PETALING JAYA, 24 August 2020 – Police have opened an investigation paper on Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali for flouting mandatory home quarantine after returning from Turkey on July 7, amid mounting calls for him to be charged in court.
Elected representatives should take more responsibility for the blunders and snafus they commit, two political observers told theSun yesterday.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case too often in Malaysia, with them generally getting away scot-free or let off with “symbolic punishments” not befitting the offences they committed.
The observers claimed that this dearth in accountability among many politicians was due to a lack of principles, coupled with the political immaturity and the “forgiving and forgetful” nature of local voters.
Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Dr Oh Ei Sun said more often than not, incumbents also tend to “devolve” their political responsibilities to civil servants, who essentially become scapegoats for their bosses.
“Until we achieve a level of both socioeconomic prosperity and political maturity commensurate with other more developed societies, it is frankly inconceivable that politicians would voluntarily pay the ultimate political price by resigning,” he told theSun yesterday.
Oh was commenting on the recent brouhaha surrounding Mohd Khairuddin, who was slapped with a mere RM1,000 compound for breaching his home quarantine, when others have been fined for much more, and even faced prison term.
Mohd Khairuddin’s action has led to calls for him to vacate his Cabinet position, although the minister has since apologised and vowed to return his salaries as a minister for the last four months, and contribute them to the Covid-19 fund.
This is unlike many other developed nations, where those with positions appear to be more accountable for their own actions, like Irish Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary, who resigned last Friday after breaching strict Covid-19 SOP to attend a golf club dinner.
In New Zealand, Health Minister David Clark stepped down after the government was criticised over its handling of Covid-19 and after he took his family to the beach during the pandemic.
Previously in November 2019, two ministers in Japan resigned for committing less than monumental offences, which was to issue goods in the form of cantaloupes, crabs and potatoes to constituents.
Oh said in Malaysia, politicians are always let off the hook as they are often not made accountable for their transgressions by the voters.
“This, combined with generous distribution of resources to the bulk of the voters, especially in rural and urban lower-class constituencies, would more than overcome any negative perceptions of the transgressed politicians in question,” he said.
Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) democracy and governance unit manager Aira Azhari cited the lack of principles and a weak application of the rule of law as reason why many elected representatives refuse to resign over offences they committed.
“There is also not enough pressure from fellow party members and the people,” she said when contacted.
On the RM1,000 fine imposed on Mohd Khairuddin, Aira opined it would raise further eyebrows regarding fairness in the application of the law, and result in a trust deficit in the government.
“This (double standard) might cause a further erosion of trust in the current batch of ministers and consequently the government,” she said.
First published in The Sun Daily, 24 August 2020