Zainul Arifin: Be careful in passing judgement…

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Be careful in passing judgment

By ZAINUL ARIFIN
August 9, 2020 @ 12:10am
All the intense politicking is not doing our institutions any favour. The latest being the MACC over its decision to charge former finance minister and Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng and his wife on several graft allegations. – NSTP file pic
All the intense politicking is not doing our institutions any favour. The latest being the MACC over its decision to charge former finance minister and Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng and his wife on several graft allegations. – NSTP file pic
ALL the intense politicking is not doing our institutions any favour.

The latest being the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over its decision to charge former finance minister and Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng and his wife on several graft allegations.

There seems to be little interest to discuss the merits or demerits of the case. Even before a single charge was read out, or evidence disclosed, or a witness questioned, a verdict has been reached. Opinions, predictably, are split along the political fault line.

I fear we may have lost the ability to look at anything beyond our narrow political leanings.

He is either guilty or a victim of political persecution; either there is evidence against him or he has enemies entertaining ways to do him in. The MACC is an inconvenience as far as how the conclusions are reached, but is instrumental in the narratives told.

The MACC, it is suggested, is being used by the government to go after its political enemies, of which Guan Eng is one.

If that is the case, can we assume more MACC action against other enemies of Perikatan Nasional and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin?

While we can readily accept members of the public harbouring this sort of opinions — the coffee shops are already raging with the slings and arrows of conspiracy theories—should we expect those who should know better, including those who had held some of the highest offices in the land, to be less free with their unverifiable “gut instinct”?

I get that some people are unhappy Guan Eng and wife are charged by the MACC, but the cases have yet to bear out. Incidentally, they may even be the same people who applauded the MACC for its action against former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak and wife.

I am not equating one set of charges and circumstances with another, lest supporters of either one get up in arms. But it is the same MACC that made the arrests.

The same MACC, minus the previous head, that did the investigations and put together the investigation papers and prepared the charge sheets. It is a constant — the same people, more or less, were responsible for Najib’s case, and presumably for Guan Eng’s, too.

The MACC is still presumably driven by the same agenda to rid the country of corruption.

Yet, the MACC is doing a good job, unless he is after our guys.

We have to be careful in passing judgment and emoting political motives in cases such as this.

While we understand some political grandstanding is to be expected — statements aimed at stirring the anger and righteousness of the constituents—politicians must try to weigh the consequences of what they say on public institutions such as the MACC, the judiciary, law enforcement agencies and the civil service.

We understand the politics and chipping at the reputation of institutions by insinuating nefarious political schemes do work.

Yet, while seemingly effective in the short run, it can be bad for the country over time.

Every one of our politicians knows the long-term damage their comments can have on these institutions, but they cannot resist the cheap shots when their political instincts take over.

All statements are made without any evidence or corroborating evidence — or was it how it was last time when institutions were used by the executive? Almost click-bait in nature, are to be turned into headlines and news bites, and shared ad-infinitum to raise our ire and anger against whomever the target may be.

It just occurred to me that the judiciary, which is now received with renewed enthusiasm over Najib’s verdict, may be a subject to scorn if it were to arrive at the same decision against his opponents. And the judge who presided over the trial, now heralded as a national hero, may just fall on the sword of political convenience.

It is, of course, a lonely path to take for the MACC and other institutions, if indeed they are governed by standards and procedures, and are doing their job without fear or favour.

I suppose if every side of the political divide is not happy at any point, it must be doing okay.

However, it is, of course, in politically dangerous choppy waters, and many are quick to use it as political convenience.

I have no issues with politicians calling one another names. They are thick-skinned enough to take it.

Yet, the deliberate erosion of public confidence in institutions cannot be easily reversed, even if there were to be a change in government, or the ones in the opposition were to gain control.

The writer, a former NSTP group managing editor, is now a social media adviser. He can be reached at zainulisa@gmail.com

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