We can buy skills and talents but not integrity

From: Politikus
Date: Fri, 12 Jun 2009 02:30:57 -0700 (PDT)
Local: Fri, Jun 12 2009 5:30 pm
Subject: 'We can buy skills and talents but not integrity'

Steve Oh

I refer to the letters Search for better lives, non-bumis face dilemma and Why talented Malaysians have to leave.

In my opinion the writers in their letters merely highlight the plight of those Malaysians who feel disenchanted in their country of birth. Emigrating for a better life for oneself and one's family is not a crime or something reprehensible. And the phenomenon of human migration is not confined to Malaysians, and not uniquely to those of Chinese ethnicity.

If you look at what's happening in the world today, or peer into the past, you will note that human migration is quite normal. Today the Chinese from China want to go to the US while Americans want to go to China; young Japanese want to leave Japan, marry a foreigner and settle down overseas while Australians flock to Europe and elsewhere, even to Thailand and emerging countries. All of them do it for a
variety of personal and other reasons. The world is on the move!

Lee was merely sharing his experience and that in itself is commendable. The fact he wrote to a newspaper is proof he is trying to do something. Many in a similar situation are frustrated - they feel they want to do something, but don't quite know what and the least they can do is write and share their frustrations online in a civil manner.

He did proffer a solution: ‘It is time for the Malaysian government to take stock and revert to basics, or else we could expect a change of guard in four years time though it is probably too late now.' Still, that's a prescription after his diagnosis.

So I do not consider him a ‘shameless armchair critic.' The criticism seems unfair and gratuitous. But it is not only the talented who leave but a variety of people, and not all are non-Malays. I know of Malays living and working overseas who share similar sentiments about their country of birth, though they constitute a smaller group.

Few have the courage and conviction to give their lives to a political cause to change the status quo. Those who may have considered politics may also have been discouraged by the hurdles they faced. And with the reality of political harassment and victimsation, even fewer are prepared to stick their necks out for a cause. This is not confined to any ethnic group but common to all races, in Malaysia and elsewhere.

People have to weigh the pros and cons and decide for themselves what they should do, though there comes a time when they don't have a choice when the path ahead is obvious. They must change the system or the system will change them. After all bad company corrupts good character.

The tragedy in Malaysia is that normal civil activities are regarded as acts of sedition. And when innocent Malaysians are bundled into jail for taking part in legitimate expressions of their frustrations which they have the constitutional right to do, many like Lee become discouraged. Flight seems to be the easier alternative, and perhaps for people like him, rightly so.

Who wants to be a martyr? It is not a sin to leave for greener pastures, something that humans do everywhere, so why not Malaysians who may emigrate not only because of the sickness they see in their country but for other reasons? Even Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself has said he will emigrate if the government had done something he strongly disapproved of when Pak Lah was in power, so how much more ordinary
frustrated Malaysians? I don't blame them.

The root of the problem in Malaysia is not race or religion or politics. It is a human failing. When you have proud and greedy people in charge of any organisation or the administration, the result is unhappiness, injustice and discouragement. All you read in the news today of the problems in the country can be traced to human greed. When people think only of themselves and want more and more, then others will suffer.

It is true that a country like Australia offers immense opportunities that Malaysians can only dream about. It is the Malaysia that should have been after Merdeka had the governors been true nationalists instead of narrow-minded communalists, and the politicians not succumbed to greed and corruption. After all Singapore did it successfully themselves and is it any wonder that its bureaucracy is among the cleanest in the world and home-ownership is widespread? Small country indeed, but with big brains and cleaner hearts.

There are many similarities between Australia and Malaysia, both having three tiers of governance, Westminster-style democracies and a common historic link with the UK. And both are members of the Commonwealth and hugely endowed with natural resources and a cosmopolitan populace.

But is Australia the Utopia for everyone? Hardly. There is corruption, public waste, government incompetence and all the other faults as in any country. But one thing it has that many emergent countries, including Malaysia, crucially lack is accountability.

There is redress for the underdog in society. There are checks and balances not only in a political sense but also in a social sense. The corrupt politicians face media-hounding and exposure and eventual humiliation and punishment by the authorities while the poor and disadvantaged enjoy generous social welfare benefits and so on.

And above all, the police are professional and independent and not the lap dogs of politicians. The corrupt are usually dealt with and while corruption still occurs, those found out will be punished.

At home or abroad, every Malaysian should take a greater part in influencing the governance of their country. We all have different callings and gifts in life and we can't all do the same thing. But one thing we should all agree on is that more of the same will not do. We need to lift at least a finger to help the situation even if it is writing a letter to the editor. Better still every frustrated Malaysian should get active and join a political party or some other group that is constructively and positively effecting change - but for the better.

Don't assume that every change is for the better. We have seen what corrupt opposition politicians can do to exacerbate matters in Perak and elsewhere. Above all we need to honour men and women of integrity. We can buy skills and talents but not integrity.

It is a lesson that all who want to see positive change must realise that you can't put bad leaders among the honey pots. The moral character of leaders holds the key as to whether a nation will be a just or unjust, clean or corrupt state.

A true patriot is one who thinks of the people of his country and a humanitarian is one who cares for all. No one can be a good patriot who is not first a humanitarian. No one can be a leader who is not leader of all. Until we are able to love our neighbours as ourselves it is hypocritical to talk of nationhood, call it ‘1Nation' or whatever.

So in or out of the country, it is not where you are but what you do that matters. Everyone can help make Malaysia a better place by helping to overcome evil with good, and repairing the cracks in their society with constructive ideas and proactive deeds. But without conviction there will be no cause, and without a cause there is no cure.

Every move we make must be a good move. Ultimately good will triumph over evil - it is a historically proven script.

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