Hubris and hope

Tun Hanif Omar


HUBRIS. Do you know what it is?” asked our late Cikgu Wilson as he took us through our MCKK Lower Sixth Form literature class in 1955.

And haven’t you heard of the ancient Greek saying, “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad?” he continued.

Many of us that morning chorused that we had indeed come across that Greek saying, which gladdened the heart of our already exceptional teacher, lay preacher, poet, chamber music composer and alcoholic, all in one, later to become famous as a prolific writer, literary reviewer and raconteur under the pseudonym Anthony Burgess.

His earliest books, some of you may recall, were the Somerset Maughamish Time For A Tiger with MCKK and Kuala Kangsar’s denizens as its subjects, and the equally iconoclastic and irreverent The Malayan Trilogy.

But, to a man, we hadn’t heard of the word “hubris” and that further gladdened our teacher’s heart, as he was now definitely one up on us. He who had taught us that sometimes, for impact’s sake, we could do away with the verb in a sentence! He then went into the oft-discernible relationship between the word and the saying.

And as I looked over the past fortnight, how I wished that several of us would ponder over this word and this saying, as much as my classmates and I did 51 years ago. This is also a case for literature as a school subject, that it can mould our character and morals, our patriotism and rationality, provided the teacher knows what he is about.

I am sure some of you are riveted on the ongoing spat between the two proverbial “elephants” and you are dying not so much to hear my view but to see me get into the fray. Here I have to disappoint you.

It is not that the Malay in me is warning me that I am a mere pelanduk and should beware what can happen to one caught beneath two struggling elephants, but that it is reminding me of what my late father used to warn me about: “Jong karam, yu kenyang”meaning “When the boat sinks, the sharks are (the ones) sated.”

I therefore do not wish to contribute to rocking the boat.

For 35 years, I played my role as a police and security officer and risked my life and those of my colleagues and “men” to help maintain political stability – a precious commodity that, for investors, had distinguished us for so long in this region.

We must be careful, with emphasis on the word “care”, because that Malay adage my father warned me about is so pertinent to the present setting.

Can’t we hear the claps behind us urging us on? Have we turned around to see who are doing the clapping?

Many of us who understand the play but really care for the country are caught on the horns of dilemma: “Telan mati bapak, luah mati emak” literally meaning: “Swallowing (it) will kill dad, vomiting (it) out will kill mum.”

Do you realise that there are so many interesting dynamics going on in our country every day? Yes, it is so clear if we care to read avidly. MAS has a whistleblower programme in place that is winning the confidence and response of its employees. That is an additional nail in the coffin of corruption, fraud and malpractices.

Will other organisations and ministries follow suit?

The Director of ACA Pahang has admitted that people are unwilling to trust the ACA for want of a clear safeguard for whistleblowers. True but, from what I hear, that is only partly true; the perception of the ACA’s unreliability would seem to be the bigger factor. Could it be for that reason that the “close-one-eye” MP is not willing to lodge a report with the ACA on the alleged corruption of Customs officers, of which he claims to have proof? (The Star, June 29) Sad, very sad!

Now that the Works Minister has promised Parliament that he would go after the PISB personalities behind the Matrade fiasco if the AG, with whom he has been in consultation, points to him the way, the light on corruption and wrongdoing shines more brightly – not that I am pre-empting the findings of the investigation. Let us not cast any aspersion on anyone until it becomes justifiable.

Audi alteram partem – hear the other side – is a principle of natural justice.

How many of you are following the twists and turns of our resurgent parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) under the stewardship of Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad. Surely his stance has gladdened your hearts.

His resolute determination to ensure that the public gets their money’s worth of public expenditure makes us proud to have him at the helm. I am prouder still that he gives today’s Malay Collegians and MCOBA members an example of integrity and courage to emulate. In this time and age, he is indeed terbilang and gemilang.

It goes to show that it is not the mere existence of an institution that counts but what is made of it by brave and honest men.


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