Integrity is the core attribute of a great leader. It is an uncompromising commitment to do what is right and refrain from doing what is wrong.
Every human is born with a conscience and therefore the ability to know what is right and wrong. Choosing the right, regardless of the consequence, is the hallmark of integrity.
Sultan Nazrin Shah said the problems faced by Muslims currently were caused by a lack of integrity among those entrusted with power.
He said a leader with no integrity would cause his people to suffer. Such a leader would be more concerned with wealth acquisition for himself, family members and cronies and this would ultimately cause leakages in a country’s resources, lopsided development, a rise in unemployment, high crime and corruption.
Sultan Nazrin urged Muslim leaders to follow the noble values practised by Prophet Muhammad. He said the Prophet was not swayed by worldly riches and never sought to enrich himself or his family. Nobody became wealthy by being close to the Prophet.
Perhaps we could add to that to say that God in His infinite knowledge and wisdom had chosen Muhammad as His Prophet not for his expertise in science, arts or culture. He was a mere trader who could neither read nor write. But he was a man well known for his great humility, integrity and honesty.
God knew that these character traits of Muhammad set him apart from others.
The flip side to integrity is corruption. Without integrity as the core value in public office and national lifestyle, corruption will be endemic and it will become a national culture.
According to Transparency International-Malaysia, the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of the country has improved since Pakatan Harapan became the government in May 2018.
In 2017, the country ranked 62 from among 180 countries surveyed, the worst position over 5 years since the annual CPI was introduced in 1994. Seven months under the new government, the country improved one notch to 61st position. Hopefully things will improve further in the years ahead.
TI-M has also revealed their survey which showed that among the institutions in Malaysia, the political parties are the most corrupt.
And according to the European Research Center on Index Public Integrity (IPI), Malaysia is placed at number 45 from 109 countries surveyed together with Namibia followed by Botswana at number 47 and El Salvador at number 48 on the list of 109 countries surveyed. The top 20 countries are all from the western world.
Lately there has been a lot of talk and much discourse on the issue of integrity in relation to the political actions and conduct of political parties like PAS, Umno, as well as PH and their leaders.
They have come under intense scrutiny and spotlight following a few cases which involve the integrity of the political parties and their leaders.
Problems in PAS and Umno
The problem in Umno and PAS on the issue of integrity and credibility is nothing new. The malady of trust deficit suffered by Umno has been acknowledged by many as one of the main reasons for their ignominious defeat by PH at the 2018 elections.
PAS has been seen as complicit with Umno and was in a clandestine relationship with Umno. The facts have been obvious to all but both parties have denied the tryst. Only lately were they willing to acknowledge their political pact and relationship.
PAS’s lack of transparency and candour on many political issues has only served to erode public trust in them.
It is obvious that Umno has lost the leadership spirit of Tun Razak built on the values of integrity and honesty in as much as PAS has failed to live up to the high standard of idealism of the late Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat.
PAS and Umno had hardly rebuilt the public trust in them before they were hit yet again with another credibility crisis. This came on the heels of Hadi’s withdrawal of the defamation suit against Clare Rewcastle-Brown.
After much fanfare and tough talking about the case filed in the London High Court, Hadi made a volte-face by withdrawing the suit.
People read and interpreted Hadi’s latest action as a tacit acknowledgement of the allegations and averments on the RM90 million money given to PAS or its key leaders by Umno as bribery and enticement to work out a political collaboration with Umno.
In fact, a video that has gone viral showed Hadi at a dialogue session early this year acknowledging that if he were to withdraw the suit against Rewcastle-Brown, it would mean what she said was true.
A list purportedly taken from the court documents has also been posted on social media, claiming that many PAS senior leaders have been living a lavish lifestyle lately through the ill-gotten gains from Umno. They include the PAS Murshidul Am Hashim Jasin, who admitted that the luxury Porsche car was indeed registered under his name but he nevertheless said it was not his.
The latest damning piece of evidence is the admission by Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Aziz that the earlier audio recording of a man acknowledging that PAS had received money from Umno was indeed him. He not only acknowledged the fact about the payments but proudly claimed that PAS was smart and Umno stupid in the matter.
Nik Abduh claimed that he had lied and denied earlier on about the said recording with the full blessings of Hadi.
He further claimed that his late father, Nik Aziz, had also lied to protect secrets of the party.
Lest we forget, the MP for Kuala Nerus, Khairuddin Aman Razali had also declared that the said audio recording was not the voice of Nik Abduh. People believed him then as he was said to have also been present at the function with Nik Abduh.
The people are astounded and astonished at the latest developments in the Islamic party. They could well understand the Machiavellian game of politics played out by secular leaders. But they find it hard to swallow and ingest lies and deception practised by men of religion or political leaders who regularly spew out verses of the Quran and Hadith as the basis and justification for their political actions and decisions.
People have every right to expect them to show exemplary leadership and they owe the people a moral duty to lead by a higher code of conduct. The premise to this code of conduct is integrity and honesty.
The latest explosive 65-page affidavit by a Court of Appeal judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer about judicial misconduct among top judges just reconfirms the public’s suspicion and mistrust of the judiciary all along.
The expose by a sitting judge no less, is causing waves among the people and legal fraternity.
Since it is a developing news story with the facts and circumstances of the case still unclear, let us give it a bit of time before we make our critical commentary of it.
But for sure it is going to develop into another big issue which may severely implicate the previous government and possibly with ramifications to the new government as well.
PH too has not been spared and freed from being embroiled in the issues of integrity. Some recent episodes that have brought great disrepute to them include:
1. Dubious degrees
A number of PH leaders holding ministerial positions are embroiled in controversy about their academic credentials.
They were said to have made dubious claims or misrepresentations about their academic qualifications. Or if the dubious qualifications had not been made by them, their guilt was by keeping quiet, allowing it to remain and they did not correct it at the earliest opportunity. Only after it blew out in the open, did they attempt to explain.
The issue raised by the people is not about the lack of academic qualifications of the leaders, but more about the question of integrity when deception or misrepresentation is used to mislead the public.
People know too well and can readily accept the fact that there are many capable leaders who do not possess high academic credentials. Winston Churchill, George Washington, John Rockefeller, Steve Jobs and many others are some of the great leaders who did not possess high academic qualifications but were nevertheless accepted by the people as distinguished leaders.
2. Police trip to Turkey
Recently, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng revealed that gambling company Da Ma Cai had sponsored the study tour of a delegation of top police officers which included the police chief, his deputy and some heads of departments to Istanbul to study the online gaming business.
Apparently the programme and sponsorship had been approved earlier under Najib Razak’s administration.
Many parties had expressed concern about the said programme. Questions were raised why the home minister had approved the said programme for the benefit of a law enforcement agency.
Will it not make the police feel beholden to the company and their integrity seen as being compromised?
3. PPBM accepting ex-Umno leaders
Another recent controversy concerns Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to accept seven ex-Umno MPs as PPBM members. This move did not sit well with DAP and PKR, the other two key parties that make up PH.
Amanah appears amenable to Mahathir and his decision. But on the ground, there is ample evidence to show that the people are dismayed and were taken aback by this in the light of Mahathir’s earlier assurance that PH would not be accepting them. At least not so soon.
While the people were trying to make sense of this latest development and its impact on the PH government, they were given another bombshell with Mahathir saying that if DAP, PKR and Amanah were to betray the nation, then he would be looking for other parties to form a new coalition.
The people were stunned, speechless and cannot not understand the reason why the said statement was made.
It leads or forces the people to start wondering whether we are now seeing the seeds of disintegration and destruction of PH as a coalition and are we looking at the prospect of a new power equation coming into being to replace the existing order?
Is this what it is all about and the end result to all the sacrifices of the people and years of resistance against the Umno-BN government?
Alas, what a tragedy and travesty of justice that would be if indeed that is what which lies ahead.
Generally people understand that the dynamics of politics is very fluid and we need to be pragmatic in adapting to new facts and realities. The people acknowledge that what may not be possible or right today may become possible and right tomorrow.
On accepting ex-Umno leaders, it could be worked out if first and foremost the component parties in PH could work out a consensus between them. Then the leaders must reach out to the people to explain the change in position.
Only then could we move forward with greater understanding and in unison to build the nation or face our common enemies.
It is not too late for Mahathir to address the problem and contain the fallout. Mahathir has the charisma and clout to forge the understanding and unity as he had done during GE14.
People voted for PH in the hope that the new government would usher them to a new era of, peace, harmony and prosperity under Malaysia Baru.
The people had risen from their slumber, years of sufferings and were prepared to make their political stand because they were inspired and they believed in the collective leadership of PH leaders.
Now, at this critical juncture and hour, the leadership must not forsake the people who have faithfully rallied behind them.
They must maintain the unity within the PH government. They must work out whatever differences among them in the spirit of tolerance, goodwill and plenty of give-and-take.
The main responsibility lies on Mahathir to lead the way and show his statesmanship.
Wan Haron Wan Hassan is a senior lawyer and an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.