Wednesday, August 1, 2007

TOWARDS A DECENT SOCIAL ORDER FOR ALL MALAYSIANS


Those with a chequered past or clear evidence of questionable morality should be prevented from taking office, Perak Raja Muda Raja Nazrin Shah said Tuesday.

He said this was integral to good governance, one of the three major themes of the works of the late Prof Syed Hussein Alatas, a renowned sociologist and intellectual.

"Figures in authority must be chosen for their integrity first and qualifications second," he said during his inaugural lecture to commemorate the legacy of Prof Syed Hussein Alatas entitled "Towards a Decent Social Order for All Malaysians", at the Islamic Arts Museum here, Tuesday.

Raja Nazrin outlined five traits needed for a decent social order which would produce social norms and behaviour that were fundamentally efficient, productive and just. They were:

• A social order that led to cohesion within and among communities and called for horizontal equity whereby all Malaysians in equal circumstances were treated in exactly the same way;

•Malaysians of all races and religions engaging one another with absolute civility and respect;

• Malaysians feeling a deep-seated sense of ownership over the problems of the country and being motivated to take decisive action and make whatever sacrifices necessary for the good of the country;

• Only Malaysians who were capable, hard working, bold and scrupulously honest being allowed to serve in positions of responsibility; and,

• The public having a high degree of trust in the pillars of state, the executive, judiciary and legislature, as well as the civil service and police.

"In short, a decent Malaysian social order would be one that is based on inclusiveness and accommodation as opposed to marginalisation and discrimination.

"Indeed, if Malaysia professes to be an advanced country, it had better be prepared to meet a higher standard of behaviour and morality. Anything less and it runs the risk of being declared a shameless sham," Raja Nazrin said.

He said the battle against corruption had always been top priority for Prof Syed Hussein, who published four books on the topic from as early as 1968.

Also present was his wife, Raja Puan Besar Perak, Tuanku Zara Salim, Albukhary Foundation executive vice-chairman Datuk Ismail Yusof and Syed Hussain's son, associate prof Syed Farid Alatas.

Raja Nazrin said corruption was mankind's most deadly social disease, as it could undermine good governance, weaken institutional foundations, distort public policy, compromise the rule of law and constrain the economy.

He said corruption curbed competitiveness to the detriment of economic and social development, led to tremendous misallocation of resources, and made the cost of doing business become unacceptably high.

"Corruption exists because of man's enduring desire for personal gain.

"Once corruption becomes widespread, it will no longer seem immoral and unlawful - just business as usual," he said.

He said there must be concrete anti-corruption measures and management practices based on efficiency, transparency and accountability.

Unnecessary or complex regulations and licensing requirements should be discarded or simplified to discourage `under-the-table' deals, he said.

He said the mobilisation of public opinion was also an integral part of good governance as Syed Hussein placed great store in the power of public outrage.Raja Nazrin said Prof Syed Hussein believed that if society's consciousness was awakened to the ills of corruption and gave its cases widespread publicity, it would generate such adverse reaction that the government would be forced to take action.

"Complaints and protests may be irksome, but they should be treated as welcome and constructive feedback," he said.

The lecture, attended by some 300 participants, was the first of the Albukhary Foundation Lecture Series.

Its objective was to perpetuate the need for open discussion and communication of social issues that Malaysians commonly face.

Prof Syed Hussein, who died on Jan 27 this year at the age of 79, was well-known for his considerable legacy of books, notably "The Myth of the Lazy Native."-- -- BERNAMA, Kuala Lumpur July 31

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