Politics of Principles or Persecution?
1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) is on every Malaysian’s lips since 2014. Allegations after allegations came out in the media – both mainstream and alternative. Politicians outside the Barisan Nasional (BN) have capitalised on the issue repeatedly: blogs, political talks, Sarawak State Elections 2016, Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar By-Elections 2016.
Allegation is defined as “a statement of claimed fact contained in a complaint (a written pleading filed to begin a lawsuit), a criminal charge, or an affirmative defense (part of the written answer to a complaint). Until each statement is proved it is only an allegation. Some allegations are made “on information and belief” if the person making the statement is not sure of a fact.” (Law.com)
My position on this issue remains the same: I am indifferent. More about that later. Let us focus on the topic which was prompted by this issue: Politics of Principles or Persecution?
There are seven things that will destroy us: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Religion without sacrifice; Politics without principle; Science without humanity; Business without ethics.
— Mahatma Gandhi
The allegations of corruption are purely symptoms of an underlying cause, or causes.
The Sword of Convenient Hypocrisy
There is a greater problem at hand, and it is not confined to Malaysia or politicians. Politicians and politically-linked personalities are the easiest target. When it come to politics, the general consensus is everyone and anyone is fair game. Instead of being seen as individuals and citizens with inalienable rights, they are targets for attack, ridicule, character assassination, and invasion of privacy, among others. We feel that those who enter the public eye must adhere to an impossible standard that mere mortals like you and I are excused from. Electors exalt them to near deity status: immaculate and infallible in the eyes of their supporters; at the same time are seen as atrocious, corrupt, and power-hungry by their detractors.
Sadly this is not confined to Malaysians. We have heard many politicians who are forced to resign because of a misstep, especially in their family life. Specifically cheating on their spouse. But here is the reality, according to the Associated Press and Journal of Marital and Family Therapy:
We expect politicians, who are bio-chemically designed like the rest of us, to transcend the weakness and flaws of humankind and behave like a saint at all times. There will be a lapse of judgement one way or another. The key is, as some satirically puts it, not to get caught with their pants down. Literally. As if their personal relationships are not enough, we expect that their children be geniuses accomplishing straight As, while winning the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Henry Laurence Gantt Medal, Footballer of the Year, the Grammy, and Academy Awards by the age of Two.
Yes, we need moral leadership and exemplary personalities: in and outside of politics. It helps assure the rest of us that anything in life is possible. It keeps the nation motivated to continue to strive for the better with each generation.
Instead, these standards and expectations have created a sword of convenient hypocrisy:
- We condemn politicians who fail to kiss a baby on the campaign trail. We condemn politicians who do.
- We condemn politicians who practice their faith in private. We also condemn when we see them in their place of worship.
- We condemn them for having a religion. We condemn them when they don’t. We also condemn them for not having the same one as ours.
- We condemn them when they are chauffeured around. We condemn them when they use public transportation.
- We question their fidelity when they are married. We question why they divorced. We question why they are still single.
- We question them when they are a man. We question them when they are a woman.
- We question them when they don’t pay their bills. We question them when they do.
We are never satisfied. When we see they are about to meet our expectations and standards, we move the goal posts to another position.
When they finally meet our impossible standards, most of us elevate them to living saints or deities: Ever immaculate and infallible. Free from flaws and sin, and always right.
That is why I question what form of politics are we the people of this nation practicing? Never mind the politicians. Examine ourselves the citizens first.
The politics of principles is the hardest standard as it is. It is not impossible to attain. In my early years, I was exposed to the Bible teaching. Among those which I hold true till today, and based the idea behind the politics of principles, is this:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
— Jesus of Nazareth. Matt. 7: 1-5. NIV.
The politics of principles is simple: Am I doing first what I expect others to do?
As a Malaysian, minus my time in Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), I barely exercised my special privilege as a Bumiputera under Art. 153. Legally I am a “native of Sarawak” as defined under Art 161A. Since its inception and despite being entitled for it pre-2016, I have never applied for nor received the 1Malaysia Peoples Assistance (BR1M). I have received and used the 1Malaysia Books Assistance (BB1M) once.
Despite these, I do not condemn those who need these privileges and assistance. Why should I?
A Matter of Consistency in Politics
What I do question is those who condemn the BR1M and BB1M, yet calls for the people to apply for them nonetheless. Why do they condemn it? These men and women claim that BR1M and BB1M are forms of bribery by the Federal Government. These are candies used to cloud the judgement of rural folks. In the same breath, they would say “since it is the people’s money, they are entitled to it“. In 2013, one politician liken it to “rake offs of the Pharaohs to the Egyptians“. In Malay Muslim culture, the Pharaohs, Firaun, are seen as evil despots condemned by the Almighty for all time. Being compared to Firaun in the eyes of the Malays is similar to being compared to Adolf Hitler in the Western Hemisphere.
As a matter of principle, if something is deemed as a corrupt act and an abuse of power, why encourage participation? It must be rejected absolutely and unconditionally.
Similarly being against nepotism and cronyism. Cronyism is the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications. Nepotism is the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs. When a platform or party was established with anti-cronyism and anti-nepotism as among its foundation, it is the “unique selling point” that sets it apart. Whether 10 years, 20 years, or 50 years have passed, it cannot and must not be allowed or permitted. These are matters within a party or platform’s control. It does not require a public referendum, by-election, or court case to determine. So why was it been forsaken? Have the principles changed? Or it was a matter of convenience? Why not launch an all-out crusade against nepotism and cronyism in every form?
In the 1990s, I remember our politicians condemning the United States when the then US Vice President issued a statement about a local criminal proceeding. Politicians called it a blatant intervention by a foreign power in Malaysia’s domestic issues. In fact, the then prime minister was quoted by the BBC as saying, “We should fry him. Al Gore does not love Malaysia nor its people. Al Gore and his government only wants to manipulate and control our country”. The same prime minister also said, “It is a normal trial, there is no conspiracy. It is impossible in Malaysia to have a conspiracy on such an extent involving literally hundreds of people.”
This is in excerpt of the then Vice President’s speech:
“Malaysia rejects as most unwarranted the provocative remarks made by U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the White House,” a statement by Foreign Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said. ‘”Malaysians would hold the U.S. accountable for any rupture of this harmony arising from this irresponsible incitement.” (NY Times)
At a micro-level, we are not free from fault. How often have parents rewarded children when they do their parents’ bidding? In consequence, what effects would this have in the long term? How will a child see their relationship with their parents? Responsibilities and filial duties were taught to us outside the framework of rewards. At a young age, we were exposed to examples and guided on how to think for ourselves. To know the right from wrong. To know what we need to do and when we need to do it. Over time, we realised why we do it. I won’t say that my upbringing was the best or perfect. But I noticed my current behaviour reflecting the environment when I was growing up. Ensuring things are tidy and orderly at home. Being on time to events and appointments. Embracing diversity without judgement. Imagine if my late Mom paid RM0.50 for each time we took out the trash or did the dishes. Or a vacation when we scored well. Our family would have gone bankrupt! The vacations, gifts, and rewards were not because of our behaviour. It came out of love, affection, and familial ties.
We expect our police force and enforcing agencies to render impartial service. Yet we justify our abuse of emergency lanes, queue cutting, improper parking, and running the red light. Despite the law and common sense requiring us to focus on the road when driving, how many take the opportunity to use their mobile phones to text, play games, or check social media? When we do get in trouble for our own actions, how do we react? Do we curse the parking worker, police officer, and enforcement officers? Some would even share how to “negotiate” their way out of a ticket! Are these not instances of corruption and abuse?
What about our work ethics? I know I have less than ideal working habits. With each day and week, I look for ways to meet my deadlines and targets efficiently and effectively. I do examine my accomplishments as I have both duties and responsibilities towards my employers, colleagues, and clients. Through self-examination, i.e. looking in the mirror, I find ways to work on my flaws and weakness. I have made mistakes in the past; but overtime, I look at the symptoms to identify the causes. That is what makes me human. God forbid that I become Judge Claude Frollo in Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame…
Turning to Westminster
Cameron resigned as the Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service, of the United Kingdom and as Tory Leader after “Leave” won the European Union (EU) Exit Referendum 2016. As a staunch Remain politician, he cited the conflict of he steered the UK out of the EU. This was in spite of winning a majority in the Commons in the 2015 General Elections. It was a matter of principle. Malaysians were quick to apply this resignation to Najib Razak.
Between the 1980s to 2016, Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown, Neil Kinnock (after the 4th GE defeat), and Michael Foot resigned as Leader of the Labour Party (UK) when they failed to secure a majority of the seat in the Commons. Among the Tories, Sir John Major and William Hague resigned as Tory Leader after their party failed to become government.
Compare the manifesto of the three parties of the United Kingdom with the political parties of Malaysia. How do they stand?
The Labour 2016 Manifesto covers:
- The Economy
- The NHS
- Living Standards
- Young People
- Safer Communities
- Better Politics
- Britain in the World
- Culture, Media, Sport
- Older People
- Social Security
Here is the manifesto excerpt for the then Pakatan Rakyat on the same topic:
As you read the two manifesto documents, notice:
- Where they stand in the policy area?
- Where are they going?
- What will they do to accomplish this?
- Notice the language used by the two parties.
The Tory Manifesto follows the same presentation as Pakatan Rakyat. You can here are other British political party manifesto for you to refer to:
- Liberal Democrats
- Scottish National Party (Scotland)
- United Kingdom Independent Party
- Plaid Cymru (Wales)
- Social Democratic and Labour Party (Northern Ireland)
“But Aldric, the UK System is free from gerrymandering!” Are you sure? Here are some headlines by the two parties which accuse each other of gerrymandering:
- The Tories are removing twice as many people from the electoral register in Britain’s poorest areas as the richest – Independent. October 20, 2015. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/the-tories-are-removing-twice-as-many-people-from-the-electoral-register-in-britains-poorest-areas-a6701446.html
- Fifty Years of Bias in the UK’s Electoral System. – Johnston, R.J., Pattie, C., Dorling, D. and Rossiter, D. (2001). http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/research/transformations/gis/papers/dannydorling_publication_id1322.pdf
- EU referendum: David Cameron accused of ‘gerrymandering’ as voter registration extended by 48 hours. – Telegraph. June 8, 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/08/eu-referendum-david-cameron-accused-of-gerrymandering-as-voter-r/
- FactCheck: Are the Tories gerrymandering the election boundaries? – Channel 4 News. September 13, 2011. http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck-are-the-tories-gerrymandering-the-election-boundaries/7800
- The great Tory power grab: how they plan to rule for ever. – The Guardian. December 14, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/dec/14/conservative-power-grab-stay-in-power-permanent
- Labour’s accusations of gerrymandering are self-defeating. – The Guardian. July 28, 2010. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/jul/28/labour-self-defeating-gerrymander-accusations
- After 13 years of Labour gerrymandering, the Boundary Commission’s proposals are modest to say the least. – Mail Online. September 13, 2011. http://littlejohn.dailymail.co.uk/2011/09/after-13-years-of-labour-gerrymandering-the-boundary-commissions-proposals-are-modest-to-say-the-lea.html
- Labour accused of gerrymandering as boundary shake-up faces delay. – The Telegraph. February 13, 2005. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1483409/Labour-accused-of-gerrymandering-as-boundary-shake-up-faces-delay.html
Before I end this section, let’s touch on one more issue. Exit polls and seat results of the 2015 elections. This entry is already long as it is. So 2015 is the only result I will use here. The United Kingdom, like Malaysia, currently uses the First-Past-the-Post System (FPTP). Like in Malaysia, British voters cast their ballot in their respective constituencies. The winner at the constituency level is the candidate with the highest vote, but not necessarily the majority (50%+1). Say a constituency has 10,000 voters. The candidate with 1,000 votes wins the seat as long as the other candidates receive 999 or less votes each.
These are the official results according to the BBC:
The House of Commons has 650 seats. For a party to form government, it needs to hold at least 326 seats. Can you immediately see the problem?
- The Social Democratic & Labour Party won 3 seats. It has 99,809 votes. The Ulster Unionist Party has 2 seats. 114,935 votes in total.
- Compare Sinn Fein and Plaid Cymru. 4 and 3 seats with 176,232 and 181,704.
- The Liberal Democrats and Democratic Unionist Party both won 8 seats each in 2015. Their votes? 2,415,862 and 184,260 respectively.
- Again, take the Liberal Democrat (8 seats and 2,415,862 votes) and compare against the Scottish National Party (56 seats with 1,454,436).
- UKIP and the Green Party each have 1 seat. Over 3 million voters supported UKIP. 1,157,613 voted for the Green Party.
Cameron’s Tories formed a majority government after the party won 331 Seats (50.92%) despite receiving 11,334,576 (36.9%) of the votes.
Permit me to throw in another interesting statistic: 64,715,810. The UK has just over 64.7 million people living in it. If you take the population into account, a whooping 17.5% of the UK population supported the Tories.
When practicing the politics of persecution, what do we really accomplish? Is that what we want to accomplish? When we evaluate the claims, allegations, and arguments by our politicians and leaders, are we really thinking for ourselves or are we merely accepting them as gospel truth?
As a Malaysian citizen and a voter, I have my personal biases, standards, and perceptions. I take it upon myself, with the resource on the Internet, to keep myself informed about issues, causes, symptoms, and consequences. In writing this article, I had to question my own hypothesis and change it according to the findings. Yes, the UK system is not perfect. It never was. No system is. That is the fact of the matter. No matter how perfect a system is, it would be manipulated by the very people who helped create it: the citizens.
When it comes to our politicians, I observe what the standards that they proclaim should be and if they actually follow through. Blind loyalty is not something I approve. Between the ones with experience while is performing in my constituency and those shooting blanks in the dark, blindfolded, I prefer the former.
I am not saying that you must support Najib Razak at all cost. Or oppose Lim Kit Siang & Son, Abdul Hadi Awang, Anwar, Bini & Anak. I am asking you to examine what they are saying against the bigger picture. If you can read this article, it suggests that you have Internet access as well. If you have Internet access, then you should be able to perform a fact check easily and effortlessly to come up with your own findings:
Are the allegations true? What is the status: pending? Under investigation? Criminal charge? Appeal? Civil charge? Has it affected me up to this point? Will it really affect me? What will happen next? Why is this claim made this way? What else is at play here? What safeguard is being proposed? What can I do on my part to ensure this does not repeat?