Appointments based on political expediency undermines institutional integrity, good governance

Governance in Malaysia has undergone changes since independence to suit the prevailing political circumstances, which could either enhance or undermine institutional integrity and good governance, depending on the kind of people in power.

Nevertheless, the basis of this system of governance is a constitutional monarchy based on the democratic principles of the separation of powers of the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judiciary.

Unlike an absolute monarchy, the constitutional monarchy, which is above the riff-raff of partisan politics, functions at the behest of the Legislative, as enshrined in the Constitution.

In theory, these three branches, through checks and balances, ensure good governance for the benefit of the people.

However, this is not always the case, as the Executive has a domain in Parliament by virtue of it being the ruling party, and can dictate its own agenda, which may not be consonant with the aspirations of the people.

Previously, the monarchy strictly adhered to its constitutional role.

But, since GE-14, the monarchy was perforced to encroach into the political domain because of the imbroglio brought about by shifting alliances of the Members of Parliament, which resulted in the collapse of the mandated government and replaced by one of royal decree, which also collapsed within 18 months.

And the monarch, once again, had to appoint a non-mandated prime minister.

The monarchy should not have been brought into such contention, for the matter should have been left to the discretion of Parliament.

Although the Constitution stipulates the independence of the three branches of government, the nature of the structure of our government allows the Executive to impose onto the other two, by controlling all major appointments.

For example, the Executive controls the Legislature by virtue of it having the majority of Members of Parliament, and perhaps, by appointing a ‘pliant’ Speaker, who would usually rule in favour of the government, leaving the opposition in the lurch.

Likewise, the Judiciary can be burdened with political imperatives. This is borne out by recent statements by politicians and ministers regarding the pressure on them to allegedly interfere in the judicial process in exchange for political support.

There have been suggestions that politicians in the ‘court cluster’ are allegedly using their political clout to affect such intervention.

Even in the memorandum of understanding between Perikatan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan, the question of the independence of the judiciary was one of the salient points in the understanding.

As such, it does give the impression that the Executive holds sway, to influence the outcome of the judicial process.

Sometimes, one could not help but perceive that justice is applied in inverse proportion to a person’s social, and especially, political standing.

A sitting prime minister should never taint the sanctity of his office by officially engaging with persons of questionable character, more so if they had been tried and convicted in a court of law, or facing charges, when there are many professionals with integrity and impeccable qualifications who could serve the nation.

Corruption is the bane of any government, for it undermines the administrative machinery that implements policies for the benefit of the people.

Although corruption is regarded as a crime and scourge the world over, and has become cancerous in Malaysia, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, a member of the current government and president of the Malaysian Islamic Party (Pas) has offered a skewed view of corruption.

He once said, corruption is not stealing, nor was it robbery, but a “voluntary act between the giver and receiver” and is not punishable under hudud.

However, he conveniently ignored the numerous verses in the Quran that warned the people not to indulge in all forms of corruption.

When he was in the opposition, Hadi was vehement about fighting corruption, labelling it a scourge of society. Now, the government’s special envoy to the Middle East with full ministerial status has changed his tune, saying that corrupt practices are not so much a crime as an acceptable aberration of life.

Who could forget Umno Tanjung Karang MP and current Entrepreneur Development and Cooperative Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar, who famously said that it was not wrong to steal; it’s only a crime when one was caught.

In other countries, such people would not have been elected, much less appointed as ministers or envoys.

In most countries, ministerial and other high-level government appointments are based on a person’s credentials, of having the right qualifications and expertise for the job.

But this is not the case in Malaysia, where such appointments are made based on political expediency.

Thus, we have a religious teacher as an environment and water minister, a youth and sports minister that has no inkling about sports, a health minister without a medical background and special envoys who have contributed nothing to justify their fat salaries.

They are appointed not because of their ability, but because of the need to distribute these positions to the various coalition factions. Thus, a bloated cabinet of incongruence.

If the status quo in the political situation remains, the current incongruence in government will persist.

However, with the possible implementation of Undi 18, which would allow youths to vote, there may be a glimmer of hope, which could change the political equation to realise an accountable, equitable and responsible form of governance.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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