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Bishop: Polls anything but free and fair

 | May 17, 2013

Bishop Paul Tan explains that while he abstains from partisan politics, he supports electoral watchdog Bersih in its cause for free and fair polls.

INTERVIEW

PETALING JAYA: An outspoken Catholic cleric has cast aspersion on the 13th general election with regard to the battle for Putrajaya being clean and fair.

Bishop Paul Tan said this in reference to the report of the Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) and Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS).

“IDEAS and CPPS have done an interim report. In it, there is this conclusion: ‘GE13 was only partially free and not fair’. I find it difficult to believe that the report could conclude this…

“But when it concluded ‘only partially free’ for the three reasons given that are fraught with irregularities as reported in the said report, the people involved are not objective,” he said.

“From the multiple examples of irregularities arrived in the report, permit me to use a stronger phrase than that of IDEAS and CPPS: GE13 is anything but transparently ‘free and fair’,” he added.

Tan, who heads the Malacca and Johor diocese, conceded that he could be wrong but stressed that he was morally obliged to speak out at this time because of the immorality practiced before and during GE13.

“If I didn’t speak up, I would have to answer to my God and my Church,” he said.

Tan said while he obeyed the Catholic Church’s teaching that clerics must not take sides in partisan politics, he noted that the church also taught that clerics must speak out against immoralities and against all that go against human rights.

“As a religious person in my role as bishop, I am in a dilemma vis-a-vis to what extent should I allow a certain degree of immorality or infringement against human rights to go on unpunished before denouncing them publicly,” he added.

For a long time, Tan said, there had not been sufficient action taken against immorality in its widest sense, especially corruption.

“Some attempts have been made by related government departments to deal with the matter. In ‘grosso modo’, it has not been effective. Only a few small fish have been caught, the big fish was left untouched.

“The consequence of this ‘laissez faire’ lifestyle is that it has produced massive corruption, cheating and immoral manipulation of the people to garner votes for one’s political party.

“Unfortunately, this cuts across the boundaries of all parties. The degree lies in the extent of corruption,” he added.

‘Are we not ashamed?’

The bishop also noted that the most obvious example was the lavish manner in which the Najib administration threw cash to get votes.

“Where is our country going? Are cheating and corruption condoned as part of our Malaysian culture? Are we not ashamed of our country being an immoral society?

“We must all reflect and examine our consciences. What sort of nation do we want our country to be, moral or immoral? Undoubtedly, all will want a ‘moral country’.

“But what sort of morality do we want? It is here that the degree of permissiveness comes into play. To what extent can we tolerate it before stringent action is taken to punish the unscrupulous?” he added.

Condemning money politics, Tan said even if it was considered “legalised corruption”, it does not exonerate the guilt of the ones involved.

“Corruption is corruption, even if one was to dress it up like a queen. A toilet remains a toilet, even if one gives it the beautiful terms of ‘comfort room’ or ‘powder room’,” he added.

The bishop explained that while he abstained from partisan politics, he supported electoral watchdog Bersih in its cause for free and fair polls.

“Any rational and moral person will support it,” he said.


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