TALKING the talk is about being insincere, putting on a good front; being phoney. In Malay we call it “temberang”, which basically means to be boastful and without substance. The opposite is walking the talk, living your life with integrity and turning your words into action.
Lot of ministers talk the talk. It’s part of the common political psyche in Malaysia. I am sure we all have been in situations where we have to wait impatiently for ministers to turn up to grace an occasion. As the minister enters the room you have to give him the honour by standing up and applaud enthusiastically as if he is God-sent.
After endless salutations of Tan Sris and Datuks in the audience, the minister will launch into an hour of boring talk the talk. The speech will expound the good things the BN government is doing for the people and how much is being spent to improve our lot. They try to make us feel grateful for what the BN government has done for the community and question what the opposition has done for us. Their speech will end with the minister saying we should earn an honest living and not to expect government handouts all the time. Standard textbook speeches and nothing exciting or original.
Hundreds of speeches are delivered every month by our ministers at events. How many of our leaders are actually walking the talk? You read about 1MDB saga, the Felda fiasco, Youth and Sports ministry misappropriating RM100 million, embezzlement at the Human Resources Ministry and the list goes on and on.
You read how development funds for Sabah state water projects have been siphoned into somebody’s pockets in 2016. It was the biggest seizure ever in MACC’s 49-year history when the agency recovered RM114 million from the top two officials of the Sabah Water Department, including RM53.7 million in cold, hard cash that took more than 30 officers 15 hours to count.
After the 2016 seizure by MACC you would have thought nothing could be bigger than what the locals dubbed as “watergate”. A year later in 2017, several politicians including Shafie Apdal, a former rural and regional development, were arrested over a probe into an alleged misappropriation of RM1.5 billion meant for rural development projects in Sabah. These projects were planned and carried out between 2009 and 2015 when Shafie was a minister and a Vice-President of UMNO, the ruling party.
Netizens see Shafie's growing popularity as a threat to the ruling UMNO government in Sabah, and therefore needs to be neutralised. They argue that Shafie was expelled in June 2016 and these alleged misappropriation occurred between 2009-2015 when he was a minister in the BN government. If that is the case, they say the BN government is equally guilty as Shafie was part and parcel of a collective Federal cabinet. Why was Shafie singled out and victimised, they ask?
Others who are tired of money politics see the “watergate” money and the RM 1.5 billion meant for rural development as pure corruption. Putting aside our political allegiance, we should ask ourselves who are the real victims. The real victims are the people of Sabah who were deprived of development funds. The real victims are the taxpayers and the voters who put the ministers and YBs in power. These corrupt leaders were enriched by the system of money politics which has been going on for decades at the expense of the rakyat.
It’s ironic that year after year, we hear of political leaders in Sabah grumbling about the allocation of federal development funds. The watergate and rural development misappropriation shows that money has been allocated – it is the people we have elected who have robbed the rural people of essential infrastructure like roads, eletricity and water.
After 54 years in Malaysia, Sabah is still backwards in terms of infrastructure development. Who is to blame? You can’t blame Shafie alone because he is part of the cancer of money politics that is already malignant.
With the social media working overtime, you can easily be caught talking the talk. Some people jumped with joy when stories of the top corruption buster Dzulkifli Ahmad being caught in a Bali tryst with another woman went viral. For those who were angry and upset with Shafie’s arrest, it was like payback time.
To be fair to Dzulkifli, what he does outside the realm of his job is his business. He is entitled to his private life and we have to give him that respect. I’m very sure we don’t expect Dzulkifli to hold the candle to the likes of Mahatma Ghandi or Nelson Mandela. Unfortunately for Dzulkifli, setting a high moral standard and integrity is part of his unwritten job description. It cannot be otherwise if he is to command the respect of his subordinates and the general public. You may have tried hard to walk the talk, but have ended up looking like you are talking the talk.
Corruption is a menace to society. It has to be eradicated or at least controlled. An honest government walks the talk, and not talks the talk.