Dennis Ignatius: Shame on us all!

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By our vote, we empower the very corruption and abuse of power that oppresses us.

In a sign of the deepening rift between Malay political parties, Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has lashed out at his predecessor, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, accusing him of being shameless and without self-respect. “You have already been convicted in court of a very serious crime. There should be at least some shame. In Islam, shame is part of faith. Unfortunately, in Umno, a man convicted of a grave offence described [by the trial judge] as a ‘national embarrassment’ is instead placed on a pedestal as a boss and cheered on with the slogan, ‘malu apa, bossku’ [What’s there to be ashamed about, Boss?]. Where is your faith? Where is your pride?”, he asked.

I’m no fan of Muhyiddin but he’s absolutely spot on in calling out Najib for his shameless behaviour. Najib was found guilty by a court of law on seven charges of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering. He was sentenced to a total of 72 years imprisonment but since the sentences are to run concurrently, he will only serve 12 years. In addition, he was fined RM210 million. Four judges in all (one on the High Court and three on the Court of Appeal) have ruled on his guilt.

There’s no sugar coating it now, no giving him all that ‘innocent-until-proven-guilty’ excuses. He’s a convicted felon, out on an RM1 million bail pending appeal to the Federal Court. Instead of being remorseful for his crimes, for bringing such disgrace upon the nation, he prances around in public, pretending to be an honest man done in by his rivals. His behaviour is absolutely despicable.


But it is not just Najib who ought to be ashamed of himself. Everyone who embraces him, fetes him, welcomes him or honours him despite his conviction ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves as well. When MCA and MIC leaders fawn over Najib – as they did at the MCA Chinese New Year open house and at the Thaipusam festival respectively – they send a message that his conviction, his betrayal of the voters’ trust and his theft of public funds don’t matter. Shame on them.

And then, there’s UMNO, a party which has long since lost its soul and its moral compass. They continue to hero-worship this convicted felon, task him to lead election campaigns and cheer him on at every turn. The silence of UMNO leaders like Hishammuddin Hussein, Khairy Jamaluddin and Mohamad Hasan is nauseating to say the least. Clearly, power and position matter more than honour and patriotism.

And what does it say of Prime Minister Ismail Sabri when he receives Najib in his office and then announces that “Najib is committed to contributing his time, energy and ideas as a team for the sake of the Malaysian Family”. Did Ismail Sabri ever stop to ask himself whether it was morally right for a prime minister to receive a convicted felon in his office? Besides, where was Najib’s commitment to the Malaysian family when he misappropriated RM42 million from the retirement fund of hardworking Malaysians?

PAS, the party that loves to disguise itself with the cloak of religion, is no better. PAS leaders may be turning against Najib now because he threatens to upend their carefully laid plans to strengthen their foothold in the federal government, but remember that the entire top leadership of PAS visited Najib soon after he was first convicted in July 2020 to show him solidarity and support. For all their religious posturing, they were quick to abandon principle and integrity to commiserate with a criminal for the sake of political expediency. Muhyiddin’s comment that “in Islam, shame is part of faith” must surely apply as much to PAS as it does to Najib.

Sadly, it’s not just all the gutless and unprincipled politicians who must hang their heads in shame; we the voters of this nation ought to feel ashamed of ourselves as well; we are either too naïve or too uncaring to hold corrupt politicians accountable. By our vote, we empower the very corruption and abuse of power that oppresses us. How can we talk about national pride or even hold our heads high when we put corrupt men on pedestals instead of ostracising and shaming them?

Following the Melaka elections, Tun Dr Mahathir – who has been uncompromising on Najib’s criminality – asked: “Is it possible that they [the voters] have forgotten the crimes committed by Najib? Or is it that they have forgiven him? Or is it because they believe his claim that he is innocent? Or is it because the voters did not care; that to them corruption is acceptable because they got something for themselves from this corrupt leader?” Whatever your views about Dr Mahathir may be, his questions deserve to be answered. – Dennis Ignatius