By Mariam Mokhtar

Most mothers will tell their children that if they are asked to do something, then it is better to do it right the first time, or else they will waste a lot of energy and effort having to put things right.

When Ahmad Faizal Azumu was appointed the Perak MB, few had heard of him and were disappointed that the popular candidate(s) had been rejected.

No-one expects Pakatan Harapan to perform miracles and undo 61 years of mismanagement, misrule and incompetence, in a few months or years, but there are some things which the Perak MB has failed to grasp. One of these things is the importance of integrity. A person with integrity has nothing to fear because he has nothing to hide.

Last month, at the height of the dodgy degree scandal, many ministers and MBs were targeted.

In Perak, Ahmad Faizal claimed that the spotlight on him was unnecessary, as he had already declared in an interview with Bernama, the previous July, that he had no degree. For many Perakeans, this was news. This was the first time they had heard him, give a lengthy explanation about his lack of a degree.

Perhaps, he did this to avoid the intense scrutiny and insults, which the rakyat had hurled on the deputy foreign minister, Marzuki Yahya, who stupidly tried to lie his way out of his predicament, and was snared. At first, Marzuki ignored the queries about his degree, then tried to dismiss them by claiming that he would only explain to the police. When a police report was lodged, he skirted around the issue by saying that he had got the universities mixed up. “I meant this Cambridge and not that Cambridge University.”

Ahmad Faizal’s tale of a Bernama interview intensified and made many people wonder. They did not believe that any Malaysian reporter would be bold enough to ask sensitive questions about a politician’s degree, especially one who is a Mentri Besar.

Many Malaysian reporters have been emasculated and conditioned by former Umno-Baru/BN politicians. If they were to ask difficult questions, they would be harassed and their newspapers given a difficult time by MCMC and the Minister of Communications.

Reporters from alternative papers like Malaysiakini have been refused entry to cover an event, or faced humiliating insults from ministers, like former Home Minister, Zahid Hamidi, and the former Youth Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin.

Local reporters have also seen how their foreign counterparts have been frogmarched to the departure lounge of KLIA for deportation. Others have been arrested and detained, before the diplomatic staff from their embassies or High Commissions came to their rescue. Their mistake? They asked probing questions.

Therefore, when Ahmad Faizal said that he had responded to a reporter, who had enquired about his degree, one person asked, “Which brave reporter is that? We need to thank him and praise his courage,” whilst others were sceptical and said, “Where is the link to this radio interview? This is just a clever ploy to limit the damage. By claiming that he had come clean about his lack of a degree, the MB thinks he can pacify the rakyat.”

No-one looks down on people who have no university qualifications, but they despise liars and people who take advantage of people’s goodwill. The rakyat is angered when politicians list their degrees and universities on their websites, as a means to impress others, and only tell the truth, after they have been caught out and exposed.

Many employers and managers have contacted me and told me that they have sacked their employees for less. If companies are prepared to do that, why not state governments? If a man lies about his degree, what else could he be covering up? Some politicians are in charge of hundreds of millions of ringgits. It is imperative that they are clean and accountable for their actions.

When the Bukit Kinta and Kledang Saiong logging issue cropped up, Ahmad Faizal revealed that a company with a paid-up capital of only RM2 had been awarded the logging rights. He also confirmed that the award was not done through an open tender and that the company was nominated because the directors had vast experience in logging. Ahmad Faizal also claimed that the Malaysian Timber Board was extending its cooperation.

Does Ahmad Faizal think that he can easily pull the wool over our eyes? Prior to GE-14, the PH promised open and transparent tenders. The claim that the directors of the RM2 were experienced, and therefore eligible to do the work, smacks of cronyism. Wong Tack, the Chairman of the Malaysian Timber Board swiftly denied the involvement of his agency.

So, how did Ahmad Faizal respond to Wong Tack’s denial?

The irony is that at a meeting in Kampung Dew, on “Community and Environment Sustainable Programmes,” Ahmad Faizal said, “What is more important is that we work sincerely and the issue of integrity and not lying to the people is very important.”

Does he really understand the meaning of integrity? Or lying? He would like others to come clean, but he has not practised what he preached. As far as Perakeans can see, Ahmad Faizal is operating on his previous party’s (Umno-Baru) mode of doing things. The allegations about this RM2 company had been leaked online, which prompted the DAP MP for Kampar, Thomas Su, to lodge a report with the MACC. So what else has Ahmad Faizal not told the public? Is the RM2 company the tip of the iceberg?