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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Monday, February 05, 2024

Anwar's Anti-Corruption Crusade Is Less Machiavellian, More Pragmatism

 Anwar’s Anti-Corruption Crusade Is Less Machiavellian, More Pragmatism

M. Bakri Musa


It was pathetic to see ailing former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin hauled into court bent over in his wheelchair. His pseudo bravado assertion, “I am not too bothered about my fate now. Let Anwar throw everything at me!” only made it worse.


            Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed too blamed Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC’s) investigations of Mahathir’s now obscenely wealthy sons.


            The pair reveals more about themselves and their mode of governance than of Anwar. It is now obvious that Mahathir had used MACC and other apparatus of the government to bludgeon his political enemies. Anwar could testify to that; he was Mahathir’s most brutalized victim.


            Today that world has changed, and for the better. Anwar is letting MACC do its job without interference; a novel concept to the pair and incredulous to Malaysians long used to Mahathir’s corrosive one-man show. That also explains why Malaysia is in such a pathetic mess today, with corruption entrenched at the highest levels and in all sectors. Anwar has made good his intention to combat corruption, much to the horror of the likes of Daim and Mahathir.


            The new Agung, Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim, too had declared his abhorrence for and determination to hunt “all the corrupt people.” In an added pointed reference, “even those nearing a hundred years.” With both titular and political heads now treating corruption for what it is – a lethal societal cancer – I hope others, in particular religious and intellectual leaders, would also join in this critical crusade.


            Ulama in particular have a major role both in their sermons as well as in their personal behaviors. In sermons, be less obsessed with the Hereafter and emphasize the Hell right here and now that are the consequences of corruption. Witness the hellish faces of Covid-19 patients desperate for their last breaths because of faulty ventilators, another product of corruption. Their loved ones too went through hell.


            Likewise what is the message when our ulama are flown in luxurious corporate jets for their Hajj and umrah while failing to disclose who paid for those luxuries? How to explain to the poor fisherman in Kelantan when the Federal Mufti who was also a former cabinet minister diverted zakat funds to finance his son’s university education?


            Religious leaders should focus on leading the flock along the straight path, away from corruption, a challenging enough assignment. Quit being politicians. The Qur’anic Day of Judgement is as much conceptual and metaphorical as real and temporal. Ask the likes of Daims, Najibs, and Mahathirs. As to what awaits them in the Hereafter, Allah hu allam (Only Allah knows!). As per the wisdom of 13th Century Ibn Ata Allah Al Iskandariah in his Hikam (Aphorism No: 73), “If you want to know your standing with Him, look at the state He has put you in now.”


            As for writers, consider the impact of the late Shahnon Ahmad with his classics (SHIT, Tok Guru, and others.) That he is now forgotten reflects more on our rotten education system, yet another victim of systemic corruption. With intellectuals, I pine for long-gone giants like Syed Hussain Alatas for their fearless exposing of our blight. He and Shahnon did not need the imprimatur of the National Professors Council or other such props to have powerful impact.


            Anwar faces formidable obstacles, real as well as perceptual, in his fight against corruption. His critics castigate him for having a man of far-from-stellar reputation in the competency as well as integrity department as Deputy Prime Minister. However, if that is the price for sparing Malaysia the likes of Muhyiddin Yassin, Ismail Sabri, and Hamzah Zainudin, so be it. If Malaysians do not like that, then give Anwar a strong mandate at the next election.


            In letting MACC do its job, Anwar is less Machiavellian, more a pragmatist; less a conniving politician, more enlightened leader. If employing a thief to catch another is effective, so be it. As to the inevitable and frequently-asked question, “Why now?” The riposte is simple. You charge when you have the evidence. Malaysia has no statute of limitations with respect to criminal deeds. Justice, like mother’s love, has no expiration date.


            Those who feel that prosecuting the previously high and mighty (who by statutes are mostly Malays) would lead to political instability have a low opinion of Malaysians, and of Malays in particular. On the contrary, letting those corrupt Malay leaders get away with their crimes would destroy our society.


            The recent royal partial pardon for former Prime Minister Najib Razak does not alter the dynamics or reality, the ensuing hullabaloo and explosive diarrhea of commentaries notwithstanding. That pardon was but mere Malay shadow play; a needed but not-so-entertaining distraction. Little need to restrict the entertainment, I mean, comments. Najib is not going anywhere soon. He remains in jail, still has the massive fines (discount or not), and three more trials not preemptively pardoned. Meanwhile Malaysia bears for decades to come the humongous debt incurred by him.


            It is significant – and prescient – that the Sultan of Johor, now Agung, remains the only ruler who did not see fit to honor Najib during the height of his (Najib’s) days. Thus far only the Negri Ruler and the Sultan of Selangor have withdrawn theirs. The others have not seen fit to do likewise. We still have a challenge there in our fight against corruption in high places.


            As for Anwar, it is noteworthy that none of the previous Prime Ministers from Mahathir to Ismail Sabri were present at the recent installation of the Agung. Our symbolic national ceremonies should remain untainted and unblemished.


            The perceptive and ever-biting Zunar captured it best with his latest cartoon strips on Daim’s performances. One shows him striding tall and in control at Langkah Tebuk Atap (Strategy to topple the government) and Langkah Dubai (Dubai Move); the other, awarding him the Oscar for Best Actor for his wheelchair performance.


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