Thursday, April 03, 2014

We tolerate too much

Malaysian Top brass - corporate, civil service and politician

For years we in Malaysia have closed an eye to the things which are not done right.  We have become a nation which celebrates mediocrity.  The proverbial “tak pe la” has become a mainstay in much of what we do and expect from the government of the day.  We have become calloused in our conscience, our tolerance for corruption and bribery is very high and our attitude towards excellence and productivity is poor to say the least.  This national tolerance for “what is not right” in Malaysia has led to an inefficiency in our government agencies, and breakdown of security and safety.  We can see this from the management of MH370 and the many fatal bus accidents and the kidnapping case in Sabah. 

We have allowed a murder on our soil with no closure. The lack of will to find the culprits of a brutally murdered foreign woman linked to the politically elite is a serious lapse of justice.  The 2 officers had no motive whatsoever to murder except to carry out the work as henchmen.  The fact that we as a nation have allowed the innocent blood of a woman to spill on our soil without bringing the plotters to justice is a dark blotch on the history of our country.    Then there is Teoh Beng Hock who died in the hands of the MACC.  How about Ahmad Sarbani, the custom officer?  How about Aminulrashyid and the many deaths in police custody?   These are all a dark stain on our country’s conscience. 

We have also become so tolerant of corruption and bribery in all forms and levels.  We make light of it and we laugh at ourselves because we have become a people who would pay to get out of a speeding ticket then pay to speed up licensing, pay to speed up government approvals for starting a business.  We have lost billions to mismanagement and corruption in government projects and yet we are able to gloss over it without anyone being charged or fired.  Each year the Auditor General’s report gives damning evidence of corruption in government procurement and sourcing yet no heads roll.  We learn to cope with it and many times play along this broken system in order to get things done.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

With this tolerance of corruption we obviously begin to close an eye to excellence.  Busses speed along the highway with no fear of getting caught.  Lorries and busses pass their annual inspection without even trully meeting standards.  How long have we made fun of the “kopi O license” where drivers are given license even when they are not competent.  Pedestrian walks are full of construction debris or ends in a pile of dirt because no one had the sense of excellence to repair them properly.  I can go on and on but in short we have become a nation that celebrates mediocrity.  We fool ourselves by saying we have a world class education system when our children rank lower than Vietnamese children in PISA education tests. We came out bottom third in ranking.  We fool ourselves when our children come out with 10A’s or 12 A’s but many will struggle to make it through a UK tertiary institution.

The crisis which unfortunately hit our nation on March 8th (and I am not talking about the political Tsunami) brought forth our top uniformed men and civil servants to the international scene.  They struggled to explain competently issues which they were supposed to be experts in.  They struggled in articulating their thoughts professionally and to make matters worse they did not have a good command of the English language. They showed a weakness in protecting our airspace and reveal a lapse in security on the morning of March 8th. This I believe would not have happened to our professional senior civil servants 30 years ago. 

Much is not well with our country and I think many have now come to the same conclusion.  We continue to play racial politics to our own detriment. We denounce meritocracy and tolerate mediocrity to our end. If we continue to turn a blind eye to corruption and injustice who knows what else we will lose.  We can play a part by keeping our Prime Minister, MPs, ADUN's accountable for what they say and do, refusing to pay a bribe and insisting on doing thisngs well.  Then only can we begin to lift our nation back into productivity and resolve the many outsanding issues in our government.