SOMEONE HAD TO SAY IT
Salams and PEACE to our esteemed host Tunku Abdul Aziz and to our distinguished guests.
About two and a half weeks ago when I received the good Tunku’s email asking if I would agree to launch his second book I said YES without any hesitation. It did not occur to me to ask “Why Me?”. I accepted in good faith thinking “Why Not Me?” As someone who admired Tunku’s writings in his New Sunday Times column and someone who had written a blurb for their compilation in STRAIGHT TALK, this, I thought, is another gesture of the solidarity I feel with some, if not all, of Tunku’s ideas and ideals. I, too, am a firm believer in the moral virtues of ethics and integrity, the democratic fundamentals of justice and equality and the good governance principles of transparency and accountability.
Tunku’s stand on these universal societal and human “truths” rang loud and clear. And he expressed it in the most beautiful of English – sometimes almost poetic – with such apt metaphors and turns of phrases. Tunku’s command of English far surpasses that of an English gentleman for Tunku is indeed the genteel old-world Malay gentleman, educated in the best of English traditions.
Not having read the more recent writings in his SinChew column, I was initially startled when I started reading SOMEONE HAD TO SAY IT. My initial reaction was that Tunku had become ruthless and relentless in pointing fingers at the corruption and abuse of power in UMNO and among the top UMNO leadership. But after a while I calmed down and told myself Tunku’s political affiliations are now with the DAP and as the party Vice- President he must surely echo the party’s aggressive opposition.
In this book no errant UMNO leader or government institution in Tunku’s eyes is spared as he whips his quill at their misdemeanours using the most scathing epithets and exaggerated hyperboles. Again his language use is astounding and shows how mighty the quill or pen can be in admonishing real or perceived unfairness and injustice.
I grit my teeth as he sweepingly condemned some of my heroes and thought “How dare he?” when they had contributed so much to the nation’s development. Otherwise, how on earth do we explain the tremendous inroads Malaya later Malaysia has made from the undeveloped third-world country that it was pre Merdeka and the nation poised to join the ranks of the industrially and technologically successful by 2020. Indeed, this can’t be a boast or dream! It is a national vision which is becoming a reality before our very eyes. Surely Tunku and the DAP cannot deny this I thought! Have they done as much?
But as a concerned citizen, Tunku is entitled to express his unhappinesses with the nation’s moral and ethical degeneration, with the corruption and injustice, with the lack of integrity and moral scruples – as much as you or me. Except that you and I would do it huddled in our coffee or lunch circles but not at a public forum or to be immortalised in a book. Being a bit writer, I sometimes try to push my opinions and interpretations of current issues one controversial step further – but I’m always reminded to remain within the bounds of my conscience and reason. At the end of the day, writers have to take responsibility for being opinionated or slanderous, bearing in mind they may have to concede should they be proven wrong. Just as I’m sure Tunku will concede that an individual’s private and public morality do not always concur.
Ideally, a leader’s private morality should reflect his public morality and vice versa, but as we look at our leaders on both sides of the political divide, we know this is not so. We are all God’s creatures with a mixture of vices and virtues. However, I agree that when you are in a position of leadership or public service, you have an obligation to the people you serve to be exemplary in upholding the highest ethical principles and exhibiting the most scrupulous conduct and behaviour – verbal and non verbal.
So I convinced myself that my launching of Tunku’s book does not mean our public political solidarity – perhaps just a private mutual admiration club! And so I’ve cast aside the pages of jottings and notes, quotations and points to rebut – to adopt a more intellectual approach to the book.
It will serve us well to read the book with an open mind and to take cognizance of Tunku’s and the DAP’s harsh criticisms of the government, of UMNO and its leaders – some of which are justified. But we must do this with the intention or “niat” not to slander but to build a better society. In doing so, we must be prepared to come up with constructive ideas and proposals, fair and equitable policies, accountable and transparent models of good governance as well as codes of ethics for every public institution, agency as well as private and non-governmental ones. And we must ask “Are we cleaner than clean ourselves?”
In the end, the public servants, political and corporate leaders who are the movers and shakers of society must be able to stand tall, look one another in the eye and say they have served the country to the best of their ability, with the purest intention and the highest integrity. If our democracy is indeed moving towards a two-party system, our MPs, ADUNs and politicians must also start polishing their language and communication skills to articulate their views and suggestions logically and coherently. Cursing and name calling must stop. The hate must cease.
I’d like to end by insisting that I do not agree with one crucial point Tunku makes on page 163 “ Corruption is not part of our culture and yet we have allowed it to become our way of life”. I believe it’s always been our way of life from the “bunga mas” brought in by foreign merchants to appease the Malay Ruler and his court in the days gone by, to the “upah” (monetary reward) and handouts in Malay and Indian culture, to the “ang pow” and coffee money in Chinese culture? It’s always been there, only now it’s grown huge and ugly and insidious with the sophisticated administrative, political, commercial and business undertakings.
It’s for us to redefine the complex concept of “integrity’ in simple meanings that the people understand using words such as honesty, trustworthiness, openness, sincerity or in Malay “amanah”. The same must be done in the other local languages. The composite concepts of “corruption” and “ethics” must be dissected into their numerous forms and each made explicit with clear examples.
As language and meaning is my favourite topic, I’d better stop here before I bore you to tears. Thank you all, and congratulations dear Tunku.
Someone had to say it, Tunku Abdul Aziz’s second book launched
KUALA LUMPUR: Tunku Abdul Aziz, a regular contributor to MySinchew and Sin Chew Daily, has recently launched his second book titled Someone Had To Say It…
A big-time traveller, Tunku is best known for his robust advocacy against corruption here and abroad. Having served for some years as the vice chairman on the board of Transparency International, Tunku led a group of like-minded individuals to set up Transparency International Malaysia at a time when Dr Mahathir, well known for his ambivalence towards corruption in public life, was the country’s prime minister.
In recognition of his staunch anti-corruption effort, Tunku was appointed Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General in 2006, and in that capacity he established the UN Ethics Office in New York.
Published by Research For Social Advancement (REFSA), Tunku’s new book was launched on May 18, Wednesday. Protem president of PCORE (Voices of Peace, Conscience & Reason) Datin Halimah Mohd Said officiated the launch held at the Royal Lake Club in Kuala Lumpur