One of the oaths that an Umno Baru minister takes is: “Never Apologise. Make excuses. Find scapegoats.” Actually this is not quite true, but from what we see of our ministers, there might be some truth in it.
In Malaysia, ‘real’ news and history will only be made when our Umno Baru leaders take responsibility for their actions and say the sensitive word, “Sorry!” Currently, our leaders are defined by the four Us; Unapologetic. Unaccountable. Unashamed. U-turns (these frequently appear in Umno Baru policies).
Yesterday, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigned over his government’s poor handling of the Sewol ferry recovery operations. The vessel sank on April 16 with the loss of 300 lives. We cannot help but compare Malaysia with South Korea.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared from the skies on March 8 and no wreckage has been found. There are 329 people still missing. Six weeks later, South Korea suffered its own tragedy when the ferrySewol sank. Most of the dead or missing were teenage students on a school outing.
In both cases, there has been mishandling of the rescue operations by the governments, with poor information gathering, a slow response by the rescue teams and conflicting information.
Chung apologised for the many problems and early handling of the disaster. He said, “There are too many irregularities and malpractices in parts of society that have been with us too long and I hope those are corrected so that accidents like this will not happen again.”
In South Korea, the leaders understand the phrase “the buck stops here”. In Malaysia, Hishammuddin brushed criticism aside and said, “History will judge us well” and that “we have done an admirable job”.
Malaysians know that the “irregularities and malpractices” which Chung alluded to, also exist in Malaysian society, but our leaders live in their own make-believe world, or are in denial. Our leaders don’t make apologies. They excel at making excuses and finding scapegoats.
Hishammuddin also told reporters, “Not many countries could get 26 countries to work together” and at the United States-Asean Defence Forum (USDAF) in Hawaii on April 2, he said, “I also appealed to those with the right kind of assets to continue to assist us.”
Ever since the former PM Mahathir Mohamad’s era, Malaysians have been obsessed with the quest to be the country with the biggest, best, longest, heaviest, just to gain a mention in the Guinness Book of Records.
Despite all his good intentions, and despite nations acting for humanitarian reasons, Hishammuddin’s boast of being able to enlist the help of 26 nations, sounded like an attempt on another ‘Malaysia Boleh’ record.
A month after MH370 disappeared, the MAS CEO, Ahmad Jauhari Yahaya, dismissed urgings that he resign. He said, “As far as my personal decision is concerned, I still have work to do here”, but as far as many MAS passengers and crew are concerned, Jauhari and previous MAS chairpersons were given many years to solve the woes of MAS, but did nothing. Jauhari was slow to defend his pilot and co-pilot when their reputations were trashed in the papers.
Recently, when many MAS flights appeared to suffer from mechanical failures, the IGP Khalid Abu Bakar said he was looking into the possibility of sabotage. No mention was made of Malaysia’s poor implementation of preventive maintenance. When quizzed about the stolen passports of passengers on MH370, he said, “Don’t ask me. Ask Interpol. Ask immigration.”
Integrity a key ingredient
Mahathir’s ‘Look East’ policy, introduced in 1981, was initiated so that Malaysia could emulate the economic success of countries like Japan and South Korea. Unfortunately, Mahathir forgot to impress on his party, one important ingredient; the integrity of the leaders.
Malaysian leaders have no self-respect, nor respect for the rakyat. They are devoid of a conscience and also lack dignity. Our leaders are consumed with money, material wealth and power. They have forgotten the meaning of honour.
‘Look East’ has failed miserably. In 1962, Malaysia’s GDP per capita was nearly three times that of South Korea. Its GDP per capita then was US$292, versus that of South Korea which was US$104.
By 1984, Malaysia’s GDP stood at US$2,254 and South Korea was US$2,307. The two countries were almost level.
By 2004, South Korea had outstripped Malaysia and its GDP per capita was USD15,029, which is three times that of Malaysia’s GDP per capita of USD4,918.
MH370 may have exposed the current crop of bad leaders but in the past, other Malaysian politicians have also failed to apologise for their actions.
Former women, family and community development minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil refused to resign over her family’s involvement in the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal. She acted as thought she was the wronged woman. She felt like her family had been betrayed, when it was her family who had betrayed the trust of the rakyat by defrauding them.
Her husband’s response was to intimidate anyone who mentioned the NFC scandal and to sue them. Being arrogant and threatening are the hallmarks of Ketuanan Melayu.
Former Sarawak chief minister Taib Mahmud denied that the poverty of the people of Sarawak was due to his failure to channel funds into the state’s development and education. He said his family was rich and successful because his children were intelligent and were blessed with business acumen, unlike the people of Sarawak.
No pupil can be as good as their master. Mahathir blamed the missing MH370 on Boeing for building a plane with communication and tracking systems which could be disabled too easily. Mahathir has never said sorry for any of his misdeeds. He manages to find scapegoats or make excuses.
Two days after MH370 disappeared, Najib bragged about being able to source a RM1 chicken. He told the rakyat to stop moaning about price hikes and instead, look for bargains. The photo of a smiling Najib holding the trussed-up, one ringgit chicken is a good metaphor for the Malaysian rakyat being shackled by its leaders.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).