Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Question of Entitlement

I have been following most of the exposés on 1MDB and the denials, threats, etc by those involved since the story broke out. We also talked about them during friends and relatives’ get-togethers. I believe we all know who and what to believe. Like many concerned citizens, I also want to voice my anger.

Unfortunately, our society is still race- and religion-sensitive. The recent “run-off” at Low Yat Plaza speaks volumes how fragile race relations can be in Malaysia, even though the authorities said it was not. So perhaps it is better for a china-man like me to resign to the realities of Beautiful Malaysia!

We have seen the likes of 1MDB before. The scale of this one is simply too mind-boggling to imagine, that’s all. Chances are that there will be more in future, once this has come to pass, if we allow our institutions to continue as usual. This leads me to a reader’s comment about an event that is now unfolding in Australia.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop, recently used a helicopter to travel from Melbourne to Geelong, a distance of some 80km, to attend a fund-raising function. It cost more than A$5000 of Australian taxpayers’ money. Everyone, save Prime Minister Tony Abbot, who values “mate-ship” above better judgements, opines that she should resign. The only concession she finally made was to pay back the money (albeit with an administrative penalty, of course). But she continues to wear that defiant “It’s my entitlement” look. This prompted a reader to ask in The Age: Entitlement: a new Australian value?

Entitlement is a right – if it is rightfully yours. If you are a CEO in a company, even your wife and children are entitled to certain perks prescribed in your company’s manual. If you are a minister, you get this and that, besides your pay, based on government policies. But if they are out of policies or manuals, they are not your entitlements. Period. Bishop’s helicopter ride is a case in point.

Unfortunately, in the corporate world and in many countries, entitlements are often abused. Many enjoy them in the pretext of performing company’s or public service. Damage is not far reaching if lapses are small. But if it involves billions and is really committed by people who have been entrusted to lead the nation, then I am afraid the nation will be walking down the Marcos lane. Can a culture which is devoid of the values of Shame and Remorse excel in the long run?