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Greed ruins Malaysia, says Simon Sipaun

By Eleazar Zachariah

The wise man of Sabah, Simon Sipaun, warned that human greed is on the rise and that it would ruin the country as it destroy everything in its path, be they good men, good policies and programmes.

He said greed had been inherent with human beings from the beginning but it had become more and more prevalent and worse with the advent of today's very materialistic and consuming society.
"Way back in the early 1960's even the British confided in me that little did they realise that greed would overwhelm the earlier leaders of Sabah. The British identified three leaders of the major communities then and wanted them to lead.

"The British thought that in order for the three leaders of the major communities to command respect, they should be in better shape economically than the others, and so the British gave them timber licenses. But is is difficult to satisfy human, or human's greed..." he said acknowledging that money politics in Sabah started with the birth of its two earliest political parties in 1961, albeit not as virulent as today.

Sipaun, who is former vice chairman of SUHAKAM, was sharing his understanding as panelist at a public forum on "reforming political financing in Malaysia" jointly organised by Transparency International - Malaysia and Malaysian Movement for Free Election (MAFREL), Thursday evening in Kota Kinabalu.

Saying greed is the root cause of corruption, Sipaun, who is well in his 70's and was a luminous civil servant until he retired as state secretary, said very few in politics would be able to avoid the temptation of greed especially when they were in power.

Even then, he said, someone who did not succumb to greed would be ridiculed by the public as "stupid" for not taking advantage for ownself. Instead of being praised, such selfless breed of politician or leaders, are stamped as stupid, he said adding that such view does not help at all.

"I have a friend from Penampang who was a state minister of health and later natural resources minister in the 1960's and he was a traightforward person and did not take chance of his position for himself, and he retired a pauper, but people said he was stupid for not taking advantage to himself," he said adding that it shows how greed rules human's mind.

"Mahatma Gandhi once said "this world is enough for every human, but is not enough for every human's greed" and so this is very true to this day," said Sipaun.

He also admitted that being a Yang Berhormat (YB) is not easy as many supporters look up to YB as their "saviour" in time of their needs. Hence, he said, people come to Yang Berhormat for money to pay even water and electricity bills.

"And a lot of politicians nowadays are very cash-rich. We don't know where their money come from... One YB even told me that he spent one million of his own money on an election...," he claimed.

Ironically, the Thursday forum was informed that a candidate in a state constituency is only allowed to spend a maximum RM30,000 while a Parliamentary candidate allowed RM100,000. But somehow this has not been followed in all elections, judging from the way many candidates spent money on huge billboards and on foods and transportation, the panelists agreed.

TI-M and MAFREL are in final leg of their round-the-country forum in an attempt to refine proposals on how to regulate and make political financing during election campaigning more transparent.

According to TI-M executive director Alan Kirupakaran, they have had roundtable sessons with both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat and that they are submitting their proposals to interested parties soon.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Election Commission (SPR) deputy chairman, Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, who was a panelist at the forum said there were grey areas on aspects of operating election in Malaysia and this include making political financing transparent and regulated.

"We need more legislations on political financing. We can propose but it is the Attorney General who initiate legislation," he admitted the constraint on his part on instituting legislations for even better, fairer and transparent running of elections in Malaysia.

The other two panelists were Prof Dr Mohamad Ali Hassan, deputy president of TI-M and Col (R) Shaharudin Othman, deputy chairman of MAFREL. Also in attendance with about 80 other people were SAPP's Liew Teck Chan and consumer activist Patrick Sindu.

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