THE pursuit of material wealth has brought us higher living standards and considerable comforts. But rapid economic development, although essential, has its downside. There is corruption in both the public and private sectors, rising crime, a decline in morals and gross selfishness. The list can go on. Many have observed the disturbing trends and wished for something drastic to put things right. Now, something is being done, with the comprehensive National Integrity Plan to create a more upstanding society. While launching the plan, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi pointed out the importance of the people's continuous support and input in making the endeavour a success.
Just as a person's character will stand him in good stead in facing misfortune, a society that is free of corruption will possess the means to overcome unexpected adversities. Malaysians who cultivate righteousness in their daily lives will buttress society as well as bring up happier families. It is no wonder that the plan's targets in its first five years are diverse and cover reinforcement of the family institution, upgrading the quality of life, reducing corruption and improving corporate governance. These are achievable objectives founded on integrity, ethics and morality, which Malaysians must never forget to sustain even as the country grows towards developed nation status. The Malaysian Integrity Institute has been formed to specifically monitor the plan's implementation.
Good values are for all times and societies. Ironically, they are at a premium in those that lurch from the traditional to the modern. They were as relevant to our ancestors as they are to us today, and to our future generations. We can be a rich or poor nation, but if we lack morals and integrity, our lives are that much poorer. These are not idle, philosophical musings. A lack of virtue is expressed in the most everyday situations, and goes to the heart of the kind of society we have become and the legacy we will leave behind.
ARIEL Sharon has got to be stopped. The Israeli Prime Minister has now openly threatened to kill Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, reneging on his pledge to US President George W. Bush that he will do no more than keep Arafat marooned in Ramallah. Sharon has already assassinated the two top leaders of Hamas in rapid succession. He has shown no remorse for his actions and has ignored the feelings and outrage of the Palestinian people, the Arabs and the world at large. He ordered the Hamas leaders killed because he accused the resistance group of organising terrorist suicide bombings.
But Arafat, the long-time leader of the Palestinians, is acknowledged as a moderate. He holds the key to any peace process, and any negotiation to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As a partner in the US-sponsored "road map", or whatever is left of it, Arafat may have aroused Sharon’s anger for stubbornly protecting his people’s rights and not giving in to Tel Aviv’s demands. But getting rid of Arafat will not bring another Palestinian interlocutor more amenable to the Israeli right-wing Government. Far from it. More likely, it will inflame the Palestinians and drive more of them to extremism. Peace, which is slipping away by the day, will be then even further away. Arafat is defiant despite Sharon’s threats, and rightly so.
Only the Americans can still stop Sharon from murdering Arafat, and tearing up the road map altogether. US Secretary of State Colin Powell has rebuked Sharon, stressing that Bush is opposed to such attempts and reminding Sharon of his pledge to Bush. Washington must continue to pressure Sharon to back off.