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Election Watch

Good Values and Education make the Perfect Politician

Source: Malay Mail
Date: 14 August 2012

GOOD core values and a selfless interest to serve the public are important qualities for politicians rather than just having a university degree, even though academic qualifications have an important and advantageous role.

Asian Strategic and Leadership Institute Centre for Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Dr Ramon Navaratnam believes that the best politicians must have good core values coupled with an intelligent education from a top university.

“I would agree with Rais that all things being equal, a graduate is better qualified to serve the rakyat and is therefore more desirable,” said Navaratnam.

“But the graduate must be from a good university with the right qualifications, not just academically but spiritually and with the right values to serve.”

He was commenting on Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim’s tweet earlier this month suggesting that aspiring politicians must at least be equipped with a recognised university degree.

“Politician must have recognised degree/professional qualification, their thought process must be in tandem with the spirit of intellectual attainment,” Rais tweeted.

Navaratnam clarified that during the early days of Malaysia’s independence, the politicians and lawmakers came from the grassroots as there were not enough graduates.

“They were blessed with common sense and a commitment to serve the rakyat faithfully and honestly. That was good enough because they could always rely on the highly professional civil service.

“That’s the key. They believed in the British maxim that politicians can come and go but the professionals remain to serve and provide continuity from the British over to Malaysian leaders,” he said.

However, after more than half a century of independence, there are now thousands of graduates who are better qualified, knowledgeable and global in outlook to serve political parties.

“Even if you have someone who serves the public well, if he does not have a degree from a reputable university, how is he supposed to represent the country as a minister?” asked Navaratnam.

“There are so many international conferences and politicians at high levels need to know and understand the various languages of international trade, foreign relations, globalisation and so on.

“Otherwise, even though the politician is very good, others might look down on him.”

UKM Institute of Ethnic Studies (Kita) principal research fellow Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria agrees with Navaratnam that good values are important for politicians.

“The politician must relate to people at micro level, respond to policy issues at macro level,” said Jayasooria.

“Politician must have character and ethics for public office — accountability, transparency, honesty and must act in the public’s interest for the common good.

“While academic qualifications are necessary, character, humility and honesty is more essential.”

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