Rais Yatim shows why we need an Ombudsman
Auditor-General can’t stop political abuses on his own
Rais Yatim, the minister of disinformation, who is trying to wriggle out of responsibility for his ministry’s work of political propaganda, has turned to the Auditor-General to excuse what his ministry’s special affairs department has done.
Questioned about the department’s guidebook on current affairs, a trashy piece of Umno propaganda containing talking points on 44 issues, he told Malaysiakini on Thursday:
It’s like asking the guilty party to pass judgement on himself. A minister of the crown trying to evade responsibility is not the person for an impartial observation.
The anti-corruption agency is the one that investigates abuse of power and position — usually, for financial gain. For thirty years, the Auditor-General has concerned himself with financial impropriety and financial imprudence, and avoided making value judgements about political gains.
When Umno called the Auditor-General a communist
That has been so ever since Ahmad Nordin became the first Auditor-General to come to public prominence — Man of the Year in fact — and also the first Auditor-General to be called a “communist” by an Umno politician who had been skewered by the Auditor for using taxpayers’ money for political purposes.
Under current conditions, if there was no financial hanky-panky behind the production of the information ministry’s trashy and pathetic propaganda guidebook, the Auditor-General is hardly likely to question it. And Rais Yatim knows that lack of comment is not endorsement of the content.
A trashy piece of Umno propaganda produced with public funds
Did Rais Yatim expect the Auditor-General to inspect the content of the guidebook, and make a value judgement on its worth? Good, put that into the Auditor-General’s job description.
Imputing such powers to the Auditor-General is not enough. Rais Yatim must ensure that the Auditor-General is clearly empowered with such responsibilities — after all, the Auditor-General is still one of a handful of constitutional officers for whom the citizen has any regard.
Using taxpayers’ funds and facilities to produce Umno propaganda — as in the guidebook as well as the programmes produced by Radio-TV Malaysia and the activities of the Information Department — these are clearly abuse of power and position for political gain. It clearly happens every day.
Time to stop politicians from abusing the citizen
It clearly must be topped. And Rais Yatim is correct to suggest that something be done.
For example, the Auditor-General should carry out a complete financial and performance audit on the use of the executive jets of the Federation, and question their use by Umno politicians or their wives — accompanied by businessman friends — on overseas trips supposedly on official duty.
The Auditor-General should also conduct a complete performance and financial audit into the use of helicopters of the Royal Malaysia Police air wing, and whether the Minister of Home Affairs uses them as his private airline for constituency trips or other political purposes.
Similarly the Auditor-General should conduct a complete performance and financial audit of Radio-TV Malaysia, the content of all its programmes, the content of the Information Department’s activities, and a thorough study of the many valuable production and advertising contracts handled by the ministry.
Yes, Rais Yatim is absolutely correct: abuse of power and position for political or financial gain should be investigated, and the law should clearly provide for such powers.
Tok Mat admits waging psy war campaign against citizens
A former information minister, Mohamed Rahmat, did the honourable thing — an astonishing and rare occurence among Umno politicians — when he admitted waging psychological warfare against citizens to prevent them using their god-given right to think for themselves.
In one instance, Tok Mat said, he sent 500 Information Ministry staff on a propaganda mission in 1995 to bring down the Sabah state government run by Parti Bersatu Sabah.
The Audit Report of 1996, as far as I know, does not contain a single word about such a clear-cut abuse of ministerial power and position for political party purposes.
Psychological warfare against Team B
Tok Mat also vividly describes how he used the ministry against other citizens, those allied to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s Team B in Umno, and later Tengku Razaleigh’s Semangat 46 party.
Rais Yatim must have vivid memories of those times, as a member of Team B and Semangat 46.
Mohamed Rahmat’s propaganda campaigns included the nauseating song Setia, played endlessly on RTM to whip up support for Mahathir Mohamad.
Coincidentally, information minister Rais Yatim is also credited with another nauseating song Janji Di Tepati, described by songwriter Buddi Hekayat as “vulgar propaganda”.
Coincidentally Information minister Rais Yatim was the VIP who launched Tok Mat’s book.
So Rais Yatim is the right person to call for a stop to abuse of power and position by politicians such as himself who use taxpayer-funded facilities for political gain.
Time to appoint an Ombudsman
Perhaps the Auditor-General should not be burdened by the task: his duties are already burdensome enough.
Perhaps it is time for a constitutional office of Ombudsman, appointed by, and reporting to, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
The ombudsman should be empowered to investigate all misuse of federal and state government funds and facilities, irrespective of whether there was any financial gain or political gain by a politician or his party.
Such crimes should be deserving of long prison sentences and hefty fines for both the politician as well as his party.
Perhaps it should be made a capital crime: after all, abusing the powers of the federation and a position of trust under the Constitution is tantamount to treason.
Then, finally, we citizens can say Hang Them All, and mean it.