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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mahathir’s legacy: An open verdict?

By Tunku Aziz
The MalaysianInsider

Let us disabuse ourselves, quickly, of the notion that 2011 would be an improvement over last year. Nothing so far has given us any reason for optimism. Just look at the way the affairs of the nation were being conducted in the first week of the new year.

Take, for example, the appointment of the Selangor state secretary. The Sultan in this very public controversy, I am afraid, has been badly advised. He has blithely, amidst much pomp and circumstance, naturally, trespassed, in a manner of speaking, into a politically explosive situation, a veritable minefield if ever there was one. Minefields, political or otherwise, are not known for their ability to distinguish a Sultan from a mentri besar.

He is a constitutional monarch, the Sultan, I mean, not the MB who is a political animal. His Royal Highness should confine himself to matters in which he has a clearly defined role to play.

Plunging into the murky waters of politics, where even killer whales fear to put in an appearance, is to risk losing the special constitutional protection that sets His Royal Highness apart from the chattering hordes of common politicians.

HRH has now blown to smithereens the aura and mystique of his royal person. Rightly or wrongly, many now invariably see him in a new light, and from a different perspective or angle, as a person who no longer is above the political fray.

I know this is not true, but perceptions are difficult creatures to tame. All rather unfortunate because the controversy could arguably have been avoided. There is, of course, that little legal maxim “The King Can Do No Wrong.” Unfortunately it was inappropriate to apply it in this context. I hope we have all learnt a good deal from this unfortunate and unhappy episode.

Then, there was that “clearing-of-the-air” farcical drama. The ever nimble-footed, redoubtable Attorney-General of Malaysia, acting on his own initiative and, no doubt, prompted by the urgings of his newfound conscience, went to the citadel of all that is good and honourable, to prostrate himself and grovel before Ramon Navaratnam and the serried ranks of the country’s pillars of the establishment.

I am assured these are men of unquestionable honour with an unquenchable thirst for the truth. A-G Gani Patail, looking suitably contrite, shedding a few tears for effect, was there to explain how he managed, on the salary of a civil servant, to pay for the high-end haj package for himself and the accompanying family entourage. He was responding to allegations of impropriety centring on the question of who actually paid for the trip.

The good Tan Sri Gani Patail turned up with a few grubby receipts as proof that the trip was “kosher”. Ramon Navaratnam, the well-known eager upstager, pronounced his satisfaction with the explanation given by the A-G and, therefore, in his infinite wisdom, he verily declared that no investigation into the allegations of corruption against the A-G was necessary.

Now that a new operating procedure has been put in train, citizens suspected of corruption will not be investigated. I suppose just as well considering the incomparable cutting-edge investigation prowess of the MACC. Suspects will only be required to appear before Navaratnam & Co. And an instant decision is guaranteed. Now that a pattern has been set, we should remember that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Even the MACC can understand that.

The whole sad and disgraceful spectacle was a total sham, deftly organised and orchestrated by the increasingly farcical MACC. Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan would have approved entirely the creative energy and ingenuity of Datuk Abu Kassim in producing an operetta to the accompaniment of nothing more than a lot of empty drums signifying nothing more than a lot of hot air.

If they were alive today, they would have named it “The Pirates of Putrajaya” as a companion edition to their own amusing “The Pirates of Penzance”. I should have been extremely surprised if the MACC had not produced this masterpiece of deception.

A good try both Ramon and Abu Kassim who obviously deserve each other. In the meantime, Robert Phang is being demonised because he had the moral courage and rectitude to challenge Ramon’s lightning verdict of NOT GUILTY. The A-G shed tears: the nation is in mourning because justice has been sacrificed and trivialised yet again.

The long-awaited coroner’s verdict on the death of Teoh Beng Hock had finally been delivered. The open verdict is nothing if not an affront to human dignity and a travesty of justice. Any reasonable citizen following the proceedings would have, in all the circumstances, been entitled to expect other than an open verdict which in the event has opened a can of worms to destroy the last vestige of public trust in the criminal justice system, long eroded by corruption.

The system, as we all know, was emasculated by successive prime ministers, starting with Mahathir. The unholy trinity of corruption, abuse of power with impunity, and desecration of religious, ethical and moral values in national life, sanctified by Che Det, will I am sure last many lifetimes unless we say enough is enough.

The verdict reminds me of a comment on public enquiries I came across a long time ago (source forgotten) which goes: “As civil servants are apt to say, one does not commission an enquiry unless one clearly knows the answer.” The coroner, a civil servant, knew at the outset what verdict should be delivered. Blame the corrupt system. The coroner was merely doing the job expected of him by the Najib administration.

Mahathir’s legacy has left this nation in a shambles. Should he not at least admit responsibility and ask for forgiveness so that we may start afresh to rebuild Malaysia without the excesses of the past?

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