COMMENT | Integrity is the meat of the matter

‘Over the years, integrity has become a forgotten expression due to a series of leaders who condoned dishonesty.’

COMMENT | There have been accusations, discussions, debates and furore over the halal meat issues which was first highlighted in an exposé by Sinar Harian on Dec 2.

Since then, not a day has passed by without someone commenting or giving their views on the matter. The latest being that the police have joined other enforcement agencies (as if they do not have their hands full fighting crime). Good luck to all involved, but will we see the light at the end of the tunnel or will it be a sandiwara to distract the public from bigger issues affecting our country?

One of the suggestions was to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the affair which was supported by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

But will it serve any purpose? Over the years, several such RCIs have been held and except for remarks like “aiyoh”; “so blatant”; “a bunch of crooks” et cetera, can we expect anything more?

There was even a suggestion to increase the number of enforcement officers to thwart such activities. But will quantity guarantee success if there is no quality?

Increasing manpower for surveillance or enforcement will not solve the problem. What is needed is a core group of officers with integrity to deal with all affairs connected to the import of not only meat but other foodstuffs – because food safety affects all Malaysians.

Integrity requires one to have high moral values, honesty and above all, a sense of responsibility. Integrity is a highly valued trait, especially for those in leadership positions.

But over the years, integrity has become a forgotten expression due to a series of leaders who condoned dishonesty and partook in the spoils. This culminated with the current prime minister obliterating it and consigning it to oblivion early this year.

When he offered positions in the government and government-linked companies to members of Parliament to buy their loyalty, it was the beginning of the end to truthfulness, honour and respect for the law.

Some personalities with tainted pasts and brushes with the law are enjoying their new-found fame and power, sometimes (mis)using them for personal gain and pecuniary interests.

Normally, it would be seen as an honour to do “national service” in such capacities, but it has turned out, in some cases, a source of regular riches.

Several parties have been implicated in the meat episode – the Customs Department, the Quarantine Inspection Services and the Islamic Development Department. Separately, the Consumer Affairs Ministry is tasked with ensuring correct labelling under the Trade Descriptions Act.

But the issues that afflict the nations are not limited to what goes down our throats. At every turn, it’s the proverbial kera dapat bunga (monkey getting flowers).

The new-found fame, power and money have turned many a leader into uncontrollable genies as if they had just been left out of the bottle – undoing well-set systems and doing wanton destruction to everything in sight.

At every turn, some minnow with little or no experience or expertise has been given carte blanche to do as he pleases. They find there’s nothing wrong cancelling contracts as long as compensation is paid to incompetent contractors because there are pecuniary interests.

At the end of it all, we the taxpayers carry the burden as one blunder after another leads to loss of valuable revenue. Looking at events and happenings in the government, and even the private sector, over the past months, humongous damage has been done – to the tune of billions of ringgit.

Isn’t there someone or something that can stop these runaway trains? Isn’t there someone in authority to demand some form of accountability for their actions? This is a crucial time when quality leadership with integrity is needed most. Unfortunately, it has not been forthcoming,

The chief executive has been cornered and almost boxed-in, and he can do little as the vultures hover around his demanding more and more, If he cuts or stops his “big-heartedness” or attempts to rein-in the renegades, he is gone – kaput – because they could pull the carpet under his feet.

What can we, the rakyat, do? Can we watch our coffers being emptied a’ la 1MDB? Nothing – because of a bond called “unity” and “brotherhood” which is the glue holding the fragile grouping – albeit a temporary one which could be dismantled or could collapse without notice.

Can we wait until the county has hit rock bottom or to the point of no return before there is any action? Or do just pray and seek divine help to send a bolt of lightning to drive our leaders into doing something sensible?

Miracles do happen but, in our case, even if we put up our hands and say, “God, help us”, don’t expect much. Even the Almighty will not allow it to happen because his name has been used, misused and overused – in vain in almost every undertaking.


*R NADESWARAN does not have much hope in the New Year as the thieving and deceit will continue in the backdoor government in place because there’s no one to query the questionable activities. Comments:

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Stringer,

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