Archive for the ‘Ethics, Morality and Patriotism’ Category

NST Leader: King of our hearts

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019
Officially, the king of Malaysia is head of state, the supreme commander of the armed forces and head of religion. — Bernama photo

THAT the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is a symbol of national pride and unity for Malaysians is a given. It is more so because Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy and one of the oldest in the world. It is in recent years, though, that the role of the king has become more substantiated as the unifying factor, voice of reason and, ultimately, the protector of the people.

Our rulers have been exemplars, among them — the Sultan of Perak is known for his extensive educational background; the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan for his business acumen; and the Sultan of Selangor for his philanthropism.

To a certain extent, the newly installed Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, has made efforts to restore the royal institution’s dignity by rejuvenating the rulers’ image in the eyes of the people.

Breaking away from tradition, Al-Sultan Abdullah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah had joined thousands of people to break fast at the Kuantan Municipal Council field during Ramadan this year. A more recent incident was when he assiduously helped an accident victim in Putrajaya. A few days earlier, he had queued up at the KFC outlet in Temerloh to buy lunch after Friday prayers. Such gestures of humility have endeared him to the people, earning him the moniker, “king of our hearts”.

Contrary to some worldviews that the monarchy is incompatible with democracy, the Malaysian monarchy has evolved over the years from simply being a figurehead to an embodiment of conscience in line with the people’s aspiration for empathetic rulers.

The monarch serves a symbolic purpose, and in a multiracial and multi-religious country such as Malaysia, the monarchy unites socially diverse groups which profess allegiance to the king, just as monarchs can unite a nation in the face of war by inspiring and motivating cohesion in times of crisis and conflict.

Malaysia is probably the most modern combination of a monarchy and democracy — the selection of the king is democratically decided through a rotation system among nine royal households who take turns at the throne every five years.

Officially, the king of Malaysia is head of state, supreme commander of the armed forces and head of religion. He, however, has to act in accordance with the Constitution.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s role is all the more pertinent today on the heels of division among certain segments of the population due to differences in political beliefs, religious understanding and disillusionment with the ideal concept of unity. It, therefore, needs to be stressed that the position of the rulers is not confined to palaces, offices or glitzy galas to officiate ceremonies. From the throne, there lies an influential power to serve as checks and balances in the government, the voice for the downtrodden and to bridge gaps of disunity.

Daulat Tuanku.

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Dr M: For the first time in history, we have achieved bipartisanship.

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: The amendment of the Federal Constitution was a historic moment for the country, reflecting total bipartisanship from leaders across the political divide, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“For the first time in history, we have achieved bipartisanship, which is total and this is an achievement for the people of Malaysia,” he told reporters during a press conference at the Parliament lobby on Tuesday (July 16).

A total of 211 of 222 MPs voted for the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019, which surpassed the two-thirds Parliament majority of 148 needed to amend the Federal Constitution. 11 MPs were not present for the vote.

Dr Mahathir also thanked all parties, including the Opposition, for supporting the Pakatan Harapan Government’s second bid to amend the Constitution.

Dr Mahathir said that those who are above the age of 18 who have yet to register under the old system, would also be eligible to vote.

“Yes, we will register them automatically,” he added.

Asked if there was a need for a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Negara, Dr Mahathir replied that it was not necessary.

Meanwhile, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, who was present during the press conference, credited the Prime Minister and Cabinet for the successful passing of the amendments.

“If there are more people saying that a 94-year-old cannot fight for the future of the youth, let this be clear evidence that at heart, he (Dr Mahathir) is younger than a lot of us, including myself,” he added.

Meanwhile, Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Steven Sim described the bipartisan effort to lower the voting age as an “amazing” achievement that all Malaysians should be proud of.

“This is a bipartisan effort, Malaysians will remember today because both sides set aside politics to come together for an important decision for Malaysia.”

Sim also quipped that the amendments to allow 18-year-olds eligible to stand in elections could bring some calm in the House.

“It’s a good sign to bring young people in as this will not only enrich the political scene in terms of discussion with a younger perspective, but also when you have younger people in the House, I think the parents will behave better.

by Tarrence Tan, Martin Carvalho, Hemananthani Sivanandam,  and Rahimy Rahim

Boundaries, rules, interests and goal of nation-building

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019
When public policy boundaries are not defined, citizens are treated as outsiders and do not cooperate in nation-building and some will oppose by taking their protests to the streets, as shown recently in Hong Kong. NST FILE PIC

AFTER 30 years in the public policy arena, I have concluded that the burning problems afflicting global communities, including those in Malaysia, have really nothing to do with better policy making per se.

Making a better “mousetrap” (or handphone) works for companies but countries are infinitely more complex. If this were not the case, we could all just copy each other’s successes in cookie cutter fashion.

Political leaders today do not face problems of coming up with killer policy ideas, although they want these very badly.

They are viciously criticised for not meeting public expectations.

The first area where many are seen to fail is in the area of boundaries. Modern nation states have, for the most part, well-defined geographical boundaries. When these boundaries are disputed, such as in the South China Sea, there is usually trouble.

There are, however, equally hot conflicts around public policy boundaries. For example, around the world, and in this country, there have been and are today pushbacks against liberalism by conservatives.

And Malaysia shares with other countries an especially corrosive type of conservatism—a hard-line brand of religious and racial conservatism. These shape mindsets and thinking of adherents in practically war-like terms.

When public policy boundaries are not broadly or inclusively defined, citizens with equal political and legal rights accorded by law are treated as outsiders.

As outsiders, they naturally do not have great incentives to cooperate in nation building.

Many will leave and some will oppose, sometimes even taking their protests on to the streets, as shown recently in Hong Kong.

If governments want to keep the peace, they tend to become schizophrenic, drawing and redrawing boundaries as the politics of the day dictate.

The second area where there is public policy confusion is in the area of rules. Once boundaries are established, rules need to be drawn up primarily to favour those within the boundaries.

As on company’s tagline goes, membership has its privileges.

There are also those who believe that our societies will be more secure and prosperous if there were more rules.

What they fail to realise is that rules, as well as the lack of rules, mainly favour public policy elites and interests.

I have seen vitally important public policies such as in education or race relations that change every few years, are not consistently implemented or even not implemented at all.

This has led me to the cynical conclusion that the lack of consistent policy or policy implementation is the de facto public policy rather than what is officially announced. If this were not the case, these problems would be resolved, or officials sacked.

And yet there are political leaders raring to use their discretionary authority to make more rules, no matter how insignificant, when they should really be reducing them.

In the past year, I can think of no instance where the latter has happened here.

Constant changing of rules and inconsistent implementation hardly contribute to political, social and economic stability. They encourage communities and individuals to circumvent the rules or ignore them altogether.

Third, and this is the biggest and most widely recognised problem since time immemorial, is the area of interests.

Effective governments are those where power is checked and balanced by the political system.

Very often, however, and this is also the case in Malaysia, executive power is so great that it can override these systemic checks, whether they be legislative, judicial or administrative.

When this happens, the checks-and-balances instituted by law no longer matters.

Facts do not matter. Engagement does not matter. Only the privilege and ad hoc priorities of the executive matter.

Certainly, those who have committed wanton acts of corruption must be objectively investigated, fairly tried and penalised on conviction.

But so too must heinous instances of mass negligent deaths, enforced disappearances and even extra-judicial killings.

In absolutely no sense, can a country be considered well run if the most vulnerable and least powerful in society are unable to have legal redress.

As my career in public policy draws to a close this week, it is sobering to conclude that gold standard public policies are not the point.

Countries that are the most progressive and succeed have the broadest boundaries, the most effective (not numerous) rules and checked interests.


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Education Ministry to investigate plagiarism claim

Monday, July 1st, 2019
The Education Ministry’s Academic Integrity Committee is looking into allegations that a graduate’s research papers were lifted and published under the name of his supervisors. — Bernama photo

PUTRAJAYA: The Education Ministry’s Academic Integrity Committee is looking into allegations that a graduate’s research papers were lifted and published under the name of his supervisors.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said in light of the allegations, the ministry will conduct a thorough probe on the matter.

“We wish to reaffirm that the Education Ministry will not tolerate any breach of trust among any academic and teaching staff which could bring the Malaysian education system into disrepute,” Maszlee said in a statement today.

Postgraduate students and other students who feel they had been ‘robbed’ and wronged are urged to lodge an official complaint with the ministry, he said.

“The ministry is aware that there had been other recent allegations about despicable, unprofessional and, certainly, unethical practices.

“Universities are urged to take such matters seriously and put an end to any malpractice,” Mazlee said.

Dr Maszlee said academic supervisors were supposed to serve as advisors and mentors, and not abuse their power.

“The ministry would like to stress that chasing points to fulfil Key Performance Indexes (KPIs) cannot be a justification or excuse for this kind of conduct,” he added.

It was reported that a foreign graduate student had alleged that his research paper was published last year at a university’s official website under the names of his research paper supervisors.

The graduate student was quoted as saying that he had contacted the supervisor in question for an explanation but did not receive a satisfactory response.

By Hashini Kavishtri Kannan.

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Asset declaration effective anti-corruption measure

Sunday, June 30th, 2019
A special motion to make it compulsory for all members of parliament to declare their assets to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission will be tabled in Parliament tomorrow.

IT’S good that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad confirmed a special motion warranting a mandatory declaration of assets by lawmakers from both sides of the political divide will be tabled tomorrow. It is hoped that every politician will support this motion.

Once approved, it will be compulsory for members of parliament as well as their family members to declare their income and assets to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). This would deter them from using their influence and abusing their positions to get financial rewards.

Prior to this, chief secretaries and heads of departments are required to declare their assets to the Public Service Department while cabinet members would declare theirs to the prime minister. This raises some questions, as failure to place this issue under an independent body results in reduced transparency. Moreover, the disclosure of assets requires expert evaluation and a monitoring agency to verify the information and take action against those who fail to comply.

There was action taken by the new government when Pakatan Harapan parliamentarians declared their assets to MACC. The information is posted on MACC’s website ( However, the declaration is confined to their monthly income and assets, and does not contain details about the assets, income sources and liabilities. As seen on the website, Dr Mahathir’s income is RM75, 861.57 and total assets are RM32,357,900. The monthly salary of a prime minister is RM20,544 and an MP, RM16,000. The monthly salary of a minister is RM13,416.

Penang state executive councillors publicly declare their assets online, in line with the competency, accountability and transparency principles.

Making an asset and income declaration public enables society to detect violations of financial disclosure requirements. It allows the public to hold leaders accountable, providing additional scrutiny and complementing the role of official oversight bodies.

Many studies reveal that an asset declaration that is open to public scrutiny is a way to ensure leaders do not abuse their power. Without a doubt, making a public declaration of assets is an effective anti-corruption tool.

Disclosure of assets should not only be done before and after taking office. Periodic net-worth analysis should also be conducted, with the records kept by forensic accounting experts and investigators. The administrator of the asset disclosure will be required to monitor, collect and evaluate information on the assets periodically.

An asset profiling system should be introduced to determine how much assets a personnel is expected to have based on his position, years of service and present and past emoluments.

Asset profiling should also include their spouses, dependents and immediate family members along with any business interests or institutions they may be part of. Those who fail to comply will be probed.

The repeated calls for transparency and full public disclosure of assets of elected and public officials go a long way towards improving the confidence of Malaysians in the integrity, accountability, transparency, trust and good governance of public administration and the government. This is also to prevent corruption, conflict of interest, collusion, and uncover illicit enrichment and false accusation of their wealth, and monitor wealth of politicians and public servants.

A good asset declaration law requires all public officials to declare their income, assets, liabilities and financial interests.

This is a valid demand because they hold power over allocation of resources and their salaries are paid through the public tax contribution. One of the steps to overcome this problem is to request the leadership of the three branches of government — the executive, legislature and judiciary — to declare their assets to the MACC.

Besides that, the MACC chief herself should declare her assets to Parliament. The declaration is in line with the belief that transparency and accountability starts at the top.

Studies show a growing trend in many countries requiring public officials to declare their assets and income. Across the world, members of the public expect their top leaders to publish information about their assets and liabilities with full transparency.

In order to improve transparency of public service and comply with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, the Macau government established the Legal Regime of Declaration of Assets and Interests in April 2013.

This covers all public office-holders, including the chief executive, the commissioner of audit, the commissioner of the unitary police service, members of legislative council, judges and public prosecutors, members of the executive council, directorship and senior management officers of public services and funds and other public legal persons, as well as chairpersons and boards of directors, administrators and supervisors.

All Commission against Corruption (CCAC) staff submit their declaration forms to the Secretariat of Court of Final Appeal while the other staff of public administration submit their forms to the Declaration of Assets and Interests Division of the CCAC. This is one of the best and most effective asset disclosure systems.

Thailand’s 1999 Organic Act on Counter Corruption requires all political office-holders and high-ranking public officials to make full disclosure of their assets and liabilities, including those of their spouses and minor children.

The National Counter Corruption Commission is responsible for publishing the financial disclosures of a number of highest-ranking public officials in the government gazette.

The asset declaration framework of Indonesia is a good and effective model which requires public officials to submit a wealth report within two months of taking office, getting promoted or transferred.

Today, Filipinos have the right to review the financial disclosures of all public officials and employees, including their spouses and unmarried minor children living in their households, pursuant to Section 8 of the 1989 Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. The Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism also posts the asset declarations of the congress and the cabinet in an online database.

This issue is more apparent now as averting corruption and questioning the rich lifestyles of various personalities have become a favourite topic of conversation in our country.

If leaders are seen to live beyond their means, which is the most common red flag, an asset declaration can be a starting point for investigations.

Economically, corruption leads to the depletion of national wealth, and integrity is an important element in a nation’s success and survival. Failing to do this may also contribute to further negative impact on the perception of corruption in our country. As such, its implementation should be without delay.

The government should also consider amending Section 36 of the MACC Act to make it easier for the MACC to compel an individual to declare his assets without having to first initiate an investigation. If this section is amended, anyone suspected of having unusual wealth would have to explain to the MACC. The amendment should top the government’s to-do list this year because it would enhance public confidence in the MACC.

There is nothing wrong with being rich as long as the accumulated assets are obtained legitimately. As such, it becomes very necessary for politicians and public servants to be honest and maintain their integrity.

By Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar

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Of sex videos, Azmin and deepfake ‘nuclear bombs’

Thursday, June 13th, 2019
June 13, 2019 @ 9:56am
Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali in his denial, says it is a nefarious plot to assassinate his reputation and character to destroy his political career. – NSTP/File pic

THE video showing two men frolicking in bed is distressful and disgusting.

So are the persons behind the recording.

Datuk Seri Azmin Ali has already vehemently denied that he is one of the men in this ‘drama’.

How this sordid affair will end, only God knows. Let the investigators do their job, let the guilty face fire and brimstone.

But this revolting episode has also pushed a piece of technology into the conversation.

It is called deepfake.

Doubtless, many would have heard about it in recent times.

It may or may not have any role in this video. But make no mistake, this scion of hell is another great existential threat to truth.

In fact, I would consider it the nuclear bomb of fake news.

It works like this: in a video, Barack Obama says, “We are entering an era in which our enemies can make it look as if anyone is saying anything in any point in time”.

The man in the video looks and sounds exactly like Obama, but the truth is, it isn’t him who mouthed those words. AI was employed to create this deception. It seems the technology is widely and easily available.

There are many explainers on the Internet. Malaysians would do well to educate themselves.

Fake news in other forms has already caused so much damage. Lives have been ruined and lost.

But this deepfake nuclear bomb may obliterate truth in a way that will make the conventional fake news appear like a mere grenade.

Think of it. A deepfake video of you shouting profanities at someone, or kicking a cat, or smooching with a lady who is not your wife, is put on the Internet. That’s merely the mildest damage this thing can do.

What if a video shows a person committing murder, stealing, etc? What if an audio recording of a religious leader saying that those of other faiths must die emerges?

Are these fantastical worries? Or will deepfake be the dagger that finally kills truth altogether?

Yes, truth will no longer be the norm. Nothing will be believable any more. We will become so suspicious of everything, we will see through things forever.

But, like the thinker C.S. Lewis said: “To ’see through’ all things is the same as not to see.” We might as well be blind. Or dead.

By David Christy.

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Dirty politics alive and kicking in New Malaysia

Thursday, June 13th, 2019
Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali denies the accusation made by an individual who had attempted to link him to a sex video which is going viral. -NSTP/File pic

KUALA LUMPUR: The emergence of a sex video allegedly of Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and a government officer has shown that even in the age of New Malaysia, such political tactics still are resorted to.

The video has made its rounds on the Internet, but it was the media fraternity that first became its unwilling victims.

They were added into a Whats-App group, claiming to be a Hari Raya event invitation.

What came instead was a shock.

The majority of social media users have expressed their disappointment at the prevalence of such dirty tactics.

Azmin, in his denial, said it was a nefarious plot to assassinate his reputation and character to destroy his political career.

What took many by surprise, however, was a supposed video confession allegedly by Muhammad Haziq Abdul Aziz — the senior private secretary to Deputy Primary Industries Minister Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin — who declared that it was him and Azmin in the video.

However, Haziq has yet to speak to the media to clarify whether the confession is genuine, and whether it is indeed him in the video.

Character assassination is nothing new in Malaysian politics. The only thing that’s changed is the medium used to do it.

Whatever one receives can easily be shared and re-shared by netizens on multiple social media platforms, instantly killing characters and years of effort taken to build them.

“Social media is a faceless community. In most cases, you do not see the person who likes your photos, or shares your ideas.

“It is where people tweet and send threatening messages to strangers without a care in the world, all in the name of fun.

“Let me just say that it is never fun being at the receiving end of character assassination,” said political and social media analyst Associate Professor Dr Sara Chinnasamy.

The supposed confession, however, has raised eyebrows.

Why would someone who had built a political reputation for himself over the years tarnish himself by confessing to the act? Why risk himself, his safety, and evidently, his freedom?

Lawyer Nizam Bashir said with Azmin’s denial, the burden now lied with his accuser to prove that his statement was not defamatory.

“Now that (Azmin) has denied his involvement, the ball is back in his accuser’s court. The accuser needs to succeed in saying that his statement is not defamatory, by perhaps showing that what he said is fair comment.

“This, meaning that his comment, which though defamatory, cannot be sued upon as it is an opinion on a matter of public interest.”

Muslim Lawyers Association of Malaysia president Datuk Seri Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar said a report was needed to enable an investigation to be conducted before the prosecution proceedings.

He added that the accuser could be charged for a criminal offence under syariah or civil law for his public confession.

“However, under the double jeopardy principle in law, the person cannot be charged for the same offence in two separate courts,” he said yesterday.

Those in possession of the video also have to be careful — Section 211 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 prohibits the publication of offensive content on the Internet.

It stipulates that any person found to provide content which is indecent, obscene, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person may be liable to a fine not exceeding RM50,000 or jail term not exceeding one year, or both.

By Hana Naz Harun.

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Stop dumping rubbish into drain!

Monday, June 10th, 2019

Scores of rubbish accumulating at a corner of the flood mitigation drain near the Fortuna Commercial Centre, Jalan Penampang, are cleared on a daily basis.

The unsightly view of mass rubbish floating on the murky waters inside the structure is prominent from the main road.

JASON, who lives in Taman Fortuna, told Hotline on June 3 that the flooding problem plaguing certain areas from Lido to Fortuna was partly due to rubbish clogging housing drains, including monsoon drains.

“I’ve been living in this neighbourhood for more than 20 years and I have never seen the flood mitigation drain free from rubbish and all kinds of junks.

“What saddens me is that the amount of rubbish has increased 10-fold now compared to 20 years ago,” he added.

He said he had seen people throwing plastic bags into the monsoon drain on many occasions.

“I fear that toxic waste is also being discharged into the structure,” he added.

A City Hall spokesman warned the public to stop treating the monsoon drain as a place to discard unwanted solid objects.

“Removing an old refrigerator, a water tank, used tyres and other objects from the drain is not something new to us,” he said, adding that the amount of refuse that had been picked up from the structure could reach a tonne.

He said the drains in Kepayan and near the State Museum also faced similar problem.

“This is why we fish out all waste materials from the drain on a daily basis,” he added.

He said its workers are on the lookout for those who litter the drain and those caught would be issued a RM500 compound under its Anti-Litter Bylaws 1984. (OV)

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Will Latheefa be impartial?

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

LATHEEFA Koya was the last person I spoke to before I was arrested (but never charged) as part of an Official Secrets Act investigation back in 2007.

She was of great help to me then, and I remain grateful to her and to the many others who stood in solidarity with me.

When it was all over and done, I remember having this feeling like she had patted me on the back, proud of my mini baptism of fire as an activist of sorts.

Needless to say, she had trod that path long before me, and I looked up to her as a senior.

That was 12 years ago, and since that time, we’ve come some ways. I think in 2012 we were still friendly, but during the time of the Kajang Move in 2014, we found ourselves on opposing political sides, and I learned what it was like to be on the receiving end of a particular type of … criticism, is perhaps the word I’d use here and now.

It took me a while to find, but those criticisms are still online.

I state all this in some attempt to put cards on the table. Someone with absolutely no connection or past with Latheefa might be seen to offer more objective, impartial views.

That said, I will do my best, and hope for the writing to speak for itself.

This article will try to discuss the ideal criteria for an MACC chief commissioner, the question of how baggage may affect questions of impartiality, and the larger political context.

Let us begin by asking what some of the desirable characteristics of an MACC chief might be.

I will list out a few that come to mind, and presumptuously assign how I personally think Latheefa scores on these characteristics. No one is under any obligation to take my humble assessment with any seriousness.

I would say the characteristics of a good MACC commissioner should include: fearlessness (10/10), dedication to justice (9/10), relevant experience (5/10), being (almost universally) seen as impartial (2/10), and being the epitome of cool-headed professionalism (2/10).

The one thing I think all can agree on is that Latheefa is fearless. She speaks her mind, and with a very sharp tongue at that.

“The one thing” here may be meant quite literally. How one feels about a sharp tongue tends to depend on whether or not it is uttering things you agree with or not.

If it is, then you praise the speaker as a “straight talker”. If it isn’t, then you criticise the speaker as a “hatchet man” (or woman) or “attack dog”.

The latter term is particularly impolite, but I imagine Latheefa has been called all three of the above and more. Not that it has ever deterred her, which again, is why all can agree that she is fearless.

I’m not sure there’s very much else everyone else agrees on.

These last few days have demonstrated quite clearly how polarising a figure Latheefa is. There are some who love her, and some who hate her. It might not be a stretch to say that the latter consists more of Pakatan Harapan supporters, rather than Barisan Nasional ones.

Latheefa has also had an undisputed record of being dedicated to activism. She has spoken out strongly on cases of deaths in detention, statelessness, refugee welfare, and other human rights abuses.

Not everyone in politics or government necessarily needs to have a cool head. It would be nice, but realistically, we live in an age of sensational gravity, and we all know that slamming tables and shouting is what gains attention.

That’s fair enough, for politics at least.

The MACC chief commissioner is however a civil servant – and furthermore, one who is tasked with investigating other civil servants as well as politicians.

Politicians in particular are by definition, partisan. There are many different parties, and many different camps within each party.

Suaam (Suara Rakyat Malaysia) adviser Dr Kua Kia Soong wrote: “Latheefa no doubt has a range of valuable skills, experience and qualities. However, her political independence is sadly not one of them.

“In the public eye, Latheefa has for many years been known as a PKR stalwart and leader who makes political statements not only pertaining to other political parties but also to factions within PKR itself.”

background piece in The Star observed how Latheefa had fierce words for prime minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof.

I believe she had some choice words for Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh as well last year.

In 2017 meanwhile, Latheefa engaged in a very public spat with PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli, once again over the Kajang Move.

The Star columnist Joceline Tan was one of the few who spoke directly to the heart of the matter: “Latheefa’s past involvement in PKR politics also raises concerns about her independence.

“She was closely associated with what the PKR crowd called the ‘Azmin cartel’ during the PKR election. She was very critical of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail for their involvement in the polls and had launched broadsides against them.

“There is little doubt she will be firing on all cylinders against Barisan Nasional wrong-doers but can she be professional if there is a report against, say, Datuk Seri Azmin Ali?

“Politicians have been among the biggest crooks in the country and PAS vice-president Datuk Iskandar Samad put it in a nutshell when he said that an agency that will be investigating politicians should not be led by a politician.

Latheefa’s stormy ties with Anwar have naturally led to speculation that she is there to make things difficult for the prime minister-in-waiting.”

It would be remiss of me or anyone else to automatically assume or accuse Latheefa of bias or prejudice of any sort.

As someone who works in public perception however, the more I thought about it, the more impossible things seem to be for her.

Let’s just imagine hypothetically that the MACC opens a file on Anwar, or someone closely linked to him.

Whether or not Anwar is guilty, with Latheefa heading the MACC, the credibility of the investigation would already be compromised, as many will accuse the investigation of being politically motivated.

How can they not, given Latheefa’s history with Anwar?

In the same way, if there is even any whiff of rumour associating Azmin (incidentally, did anyone take a close look at his asset declaration?) or his associates with corruption, and there is no MACC investigation – or even if there is an investigation which exonerates them – the MACC will again be accused of bias, regardless of actual guilt or innocence.

Thus, there should ideally be no reason whatsoever for any reasonable person to question the partiality or the integrity of the MACC chief commissioner, based on his or her past.

In Latheefa’s case, there seems to be way too much ammunition to draw upon to do just that. Resigning one’s party membership will not make all this baggage disappear overnight.

While she has openly questioned mine in the past, I (believe it or not) don’t feel that Latheefa’s past automatically or conclusively compromises her present integrity – most of us are really in no position whatsoever to ascertain that, one way or another.

I think it’s fair to say however, at a public perception level, there is little to no way that her history and past of crossing swords with all sorts of people in the political arena is an asset rather than a liability – not just to her, but to the MACC and the government as a whole.

Ultimately, the appointment raises more questions than it answers.

The enduring elephant in the room of Malaysian politics is whether or not Anwar will finally succeed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister.

As Joceline Tan and others have observed multiple times over, the nexus of Azmin and Tun Daim Zainuddin seem to be the ones most interested in preventing this from happening.

This conflict becomes exceedingly obvious in the wake of how PKR leaders have responded to Latheefa’s appointment predictably in direct proportion to where they stand on the Azmin vs Anwar spectrum.

Azmin himself was very supportive of the appointment, as were associates like Zuraida Kamaruddin and Shamsul Iskandar; whereas more Anwar-aligned leaders like William Leong, Fahmi Fadzil, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad and Anwar himself all reacted far more cautiously

indeed, despite his repeated assurances that Anwar will succeed him, this is arguably Dr Mahathir’s biggest show of support for the Azmin-Daim vision. Up till now, there seemed to be precious little to suggest that Dr Mahathir may renege on his word.

After all, why Latheefa? If you wanted an external expert on corruption, there is C4’s Cynthia Gabriel or Fadiah Nadwa Fikri (also a lawyer with extensive human rights credentials and qualifications), human rights lawyer Edmund Bon, Rafizi, Professor Terence Gomez, and so on.

If you just wanted a fierce firebrand with a sharp tongue, you could just as well have appointed Hishamuddin Rais or Ibrahim Ali for that matter.

If you wanted to give Latheefa a role in government, fair enough as well. She is talented and qualified, with a lot of relevant experience in certain fields. There is the upcoming IPCMC (Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission), or various commissions and taskforces related to stateless people, refugees and so on.

Civil society seems polarised on this issue as well. Many know Latheefa personally and are thrilled at the appointment.

Others were more circumspect. After all, if a prominent Umno lawyer or activist – or someone with a ‘passion’ for a particular camp within Umno like Raja Petra Kamaruddin – was appointed to this post under Datuk Seri Najib Razak administration, what would civil society’s reaction have been?

The timing of the announcement on the very eve of Hari Raya, just as everyone was getting in the mood to dig into lemang and rendang, also raised eyebrows. Was this to minimise debate and polemics?

Given all these factors, surely the intense speculation and debate that has ensued is understandable. Will it rage on, and take the focus away from the primary business of fighting corruption?

I’m sure Latheefa doesn’t think so, and she has said as such, on her first day on the job. Good for her.

As for the rest of us, there are two main possibilities. The first is that Dr Mahathir will backtrack, the same way he did about becoming Education Minister, and about Icerd (the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) and about the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court.

This seems relatively unlikely. The second possibility, that Latheefa will carry on, seems much more likely.

In that case, the fairest thing to do for now is to let her work speak for itself. Time will tell.

As with all government leaders, we should assess their work fairly and objectively. As with any incoming MACC chief commissioner, close attention must be paid to see whether there is a new pattern as to who is investigated and who is not.

I am generally wary of looking like I am telling any woman – especially one as fierce and accomplished as Latheefa, whom we can proudly point to as Malaysia’s first woman MACC chief commissioner – how they should speak; in this particular context, there is the ever so small chance that it may be appropriate to say that given her new, public post, it may be wise to go easy on the political and partisan public tongue lashings for which she has previously been famous.

By Nathaniel Tan
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Ramadan in the garden of knowledge and virtue

Saturday, June 8th, 2019
A member of the congregration at the World Quran Hour at the International Islamic University Malaysia. PIC BY ASYRAF HAMZAH

MY stint in IIUM thus far is no less than business unusual. There are too many tales to tell. For now, I would like to focus on the experience during e Ramadan, my first in this Garden of Knowledge and Virtue as this serene campus‎ is also known as. It was preceded by the World Quran Hour graced by the sultan of Perak.

Knowledge has always been likened to a tree with its many branches representing the many disciplines of knowledge, some bearing fruits and flowers. This metaphor is what defines a university.

The more the branches, the “lusher” the tree, compared to some institutions that prefer to pick and choose what is “marketable” while trimming off the branches that are said to be “irrelevant”  to the marketplace.

Such a tree is somewhat “artificial” and imbalanced (read unsustainable), academically speaking. A hefty price that we are beginning to pay as the knowledge purveyors are themselves imbalanced as reflected in the many human-induced crises of today. This is indeed the crux of knowledge-deficit that is being promoted as “world-class” education — one without a soul

To speak of the soul of education is to recognise what “virtue” is all about. For virtue is the root of the tree, so to speak; the unseen part underneath a tree that gives rise to the whole tree, any tree

Just like the whole person whom the Quran likened to a “good” tree, and the virtue that is rooted therein. There is no tree without roots (except for “artificial” ones) and in fact the latter determines the quality of the former.

When the roots are left to rot the tree will eventually collapse. Easily uprooted, as warned by the Quran. This means ensuring the growth of the tree of knowledge in a “balanced” way is to tend to its roots foremost.

It is in this sense that Ramadan in IIUM is deeply rooted to provide the much-needed “balance” to the acquired disciplines of knowledge. It is the inspiration that changes knowledge into wisdom; the reflection that brings about courage for transformational changes; and the practice that realises the real meaning of virtues into reality.

This is made possible by nurturing values like humility, patience, tolerance, justice and trustworthiness which are the foundation for a balanced being to be manifested harmoniously as the Ramadan man (Homo ramadanus).

Hence Ramadan is set for the higher purpose of restoring or perfecting the balance in maturing a holistic person — balanced and complete. This acts as the bedrock to move forward beyond the month of Ramadan. In other words, it has to be internalised as a way of daily living in the Garden of Knowledge and Virtue.

For that reason alone it adds deeper dimensions to the practice of mere fasting. Meaning, we are constantly all the time aware of a balanced life that will lead us out of Ramadan until the next one.

These deeper dimensions are spread throughout the garden campus with its international community of 700-odd members from more than 110 countries. The culmination of this came during the congregation for Eidul Fitri prayer at the dawning of Syawal.

They were not limited to the IIUM community, but also from nearby communities and other campuses throughout the length and breadth of the peninsula, renewing acquaintances in the spirit of Syawal. Seeking forgiveness and strengthening fellowship.

It was yet another experience to behold, unmistakenly like that of the Holy City of Makkah where the mix and aura are beyond description except for those who had gone on the holy pilgrimage whose memberships ranged far and wide.

For instance, standing in line with the rest in prayer was the ambassador of Yemen and other dignitaries who preferred to be in the Makkah-like environment. The camaraderie was total and undivided. As though the ummah was actually one, despite the intra-ummah divisions apparent from the 14th OIC Summit held a couple of days before during Ramadan.

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.

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