Sex and ‘moral Malaysia’

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MARCH 29 — The recently-revealed sex video by the so-called Datuk T trio and the consequent media hype serve to remind us that sex in a Muslim-majority Malaysia has become a convenient tool to incriminate or discredit an individual (preferably politician), especially one who is perceived to be a big threat to the entrenched interests of the powers-that-be. 

This is underlined by the fact that what is deemed sexual misconduct is generally bound to catch the attention and arouse the indignation of the general populace. And quite often, as exemplified by recent experience notably in the form of Sodomy I and Sodomy II, these so-called sexual transgressions are framed in a fashion that aim to overwhelm the majority of the population to the extent that they render other equally, if not more, immoral deeds less socially significant. 

And what’s more insidious, if not mischievous, is that these so-called sexual misdeeds are projected into the public domain in such a manner that it gives us the suspicion that they are meant to be a cunning diversion from the nation’s other pressing problems and challenges. 

Whatever the case maybe, such sexual misconduct has been highlighted by the media, political leaders and moral guardians as if to suggest that the notion of morality should only be confined to the way we conduct our sexual selves in public and private as well. And, so goes the insinuation, nothing else matters. 

Hence, a politician, for example, who is said to be involved in a sexual activity — which is perceived to be violating social mores — is not fit to govern the country. Judging from the nation’s history of selective persecution, it appears that this is a fate worse than one that involves other politicians who have an incurable addiction to material corruption, not to mention other acts that physically harm other people. 

This brings us to the subject of corruption that has wide and serious repercussions in society. Corruption in its extreme form can indeed tear a society asunder. It brings about moral degradation in human beings as it breeds unbridled greed and shamelessness, apart from setting the stage for the avaricious plunder of the nation’s wealth. 

Equally troubling is that corruption helps to further impoverish the already poor sector of society especially when development funds that are meant to help the poor get dry or insufficient because of the leakages in the delivery system.

It undoubtedly gives rise to social injustice particularly when the cleavage between the rich and the poor yawns ever wider. Needless to say, a neglect of the poor and dispossessed by government leaders is in itself a cruel abandonment of its moral responsibility. 

While we’re still on the subject of morality, the political elite needs reminding that they have a moral obligation to work diligently for the betterment of the larger society. They have been entrusted to perform in the larger interests of the ordinary people whom they’re supposed to represent. To pursue their narrow interests at the expense of the ordinary people’s is simply immoral. 

In light of the gravity of this moral ailment called corruption, the general public expects the government to pursue relentlessly a war against corruption. One of the ways for the government to show its earnestness is to make the MACC totally independent so that it can act without fear or favour, and be answerable to the Parliament. 

What boggles the mind is that religious institutions in the country, particularly the Islamic ones, have kept an elegant silence over the matter of corruption. Even if there has been an expression of concern in the past, it is not enough.

We’re talking about a bunch of people who, often acting as moral guardians, would easily and swiftly go up in arms against close proximity, alcohol consumption, scantily clad women and sexual misdemeanour especially among the working and lower middle classes. 

Apart from corruption, and in the interest of this multiethnic, multireligious and multicultural country, the government has the moral duty to ensure, for instance, a political climate that promotes understanding, respect and harmony between the diverse ethnic and religious groups in society. Justice, compassion and fairness must prevail in the treatment of all these diverse groups as required by Islam and other major faiths in the world. 

Over the years we have witnessed an escalation of ethnic conflicts and religious tensions in the country. As part of a deliberate endeavour to address these challenges, the government is expected to combat all forms of ethnic and religious extremism in our midst.

Civilised and responsible discourse amongst the stakeholders must be encouraged. And to do this, a more liberal environment is needed, one that promotes freedom of expression, assembly and association.

Equally important, the politics of ethnicity, and of divide and rule, must be thrown into the dustbin of history. Such divisive politics, although capable of delivering short-term gains, must be proscribed by a government that strives to be morally upright. 

Political leaders must make a conscious effort to find ways and means to create a society that is more compassionate, just and, above all, humane for it is the moral thing to do. How does one go about doing this?

For one thing, the government should craft policies that are really people-friendly; never mind those big sounding acronyms in the much-touted government policies of today. 

Take health. The government should provide a healthcare system that offers relatively cheap but sophisticated and efficient health services within the government hospital framework. The less well off need not be in the long queue to get well-deserved medical treatment and medication. 

These are but a few examples of how a government shoulders its moral obligations and responsibilities. As Malaysians, we must move on lest we’ll be left far behind by the rest of the world. 

There’s certainly no short cut to doing this. It certainly takes more than just finding an Omega watch.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

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