position in this matter”, says someone representing that Persatuan. As if only politicians have the right to vomit verbal diarrhoea on whatever issue in public.

In matters relating to Islam, of course there is the proverbial “you-are-not-entitled-to-talk-about-it-as-you-are-a-donkey” answer to views and opinions. Applying this response, all of us, except for a few enlightened ones, are not qualified to talk about Islam.

It is therefore quite obvious that Malaysia is a prime example that technological advancement may overtake human ability to utilise the same. Strange, but true.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rethinking Civilisation

Guest writer, Yeo Yang Poh, meditates on the "civilisation" and progress of mankind and came out not too impressed.*

I have to know

If there is God, or karma

Is Life a string of random mishaps

Or a laborious web of scripted dramas

I cannot tell

If anyone will be waiting

At that last stop of our turbulent Odyssey

But I sense the magic in the forests buried deep

And hear the mystic music of the dewdrops’ perish

Thence I know: the unspoken words that I must keep.

For in waking moments I’m mostly blind

Revelation flickers only in my troubled sleep

And for one brief moment I felt as if I had touched my soul

(Ah, was that really it)

Before it was lost, to that hot, hurried night

The series of writings that I hope to undertake in this monthly column will canvass diverse subjects, but will orbit around a core quest: the quest for the meaning and value of humanity and human existence, viewed individually and collectively.

This agenda that I set for myself is not half as ambitious as it is crazy. It is bordering on insanity to think, or indeed to hope, that the answers that have eluded centuries of thinkers, scientists, poets, writers and more might suddenly descend upon an amateur columnist. But it is the kind of insanity worth pursuing, even at the risk of falling flat on one’s face. If the final oracle shall elude me, I could always fall back on the consolation that the reward lies in the pursuit itself, just as many pilgrims before me had insisted.

I shall begin this journey by examining that which human beings are so proud of: civilization.

We set ourselves apart from all other animals. We inform ourselves that we are special in the animal kingdom. We justify the distinction in various ways, one of which is to affirm, and then believe, that we alone have souls while the other animals do not, even if empirical proof of it is missing.

We parade our achievements, and point out that no other has managed what we have done. We marvel at our scientific and engineering feats. We stress that we have moved mountains, diverted rivers, harnessed the wind, and built structures that conquer the elements and put us beyond the reach of other living beings. We have ventured into the Outer Space, mapped genomes, and created Dolly. Better things are yet to come.

We hail these as proof of progress, and then we equate progress with civilization. But should we?

Today we indeed have a much better understanding of the universe, the Earth, physics, microbiology, our body, and a long list of other things. But we can hardly claim to know our inner selves, our psyches, our basal desires, any better than did the uninformed cavemen, the austere ancient priests, or the merry-making Romans at the fall of their empire. We have refined our tools to precision, but our hearts stay as raw and savage as ever.

For we have done nothing to construct and improve our collective behavioral health, compared with the advances we have made in the provision of medical care. I employ the term “behavioral health” here, to distinguish it from the current concepts of mental health and spiritual health, as I will explain below.

We recognize symptoms such as depression, anxiety, alcoholism and gambling addiction as mental health problems; yet we do not perceive behaviors such as excessive greed, intolerance, or bigotry in the same light. We see the former set of behaviors as traits harmful to both the individual sufferers and the society at large; but we decline to apply the same diagnosis to the latter.

We fail to appreciate that the latter group of conduct brings as much, if not more, harm to the individual practitioners and the society as a whole. Hence, we do nothing to address those problems in a systemic way. Worse still, at times greed is touted as ambition or the impetus for growth, intolerance regarded as defensible, and bigotry promoted as championing the only truth. So, instead of seeing the need to treat such behavior, society at times applauds their display.

Limiting our attention to mental health problems (as we currently define them), and overlooking wider behavioral health issues, prevents us from building a civilized society.

Because our accumulated knowledge, passed on through education, tells us that our body needs carbohydrates, protein, salt and minerals, but also that too much of any of them would become detrimental to our physical health; we have constructed a health care system that can, among other things, adequately deal with problems arising from overindulgence. We understand the human cost, and the cost to society, if we ignore the need for moderation in these habits. But we do not do likewise in relation to behavioral health.

Behavioral health requires a similar balance of chemistry and mental attitudes, but this is something that we understand far less than we do our physical body. An overdose of greed, self-righteousness or self-centeredness harms both our own well being and the society. We have not developed any systematic curriculum to educate ourselves on these matters, nor placed enough emphasis on research in this area so that our knowledge can advance in the same way it does with other sciences. These are subjects to which we have not given priority. Our relative lack of progress in them is the result.

Education alone will not solve health problems. There will be many who, despite adequate knowledge, neglect or damage their health. We do not punish them for their deliberate or reckless excesses. Instead, we build a system of clinics and hospitals to treat them, to make them better. We carefully examine the root of the problem, and administer treatment over time. We have re-education programmes to advocate prevention over cure. There are various commercial concerns in the business of the promotion of healthcare.

No wonder physical healthcare today is generally better than ever before, although not in places where man-made poverty is widespread (which is another subject for a different day).

It is the exact opposite when it comes to behavioral ill health, which is produced no doubt by the failure of our family and public education systems. We deal with sufferers of behavioral ill health solely as bad people who need to be punished and thereby, or so we think, be deterred from being bad in the future. We build prisons to teach them a lesson, to make them pay the price, to make the pain greater than their gain. It makes us feel good and justified because they deserve it. We hope that the brutal condition we create and put them in will make them refrain from future misconduct, just like that. We do not go to the roots of the problem. In this profound age of science, our methods in dealing with behavioral ill health are as unscientific as can be.

Hence, our collective behavioral health has not improved much over the centuries. It has been largely neglected on our fast train to development. The inhumanity that men inflict upon fellow men is as cruel and as prevalent today as it was thousands of years ago.

It is time for us to pause, and rethink our concept of civilization.

Currently, we equate evidence of progress with civilization, without examining the fine prints or weighing the human cost. The ancient civilizations (as we call them) were orchestrated by kings and emperors, who built their “greatness” by trampling on the well being of their subjects. Today in many parts of the world we have evolved systems of government that, when not abused, are indeed more egalitarian. But there lies the problem. The support structures for these systems are so fragile that, more often than not, abuse of the system becomes rampant, chiefly because of the behavioral ill health of both the leaders and the followers.

Everything we regard as a symbol of civilization, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, and the Angkor Wat for example, is in truth also a reminder of the oppression of men. Human history has yet to see the kind of worldwide civilization that is not built upon the enslavement of humanity, and that is constructed by embracing all human beings in equality. It is time to rethink the way we view civilization.

To be of value to all humanity, civilization must not consist solely of making our lives easier and more comfortable, or, more accurately, of making the lives of some of us (the elite) easier and more comfortable at the expense of the rest. This kind of elitist “development” is at best “material civilization”, as opposed to what I will call “value civilization”. Value civilization must encompass the betterment of the condition of all sectors of humankind, in counterbalance to the throw of the dice of the survival of the fittest. There must always be a place for the weakest, as otherwise civilization will be no different from the natural law of the jungle. Due to space constraint, a more detailed discussion of value civilization will have to be reserved for another day.

I do not know the origin of this quip: “civilization is defined by the distance Man puts between him and his excreta”. Sarcasm aside, there is prevailing truth in the lurid metaphor. We must not allow our civilization to be proportionately measured by the distance we put between the elite and the have-nots.

* Yeo Yang Poh is a senior lawyer and a former President of the Bar Council. This article has been published in a Chinese magazine called "Eye Asia" and has been reproduced with the consent of the writer.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Trust - a forgotten word

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.