Tuesday, October 13, 2009

M'sians reject tainted leaders? Bagan Pinang voters appear to think otherwise

Malaysians have made their stand. Results of a new Merdeka Center for Opinion Research poll suggested that the majority of Malaysians reject political leaders who have been tainted by money politics or sex scandals. The poll was a timely gesture as to discover how the majority of Malaysians would react to the numerous scandals and money politics that rocked the nation of late.

The Merdeka Center discovered that a total of 87% of respondents in the poll conducted in Peninsular Malaysia from 29 Sept to 4 Oct did not want leaders who have been involved in money politics to stand for elections. This was evident in the defeat of UMNO's Rohaizat Othman in the Permatang Pasir by-election who was found guilty of swindling a client by the Bar Council.

However, the results of the Merdeka Center poll was not reflected in the results of the Bagan Pinang by-election on October 11. Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad won a landslide victory despite being found guilty of money politics by his party.[Refer to my previous post]

The poll also found that 75% of respondents did not want leaders who were tainted by sex scandals, taking Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek who was involved in a sex tape scandal as an example. At the same time, only 25.2% of respondents said Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat should lead the MCA following the disgraceful handling of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ).

And recently, members of the MCA decided to oust Ong from the party president post in a vote of no confidence. This would mean Ong has to resign as Transport Minister and also party chief, potentially throwing the entire MCA into disarray with the leadership void. However, any decision for Ong, who is currently on a 'leave' to step down, is yet to be made.

Moving on to the MIC, 59% of respondents felt the party is no longer relevant to the Indian community. Only 15% viewed the largest Indian Malaysian party in the Barisan Nasional coalition positively.

In September, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak also saw his popularity fell to 56% from 65% (in June). However, 47% of the people expressed that they were still not convinced of the Pakatan Rakyat as a worthy rival to the Barisan Nasional at the federal level.

Such polls may not be the Malaysian people's true reflection of sentiments. The voting ballots would prove a more effective way for the people to voice their approvals and objection. But from what that has been gathered so far, it is apparent that the Barisan Nasional remains the only entity that is still capable of leading the federal government. The Pakatan Rakyat is simply still too inexperience to do so for now.

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Those guilty of money politics not fit to run for office

The decision to field Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad (image) to run for the Bagan Pinang state seat sends all sorts of wrong signals. Credibility is of the utmost importance for politicians who runs for office. But what does it mean for the Malaysian people when a candidate, who was found guilty for money politics, is allowed to contest in an election?

To echo former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's statement, character of a candidate (running for election) is important. But apparently Dr Mahathir's words has fallen on deaf ears. Isa was suspended for three years from June 24, 2005, for indulging in money politics in the 2004 UMNO elections. He was originally suspended for six years or two terms but it was reduced after he appealed [source].

Teluk Kemang UMNO Youth head Mohd Faizal Ramli also revealed that his division had conducted a survey and found that the constituents, including the non-Malays, have accepted Isa. Whether the findings were rigged or made-up, his statement paints a bleak image for Malaysian politics where blind loyalty towards individuals and party is seen more important than national interests.

According to Faizal, Isa was the perfect choice for the the candidacy as he proven his loyalty to the party and had set a good example for his fellow party members. I find this truly disturbing. A political party is merely a tool for individuals who share the same ideology to achieve whatever political ambitions they may have. Loyalty to the party above justice, accountability and service to the nation is corrupted loyalty.

Dr Mahathir had initially advised against nominating Isa as Barisan Nasional's candidate for the by-election. He said that Isa had been found guilty in money politics and picking him might give the impression that UMNO was not serious about fighting the corrupt practice. For his two cents worth, I cannot agree more. The lack of thorough consideration and the giving in to misguided grassroot demands by the party leadership sow doubts over Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's seriousness in reforming UMNO which has recently lost much ground among the urban Malay community.

Najib believes people should look beyond Isa's past sins and consider his ability to resolve the problems voters face as his prerequisite for an able public representative [source]. But is Najib implying that money politics is nothing much but a petty crime? In my opinion, money politics is the greatest abuse and breach of public trust - an opinion which falls back to Dr. Mahathir's statement that character for a politician is more important. So what if Isa is loyal to UMNO. The fact stands that he indulged in money politics and thus his credibility has fallen into question.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein also went on to suggest that there is a difference between good guilt and bad guilt - if we were to go by with his comment on the issue. He admits, “He (Isa) is different from certain individuals who, when found guilty by the party, they are willing to curse the party that has served them. Tan Sri Isa is different. He is patient and strong, and his loyalty to the party is one matter which was considered by the top leadership.”

But justice and redemption are not made by simply being "loyal" to the party. Money politics is a serious form of corruption and a blatant breach of public trust. The issue here is not whether Isa would indulge in money politics again but when one's credibility can be questioned like this, then he is not fit to represent the people. Come October 11 and Malaysians would really love to see if voters in Bagan Pinang are mature enough to understand what credibility and character mean for their representative in government. As for me, I want one who is clean from any wrongdoing - especially from money politics.

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