Federal Court verdict provides a second chance for Malaysia

The Federal Court verdict in upholding the High Court’s guilty conviction of Najib Razak and sending him to prison was a psychological breakthrough for Malaysia.

Aug 26, 2022

Anil Netto

By Anil Netto
The Federal Court verdict in upholding the High Court’s guilty conviction of Najib Razak and sending him to prison was a psychological breakthrough for Malaysia.

While the judges were just doing their job — albeit under immense pressure — it was unprecedented for a former prime minister — one of the most powerful individuals in the land — to have been convicted and sent to prison.

If someone like Najib could go to prison, then it proves that no one is above the law.

It’s a cathartic moment for the people of Malaysia, who have been used to seeing corrupt politicians escape from the long arm of the law.

Just five years ago, no one in their wildest imagination would have conceived that Najib, the scion of an illustrious family, could be sent to prison.

His “cash is king” mantra was a logical development from the moment in 1981, when then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad came up with the Malaysia Inc concept. The idea was to get the public and private sectors to work together as a Malaysian Company.

But the corporate mentality seeped in as well, invariably leading to Mahathir’s privatisation policy two years later.
The country appeared to have lost its ‘soul’ as money and power came to trump Truth and Justice, as seen in the 1988 judicial crisis, when top judges were suspended or sacked.

Over the years, many were also arrested and detained without trial for speaking the truth about abuse of power and corruption.

Leaders who steal from national coffers or squander the nation’s wealth commit a grave injustice. They deprive the people of funding for essential services. The government won’t have enough money to build more hospitals and schools or hire enough qualified personnel to run these places. Ordinary people have to suffer because of a lack of funds for social security support schemes.

Not only do corrupt political leaders deprive the people of public money, they also deprive them of opportunities for a better future.

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus warns: “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.”

If we understand the Father as someone who deeply loves humanity and who has great compassion towards ordinary people, especially the poor and those who suffer, if we understand God as someone who identifies with the people — after all, humans were created in God’s image — then anyone who serves the people is surely pleasing to God and serves the cause of His kingdom.

Bearing in mind God’s solidarity with the people, if we extend Jesus’ words to political leaders, who are supposed to serve the people, it only follows that political leaders cannot serve both the People and Money at the same time. They will either hate the first (People) and love the second (Money), or be attached to the first and despise the second.

Political leaders may say they care for the people, but if they steal from public funds, thus depriving the people of funds to improve their lives, then this reveals a certain hatred and contempt of the very people they are entrusted to serve. It’s a betrayal of the people’s trust.

In the milieu in which Jesus conducted His ministry, corruption ran rife. The religious elite and local political leaders were entrusted with managing the public coffers, funded by heavy taxes imposed on ordinary people, most of them peasants.

But they squandered these public funds on mega-projects and lavish palaces and mansions for themselves, fine clothing and perks and generous pensions. Leaders engaged in a decades-long renovation of the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem, among other mega-projects. They also accumulated wealth in the Temple instead of using the funds to help the impoverished.

Not for one moment was Jesus impressed with the magnificence and opulence of the Temple renovations.

Jesus could see the crushing impact that taxes and the confiscation of fertile land was having on independent farmers in Galilee. He could see the parasitical relationship between the countryside and the cities and modern townships of the time. Household income in the countryside was being sucked into the urban centres where the elite lived in relative comfort. Meanwhile, the peasants laboured in plantations and in fisheries after having lost their land through confiscation.

What must have raised the ire of people like John the Baptist and Jesus was seeing how the leaders of the time used religion to add to the burden of ordinary people through punitive rules of religious purity and temple taxes and tithes.

God is a god of love and justice and compassion. How would He have felt when He saw leaders enforcing religious laws on personal piety and purity on people to divert attention from their plundering of the wealth of the land? Think of the wholesale looting by the likes of King Herod and his sons, the Roman occupiers and their tax collectors and the House of Annas, the ‘emeritus high priest’ and the other high priestly families.

In the same way, many politicians in our world today are fond of using race and religion to divert attention from their wholesale looting of public coffers. These are the hypocrites who impose regulations and penalties for minor infractions of norms of morality (religious or otherwise) — “the specks in their brother’s eye” — while unable to cast out the beam from their own eyes.

Let’s hope the nation can start afresh and wipe out corruption in our land. The struggle for Justice and Truth may be long and winding, but rest assured if we further the cause of God’s kingdom, Justice will ultimately prevail.

(Anil Netto is a freelance writer and activist based in Penang. He believes we are all called to build the kingdom of God in this world.)

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