A leader stands only as tall as the people allow him

A leader stands only as tall as the people allow him
By Zan Azlee

I have a problem with people who think that they are the be-all and end-all. Basically, people who think they can do anything they want because they feel they have the authority to do so. And take note, they just feel they have the authority to do so.

One case in point that got me upset is how lawyer Latheefa Koya was appointed as MACC head by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The prime minister made a unilateral decision without any consultation with the cabinet or the Parliamentary Select Committee.

Mahathir gave his reasons for doing so and it was that he did not want to go through all the red tape involved with the appointment, so he made the appointment by himself. It may be true that the prime minister is accorded certain privileges in this sense but he goes against New Malaysia’s commitment towards transparency and democracy.

Personally, I think Latheefa would make a good candidate. She has always been vocal and critical of issues that were against democracy or not favouring the rakyat. She was a former member of PKR and she would even be very critical of her own party members. I have always seen her as one of the good guys.

But the reality stands: she was part of a political party and it is crucial that the position at the MACC is one that needs to be independent of any politics. It needs to be non-partisan and non-bias so as to give the rakyat the confidence that the MACC will do its jobs properly.

But this whole appointment does not give anyone any confidence. If Latheefa stays true to what she fights for, then she should insist that her appointment go through all the proper procedures so that it will inspire confidence. If she is truly non-partisan, then she should have been vocal and critical of her own appointment. So let’s see what happens next.

Another case that has me irked is the rant by the Tengku Mahkota of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, of people wearing black pants. According to the prince, only the Johor royal family is entitled to wear black pants. Apparently, common folks have no right to wear black pants.

Well, talk about privilege! This has to be the epitome of it. I love wearing black pants. I pair it with T-shirts, shirts, baju Melayu and, basically, any kind of top. Nothing is going to stop me from wearing my black pants. I love the look and the flexibility of it. I currently have a few pairs in my cupboard, and heck, I think I’ll go buy more.

I can understand a royal tradition that needs to be upheld. But by saying that only the royal family holds the right to wear a particular clothing style or colour, that is taking it a bit too far. As Malaysians, we respect the royals. They are, after all, a pillar of our country, Federal Constitution and Rukunegara. But they are still just as human as any other Malaysian on the street.

Malaysians no longer want to live in a society where we are governed top-down by authoritarians, be it politicians or sultans or rajas. We do not live in archaic or feudal times anymore. The privilege to be a leader is exactly that – a privilege. It is not a right.

It is a privilege that is given by the rakyat. And for all of those leaders who are given the privilege, as much as the rakyat respects them and hence, giving them that privilege, they need to realise that the respect has to be reciprocated. A leader stands only as high as the people he or she leads allows him or her to stand.

The rakyat doesn’t really demand much. All they want is to be governed the way they have been promised to be governed. So for the leaders who have been chosen, just fulfil those promises that they themselves have made. It really just as simple as that. And, of course, act humble and be respectful.

Oh, by the way, the right Malay analogy to differentiate between different classes among members of society is ‘antara enggang dan pipit’ and not ‘antara helang dan pipit’. Do a quick Google search and you will see if it is true or not. I kid you not.

A friend of mine who is a Malay literary connoisseur and writer interpreted it aptly by saying that an ‘enggang’ (hornbill) is an elegant and peaceful bird which is always perched on the tree tops, while a ‘helang’ (eagle) is a vicious meat-eating predator that preys on the weak.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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