Maszlee: We have lost sense of shame over corruption

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Malay society has increasingly lost its sense of shame and this is the main reason for the systemic corruption in the country, said former education minister Maszlee Malik.

Noting the Japanese practice of “sepukku” or “hara kiri”, the ritual suicide practised as an alternative to disgrace, Maszlee pointed out that the feeling of shame was important for them, adding that the Chinese also had the concept of “preserving face”.

“In the Malay community, too, we used to have this feeling of shame. Now, we have increasingly lost that,” he told a forum titled Corruption and Hypocrisy in Malay-Muslim Politics yesterday.

“Now, we see people who are not embarrassed to take money, steal or receive bribes and even if they are too lazy to work.


“They get bribes, abuse their power or give tenders to get rich in the blink of an eye. They don’t feel embarrassed. This is something we have to correct.”

The other speakers at the forum included Barisan Nasional secretary-general Zambry Abd Kadir, Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Amanah’s Dzulkefly Ahmad.

Zambry agreed with Maszlee’s view, stating that while mutual respect, dignity and spiritual values were once hallmarks of Malay society, rapid development and the push for modernity meant the country was now “chasing materialism”.


“Like Maszlee said, when systemic corruption exists, that means it involves all aspects of life and creates an environment where society does not feel ashamed. They are living in luxury and leisure,” he said.

Maszlee also stressed how materialism played a part in bribery, stating that a government official who approved a tender and got a bribe may not necessarily feel ashamed.

“Instead, he feels proud because he can buy a big car, a big house.,” he said, noting how politicians felt they had to keep up with the Joneses by buying fancy cars, expensive handbags, and holidaying in exotic destinations.

He also related a story about politicians’ wives making fun of those who did not buy branded handbags which were “at least from Pavilion”.

“This sense of shame, once it is lost, will be replaced by greed and always wanting more.

“If we want to overcome the issue of corruption and abuse of power, we have to revive the feeling of shame among people,” he said. – FMT