JUNE 14 — So the time has come for Hari Raya. The day one feels inexplicably self-conscious for eating at 11 in the morning, or maybe that’s just me. The festive mood is sure to be amplified by the start of the World Cup tournament in Russia. More than the World Cup, the festival marking the end of the fasting month comes at a time of an upbeat political mood. The 11 th of May is a date that will be etched in Malaysian minds for a long time to come. Tomorrow will in fact be the first Eid under a new political order. If the 11 th of May marked a welcome Ramadan gift for Muslims supporting PM Mahathir, tomorrow symbolizes the culmination of joy that has gripped the country for a month, even in spite of contentious issues such as political corruption and pricey goods.
Apart from celebrations, Hari Raya would do well to serve as an opportunity for reflecting on where the country will go in the future. Malaysian support for the new government is already showing itself in ringgits and cents, with citizens conjuring more than RM 60,000,000.00 so far for Tabung Harapan, the fund set up by Mahathir to reduce the country’s national debt. Even our Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Muhammad V, offered to reduce his salary by 10% to help reduce the debt. Apart from that, he cancelled his Hari Raya open house so that the funds could be allocated to national priorities. More than support, it is a statement from Malaysians that they can put aside racial and religious differences for a common cause shared by a leader who has vowed to restructure the economy and combat corruption.
Yes, Malaysia notorious monster. Corruption is a serious problem in Malaysia, to say the least. As of February 2018, Malaysia ranks 62 nd on the corruption index, with the 1MDB crisis a major factor in this ranking.
A momentous change in leadership will not carry much symbolic significance if corruption levels remain the same or, worse, increase. Efforts at combating corruption can only be facilitated with a merging of law enforcement and education. Last year, the Integrity Institute of Malaysia surveyed university students’ perception of corruption and found that one in three students thought that receiving gifts in exchange for a service rendered was not considered corruption.
It is worrying that an institution (the University) that is traditionally supposed to produce the leaders of the future is producing individuals who condone corruption. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has already partnered with the National University of Malaysia to introduce an elective course on integrity and fighting corruption.
This is a good start but more courses like these should be introduced in other educational institutions lest they remain a one-hit wonder. Our dismal rankings in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) could very well improve if both elite leaders and the average Malaysian see that corruption is a negative means to an end.
Granted, the chairman of Pakatan Harapan is proceeding with cautious optimism, aware that delivering his pledges will take more than 100 days to fulfil. Undoubtedly, many of these days will be spent reconciling the political differences inherent within a disparate coalition, in this case the coalition of PKR, PPBM, AMANAH and DAP. Power struggles will be inevitable in the weeks and months to come. Dealing with this itself is a challenge on its own. At the end of the day, Malaysians will celebrate Hari Raya under a new leadership for the first time in over six decades. This alone is a milestone. Whether other milestones will be achieved in the future under the new government remain to be seen.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.