Is PAS out of touch with common good?

The Association for Community and Dialogue (ACID) is concerned about the statement by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang that the asset declaration initiative was derived from communist and socialist philosophies, a system he claimed is practised by DAP.

He goes on to say that the socialists want to limit wealth, but in fact, the leaders in socialist countries are the richest. He has not provided concrete examples of socialist countries to back his claims.

This statement indicates the intellectual bankruptcy and moral relativism practised by the PAS leadership since it interprets issues of integrity from a political and ideological viewpoint.

While it is true that some leaders in so-called socialist countries acquire wealth with impunity, one has to distinguish between a modern, accountable and transparent socialist democratic system and an authoritarian political socialist system.

It is also vital for the PAS president to ask why the prosecution of 1MDB offenders only happened after Pakatan Harapan took over the government. Was it not due to the authoritarian legacy of Umno leaders after the 1980s where public accountability on issues of corruption was never part of its DNA? Was it not due to the wealth accumulated by individuals whose assets have never been declared in an honest manner?

The importance of the declaration of assets stems from the importance of integrity in public office. In modern public management which is derived from moral philosophies, integrity starts from the person who holds office.

Individual declaration of assets cannot be construed from a political-ideological basis but on the basis of common good.

If one looks at the West, especially the Scandinavian countries, they have moved ahead of many Islamic countries due to the socialist philosophy of their previous political leaders. Countries like Norway, Sweden and Denmark, which are progressive and wealthy, have modern humanistic health and education systems which have their roots and legacy in the Christian service of common good.

This all started with leaders in public realms who have developed the capacity to work for the common good instead of accumulating wealth for selfish gains.

For example, in Norway, the Government Pension Fund Global, also known as Oil Fund, was established in 1990 to invest the surplus revenues of the Norwegian petroleum sector. It has over US$1 trillion in assets, including 1.3% of global stocks and shares, making it the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. In May 2018, it was worth about US$195,000 per Norwegian citizen.

Many companies with vested interest are excluded from this fund on ethical grounds. The fund managers have managed the fund with a socialist mindset for the common good. Not everything is derived from Marxist ideology. There is no black and white thinking such as that of the PAS leaders who like to distinguish between its ideological understanding of Islam in opposition to others.

It is time that PAS learns that not everything that is socialist is communist. It has to learn modern principles of competency, accountability and transparency which have their roots in the spirituality of common good. It all starts with individuals of integrity. Politicians can prove their integrity starting with the declaration of assets. Since the 1MDB scandal, Malaysia is in a dire need of political leaders with integrity.

One cannot assume that if one subscribes to certain religious ideology one is perfect. Integrity has to be demonstrated through action to serve the common good.

Ronald Benjamin is the secretary for the Association for Community and Dialogue.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.