“Power does corrupt, but still too early to judge PH-led govt,” say analysts

LAST night (Dec 14) Johor PKR’s parliamentarian Hassan Abdul Karim implied in a poem that power can ultimately corrupt a political leader’s personality, including betraying their own party’s struggle. 

In a Malay poem titled Kuasa Mengubah Segala-galanya (Power Changes Everything), the Pasir Gudang MP expressed his personal disappointment that was believed to be directed at Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution for defending the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA). 

Recall that yesterday, Damansara MP Gobind Singh Deo urged Saifuddin to reconsider his position on the law, pointing out that his stance was at odds with the position taken by Pakatan Harapan (PH). 

Former Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah had similarly lambasted the minister for his stance, saying SOSMA “breeds and institutionalise injustice”. 

Hot on the heels of the SOSMA statement came reports that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has filed a defamation suit against Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor for allegedly insinuating he was immoral. 

Both news had sparked concern among people that the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led government is heading in the wrong direction.   

Responding to Hassan’s poem about how power can ultimately corrupt a political leader’s personality, Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute Singapore visiting fellow James Chai opined that it is still too early to start judging the new government.  

“It is early days to know if this is true (that power has corrupted the PH regime). Power tends to blur the vision of a politician, and thus the level of accountability from the minister’s team to the system surrounding the ministry ought to be high,” he told FocusM.  

“So far there hasn’t been a clear instance of misusing power, but the vigilance is right to be had.” 

Mohd S., an Indonesia-based analyst who also runs a think tank, concurred with Chai saying it is too early to point fingers at the Anwar government. 

“It is a new government and they have to be given a grace period before we start attacking them. It is not fair to attack the government and the PKR MP’s statement will bring more confusion,” he pointed out.  

“It is one thing to be in the opposition and harp on issues that attract attention. It is always different when you sit in the centre of power. Things are different then, but Anwar has a strategy to bring reforms to the country.” 

Nevertheless, he noted that Anwar and his Cabinet of ministers should “seek the opinion of party members” before making any eyebrow-raising statements. 

On the issue of Anwar suing Sanusi for defamation, Chai says the government is entitled to sue parties for valid legal grounds. 

He said it is a process that would determine whether Anwar was defamed or not but freedom of speech, too, has its limits. 

“The court process would ultimately determine whether there is a case to be answered. Freedom of speech has always existed with limits, and legal tools like defamation and libel exist in all jurisdictions around the world, even for the countries with the most freedom in this aspect,” he remarked. 

“While it could be argued that the government with the awesome largesse should exercise such legal actions with restraint, it hasn’t been proven that this was an unreasonable use until the court determines so.  

“It is also important to look at the freedom of speech scene holistically and it hasn’t been proven that this environment is more oppressive than in the past.” 

For Mohd S., the situation is such in Malaysia that too many people are confusing freedom of speech with someone’s right to redress in the event of defamation. 

“Regardless what the public opinion is, if a political figure feels defamed and sues another politician, this shows how healthy a democracy is,” he acknowledged. – Dec 15, 2022 


Main photo credit: Malaysia Gazette

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