Most politicians prefer to die in glory – in office

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT | A few days ago, I received this forwarded message in a chat group – ”Who the hell does he think he is? Why is he still around? Just drop dead!”

That must be an abrupt comment from a very disillusioned and angry person. His retort was in a thread discussing the lacklustre performance of a political leader.

To most of us, it would probably be difficult to tell someone “to drop dead”. We don’t wish that on anyone, not even our worst enemy.

However, such uncivil and unkind words are understandably uttered when someone is so disgusted and fed up as if forced against the wall with no way out.

On this subject of why I believe most political leaders won’t let go but choose to die in office, let me relate this true account. It was told to me by a former political secretary.

Upon reaching 70, a federal minister decided not to seek re-election as president of his party. He had also declined to contest the seat he held for three terms.

But he had a request for his party colleagues. He wanted to be appointed a senator and continued as a minister.

Wisely, the party would have none of it and moved on to choose a new president and nominated him to the federal cabinet.

This was during Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first stint as prime minister and he acceded to the party’s new nomination.

“So you see”, my political secretary friend told me, “we, politicians, are unprepared to let go of our public posts and will want to remain in office until we die, if possible. Most of us dream of dying in glory in office”.

There is a lot of truth in that. This is not to say that all politicians harbour such intention but it would not be wrong to say that most politicians fall in that category.

I suppose it’s only normal for most to wish to die in glory in office rather than to leave this world a nobody (at least they think so), an unknown whom no one remembers or talks about after you are gone.

Isn’t it funny, weird even that some think people will remember them forever after their death?

Perhaps they should be told that no one remembers you or talks about you probably a week after your funeral, except for your family and loved ones. Isn’t this a fact?

Unless, of course, you are someone like Mother Teresa, Mohandas Gandhi or Nelson Mandela. With due respect, no Malaysian leader, past or present, are anywhere near the much-revered trio in recent history.

In all seriousness, I think I could easily give a talk on Mother Teresa, Gandhi or Mandela without reference material but would find great difficulty in discussing the legacies of any Malaysian leader in a public forum.

That is my honest statement, not for want of respect for any of them but Malaysian leaders, in general, are self-serving, with egos the size of the biggest dinosaur egg and easily corruptible.

Their negatives easily overshadow any of the positives they could have contributed towards the betterment of the citizenry or the development of the nation.

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Let’s take Sarawak governor Abdul Taib Mahmud as an example. He was chief minister of my homeland, Sarawak, for 33 long years.

What do I remember about him? On top of my list, his alleged abuse of power and the perpetuation of cronyism, and alleged corrupt dealings within his inner circle and staunch supporters.

And does anyone seriously think Taib is a leader who is prepared to leave this world an ordinary man? He will surely choose to be governor till the day the Almighty calls.

After all, there is no term limit for governors. Mark my word, Taib will be governor for as long as he lives. Here is a man who probably finds it impossible to live a single day without a public position.

I might as well share this one-liner on Mahathir too. I also think that our prime minister will want to be in office forever if he is not bound by any initial agreement within the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

For political veterans like Lim Kit Siang and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, I look at them in another dimension. I don’t think they are still in politics today because they are greedy for power and position.

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Lim has been in politics since his 20s. For more than half a century, he has known no other career other than politics. Even if you appoint Lim as the chairperson of a GLC with a multi-million ringgit annual income, he would not be comfortable. To Lim, without politics, life is probably not worth living.

For Razaleigh, being an MP is no big deal for him. He is now in his 10th term as Gua Musang MP, the longest Malaysian serving MP. Yes, he still chooses to sit in Parliament as a backbencher because politics is in his blood. The Kelantan prince eats, sleeps and breathes politics. Life will be empty for him without politics.

I have this message to politicians in general: Please spare us the crap that you are in politics to serve the people. All the high-sounding ideas that you want to make lives better for others and fighting for justice and reforms are nothing but hogwash.

Time to be honest with yourselves and the public. You crave for a better life yourself and you choose politics because it gives you power and position to better yourself.

If not, why are you so eager to seek re-election in every election that comes your way, ever ready to fight tooth and nail, and even to backstab and prevent your party colleagues from replacing you?

If your noble intention is really to serve the people, try to get involved in an NGO, a voluntary or charitable organisation, where it’s all about giving and expecting nothing in return.

The lifespan of a volunteer in a social movement is usually around 10 years. After that, most would have felt that they have made their due contribution to society and would have retired gracefully, making way for others.

But not for politicians. They are such “genuine, caring and generous souls” that they would insist on serving the people till the day they reach their grave.

I do have difficulty believing that politicians are real people, most times. What about you?

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FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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