PUTRAJAYA should enact a Ministerial Code of Conduct in order to keep Cabinet members in check and ensure they follow basic protocols while holding public office.
“According to the Institute for Government, a UK-based think tank, the Ministerial Code is a set of rules and principles which outline the standards of conduct for Government ministers.
“The codes include the ‘overarching duty’ of ministers to comply with law and abide by the Seven Principles of Public Life, a set of ethical standards which apply to all holders of public office.
“The UK Ministerial Code was last updated in August 2019. Do we have such a code for our ministers? If not, we can adopt the UK Ministerial Code with appropriate modifications, to meet local conditions,” HELP University Faculty of Business, Economics and Accounting and Institute Crime and Criminology senior lecturer R Paneir Selvam told FocusM.
On Saturday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed apologised for flouting COVID-19 standard operating procedure (SOP) for dining-in at a coffee shop in Jeli, Kelantan recently.
Mustapa was not the only minister accused of breaching SOP, as Plantation and Commodities Minister Datuk Khairuddin Aman Razali was accused of travelling to Kemaman, Terengganu last month, despite interstate travels being barred.
Others claimed to have breached SOP include International Trade and Industries Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali and Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor.
Citing the UK as an example, Paneir Selvam said that its Secretary for Health Matt Hancock resigned on Saturday after a video surfaced showing him breaking social distancing guidelines during lockdown.
“Even though UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson accepted his explanation and allowed him to resume duties, the pressure from within and outside his party forced Hancock to leave,” he said.
Gov’t leaders owe it to the public, Agong
On Mustapa’s case, while it was commendable that former had apologised for it, the academic said those holding public office must lead by example and follow rules they themselves have written.
“For example, if a parent smokes a cigarette in front of his child and later tells the kid that smoking is hazardous to health, obviously the child will not listen.
“The country’s leaders must act like parents and provide a good example for citizens to follow.
“Plus, they also bear moral responsibilities as a result of the oath they took before the Yang di-Pertuan Agong,” Paneir Selvam mentioned.
Making matters worse, he said many VIPs who flouted SOP in the past have used many excuses to justify their actions, triggering public outcry as they only received a slap on the wrist.
“But ordinary people were harshly penalised for breaching SOP. The rakyat will perceive this as unjust and later pour scorn on the legitimacy of the SOP,” Panier Selvam cautioned.
Such attitude, he added, was alarming as adherence to SOP was crucial to reduce skyrocketing number of COVID-19 cases in the country, triggering many to lose jobs and incomes.
“According to reports, there is an increase in suicide cases during this difficult period and many are burdened by rising unemployment, debt and family stress.
“While people lose jobs and struggle to put food on the table, leaders and prominent people must show compassion and provide guidance to them,” Paneir Selvam remarked. – June 29, 2021.