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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Trust - a forgotten word

I have come to a conclusion. That much of the malaise that Malaysia is afflicted with nowadays is caused by, or at the very least related to, the word “trust”.

Let’s face it. There is an obvious non-appreciation of the word “trust” in our country. That leads to a misunderstanding of the concept of trust. Which in turn results in an almost total lack of respect for the concept. Ultimately, that leads us to where we are now. A state where “trust” is almost a dirty word and trustworthiness is a virtue so underrated that nobody even pays attention to what it means and what it entails and demands from us.

Legend has it that the former Chief Justice of India, the Honourable Justice Bhagwati, had two cars. One was his privately-owned car and the other one his official car provided by the state by virtue of his position. He was also provided a driver. His complete appreciation of the concept of trust ensured that his official car, and driver, would only be used for the purpose of undertaking and performing his official duties and functions. That would mean his official car, and driver, would never be used to fetch his wife from the hair saloon; to send his kid to the school or to send his cat to the vet, for example. For those, he would use his privately-owned car. But of course, that was Chief Justice Bhagwati.

Try telling that to our so-called leaders. I could just imagine the incredulous look which would ensue after you had softly and ever so gently articulated that kind of concept to them. And I have been careful to say “our so-called leaders” as opposed to just “the BN leaders”. I am sure those so-called leaders from the Pakatan Rakyat are just the same. Except for one or two, I suppose.

I was trying to make an appointment with an Exco member of a PR-governed state the other day. I was told that he was busy with Manek Urai. Which makes me wonder, is it taken as a God-given right for these people to abuse the position which they are in and the trust which is burdened upon them by the people through the ballot box?

During every by-election, and also the time preceding a general election, we would see hot-shot leaders from the government, including members of Cabinet, descending upon the constituency like some Valkaries from heaven. They will shower good words, hug some babies, throw free laptops, school uniforms, Class F contracts and what-have-you. It is like Zeus has suddenly wakened up and realised that the world needs feeding. It is like we are all peasants who need to be fed and humoured during certain season of the year. It is like all of them, the bourgeoisie and royals, must be amused by the spectacle of us, the peasants, tussling for food and gifts in a Peasants Banquet at a nominated time and place.

Sometimes I wonder whether we have consigned our conscience to the deepest recesses of our soul. To a place where we store everything which we do not want and which we do not hold dear. But the thing is — and this is an inexplicable paradox — we talk, shout and scream about religion and being religious all the time. And being religious would of course bring with it the notion of being good. And being good of course entails the concept of fulfilling one’s trust and avoiding a breach of the trust. In Islam, as far as I know, breach of trust is one of the big sins. But do we actually care?

How many times have we heard that Malaysia is an Islamic country? How many times have we been reminded that all of us must be Islamic? But despite those calls, we continue to abuse the very trust that the people have burdened upon us. We continue to misappropriate the assets and belongings of the people which are vested in us on trust for the benefit of the people. Or is it a fact that being Islamic to us is all about praying five times a day, not eating pork and performing the umrah twice a year?

Quite obviously, to the Executive, the people demand accountability and the total fulfillment of the trust. The people want every single minute for which they are paid for to govern this country to be spent governing the country and not to pursue personal or party agenda. Civil societies demand that all party agenda and personal pursuit be done after working hours, at least. Let’s have all party meetings at night. And all party campaigning after office hours. Let’s utilise the assets of the state only for the pursuit of the state’s interests and goals and not for some personal achievements.

We have seen ministers, Exco members and various functionaries of the state (both from the BN and PR, I must add) not doing the job for which they are paid for weeks on end. They would be camping at the constituent where a by-election is being held, day in day out, in order to campaign for their party’s candidate. They would be using state assets. That is an abuse. A blatant abuse if I may add. And it is not so much the abuse which is of concern. It is the blatant display of abuse which is disconcerting. What nonchalant attitude do we have towards the trust of the people?

Contrast that to the position taken by Sayidina Abu Bakar, in his first speech after he was elected as the first Caliph, when he said:

“O people, I have been elected your leader, although I am not better than anyone from among you. If I do any good, give me your support. If I go wrong, set me right. Listen, truth is honesty and untruth is dishonesty. The weak among you are powerful in my eyes, as long as I do not get them their due, Allah willing. The powerful among you are weak in my eyes, as long as I do not take away from them what is due to others, Allah willing.

"Listen, if people give up striving for the cause of Allah, Allah sends down disgrace on them. If a people become evil doers, Allah sends down calamities on them.

"Listen, you must obey me as long as I obey Allah and His Messenger. If I disobey Allah and His Messenger, you are free to disobey me.”

Clearly, foremost in Sayidina Abu Bakar’s mind was the interests of the state and the people, especially the less fortunate ones. And he was full of humility, describing himself unworthy of the position bestowed upon him. He was also mindful that he might err, in which case he implored the people to correct him to the extent of disobeying him.

Must we, the people, shout and scream that the position bestowed upon them come as a trust? That the powers which come with their position are powers which are deemed necessary to perform such trust? And will they ever, ever understand and take heed? That such a basic concept of leadership, position and power can’t be grasped — or refused to be grasped? — is reflective of the semi-feudal political demography that we all live in.

And to think that we want to be a developed country by the year 2020! Developed in what, if I may ask.

13 comments:

backStreetGluttons said...

A fine analysis of the hypocrisy that befalls many ( or most ) of our political ( or corporate ) leaders .

Indeed many of us ordinary people know it, the wanton corruption and abuses of power. Or they feel it but cannot express it as well as you have done here.

The question is , who cares ? We in the main worship $$$ and power
or to put it simply ...if me and my family are doing well ...
why the hell do I care about you, him or her ? Thats called being practical or pragmatic ( such a dirty word ) .

Welcome to Islamic Malaysia

Anonymous said...

Indeed a well written analysis. I would like to take you a short journey on the word trust linking to an International Islamic Bank in Malaysia. Just recently, it was alleged that a muslim senior staff member of an Islamic bank tried to get fresh with a lady staff member. The bank's internal Syariah council upon receiving information called him up for an explaination. Up to today it is not known whether the case was forwarded to Human Resources for further investigation or inquiry - presumebaly not, as he is in a position of power. Needless to say, the bank should conduct a thorough investigation or domestic inquiry, true or otherwise, such sexual harrasement is not acceptable by law, and in any religion. Talking on abuse, power and corrupt, this senior staff member receives 50% commission from a pyramid scheme model launched by the bank, while his bottom-liners mostly commissioner seeking & introducers outside the bank receives the balance 50% to be shared among many. Which bank practises giving commission to senior staff members alone (are there?)unless he or she is marketing team member based on commission. You talked about just, trust and fairness, even Islamic Banks don;t honour such principles but preached power abuse. Yup, welcome to Islamic Malaysia alright

Anonymous said...

I guess it all boils down to
"power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely ".

Anonymous said...

Malaysia, an Islamic Country?
Bank Islam Is Islamic bank?

What a joke, Hahahaha.

Navi said...

Art,
It is rumoured that '1Malaysia' of Najib is based on there being 'trust' and 'tolerance' amongst the rakyat. Sounds great doesn't it. But how do people trust or tolerate when the trust given to the leaders are abused to the maximum. Yet surprising is that these so called trusted leaders seem to have large followings to keep them in power for years. The longer they stay the less trustworthy they become. Greed and power takes over all principles. Can 1 Malaysia be realized; when people stop trusting one another, they being divisive and self serving?

Anonymous said...

great article.

if only PR would make that their main objective. as it is now, i see that their focus is on defeating BN.

i just can't understand why they have not yet set up their official media channel on the internet. they have their individual websites, but not a common one.

they better get their priorities right, or the future looks bleak indeed.

rhyder

Bob said...

Police Outriders.
- They do not have the RIGHT to drive faster than the speed limit;

Police Cars (on duty or off-duty)
- They do not have the RIGHT to drive over the speed limit;

Army MP's with siren's on clearing the way for a truck filled with household items. Some big shot officer was moving house from Sg.Besi army base to somewhere South.

My Uncle was a judge in the 60's and early 70's. I remember he had a Mercedes and a driver. He would never use it for personal use. He had his own driver who will drive his personal car. We knew how to segregate our private & public assets, but after Hussein Onn's time, we kinda lost our way ethically.

By the way, do u think anyone can honor any agreement signed by the Malaysian government in the future? An attempt was made not to honor a payment request for the Port Klang fiasco forgetting that there were 2 illegal underlying guarantees from a Minister of the Government of Malaysia.
But then again, most of us are familiar with the peace treaty signed with the CPM. We can have selective interpretation.

One wonders whether people are aware, that selective interpretation will eventually lead to non-acceptance of any Malaysian agreement.

In the course of my work, I have had requests for contractual agreements to be executed under the laws of a neighboring country to the South or good old England/US for transactions to be done in Malaysia.
What a price we are paying?

Bob said...

Sori, previous comments went thru b4 I finished.

Do people realize that Police vehicles and other government vehicles are NOT above the law?

They can only exceed the speed limit, if their siren is on, and they are responding to an emergency.

They CANNOT exceed the speed limit if they are escorting the Prime Minister or some big shot who is late for a meeting.

patrickteoh said...

Thank you so much for articulating this point. I would bet my right arm that no leader in Malaysian politics ever thought of it from that angle. And I daresay quite a few of their constituents too.

Thanks, Art.

LAT said...

I FULLY & ABSOLUTELY TRUST that the ONE WHO HOLD ABSOLUTE POWER TO GOVERN is a TRASH waiting to be thrown out by C4-Ballot Box !

the_drear_heart said...

Sad to say that trust no longer exist in this country…the ethical and conscientious amongst us will nearly always be shot down but those in power…

Malaysia’s official religion is Islam, but Malaysia is not an Islamic country… the fine line between hudud law (hudud is Arabic language means “limits”) and circular law are not defined, hence creating misunderstandings between the various religions which exist in this country… we than have ‘Those Who Walk In The Corridors of Power’ instigating to the non-muslims that PAS plans to implement hudud law nation-wide (hudud law CAN ONLY APPLY on muslims, NOT NON-MUSLIMS)… we have PAS who’s always passive, never clarifying many issues relating to Islam (champions of Islam? So called)…

Living in Penang, I see first-hand what Lim Guan Eng actually does… NOTHING…
I disliked the previous CM, and was quite happy when BN lost the state… however, when Lim Guan Eng (LGE), and non Karpal Singhs’ son, was made CM, I was shocked... it was months later when LGE stated making statements of improvements he’s brought to the state since becoming CM I realized that he’s a master-manipulator… 3 months as CM and foreign investors invested sums of more than US$100million?.. truth of the matter was that the deal was in discussion during the tenure of the previous CM… why was no credit given to the previous administration? Why was LGE taking credit for something he had no part in? and to date (from sources working for the State Government) he has actually done nothing… every ‘idea’ he has claimed to come up with, has in fact been thought up by his subordinates… LGE is an uneducated fool, but he has educated and well-versed people working under him… but LGE has violated the trust of the people by making false-claims and false-statements… LGE has violated the trust of the people because all he does is play blame-games… LGE has lost the trust of the people, especially those involved in High Chaparral issue, because he is unable to handle problems and resolve them… LGE has lost the peoples trust because he been deceitful (canceling appointments at the eleventh hour)… LGE, in my book, is worst than the previous CM… LGE, a sub-standard, uneducated fool, is an untrustworthy person…

Pardon my emotional comment about Penang, am just very disappointed that PR failed to deliver… they’re no better, if not worst, than the previous BN rule…

ajoyly said...

In God we trust. Human beings in whatever position are inconsistent with their emotions and decisions.

Anonymous said...

Dear Art,

Nice write up.

I kept religion with moral quality apart for a very long time already.

With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion. -Steven Weinberg.

Somehow, I ponder the above quote from a physicist.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66CeQb4EVOI

-woody