On pledges and promises

WHILE the Penang state government is getting brickbats from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over its snafu of wanting an invitation to take an anti-corruption pledge, we do have to ask ourselves if a simple pledge is enough to stop it.

And thus, would a pledge be effective in fighting corruption? It depends on how seriously you take such things. Perhaps we should look at this from an individual perspective.

So here's a question – how seriously do you take binding contracts, promises and even oaths with any party? After all, we have been swearing an oath to believe in God via the Rukun Negara since primary school and I am certain we still have atheists and freethinkers in Malaysia.

Better yet, having pledged to follow the law as well, do you pay no attention to the speed limit and even try and beat a red light?

The first thing many undergraduates do when entering university is to either apply for a student loan or scholarships.

Do fresh graduates who are employed start paying their National Higher Education Fund loans?

Also, do you take your working contract seriously as to arrive and leave work on time as per your letter of appointment, even telling your boss that work ends at 5.30pm and he should adhere to it?

Perhaps even tell off a co-worker that something is "not your job" since it was not in your job description. Chances are, you wish you could do both, but you might find office politics a bit frosty afterwards.

Are syaria compliant companies truly adhering to the concepts of halal business, or do they have to go through audits and get a period of grace to achieve such a requirement?

Let us look at another one – ISO certifications which is a quality management system often taken up by conglomerates. Many corporations always advertise that they have such a certification to please their stakeholders.

But is it followed through for every business process, for all those who achieve it? I am a bit pessimistic, particularly after seeing folders of the manuals gathering dust with nobody reading them.

At the same time, you have to question certain issues that arise when it comes to applying for a certification or taking a pledge. I can't help but shake my head when I think of how Auntie Anne's had its halal certification placed on hold over a "pretzel dog".

Similarly, if companies truly followed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulations, we wouldn't hear of so many workplace incidents and accidents – sometimes even deaths at construction sites.

So perhaps with all of the above in mind, we should not even bother with an anti-corruption pledge. Or even promising to obey the law. Or pay back all our loans. We don't really need the ISO certification or OSHA in the workplace.

Businesses don't need a halal certification either. Who cares about buildings needing a "green" rating to show that they are environmentally friendly.

Why do we even bother to get a driving licence to drive ... just buy a car, run the red lights and ignore pedestrians on a zebra crossing.

In fact, don't pledge to donate organs either – why bother.

Perhaps you may have noticed the sarcasm if you have read this far.

The fact is that businesses and people are honour-bound to keep to their pledges, be it with scholarships, loans and even certifications on safety and quality management – and they don't need a formal invitation or request to do so.

Because that is the price of doing business. It is a boost for the image of a company, an individual, group or association, because it creates trust and allows people to have faith in what is being offered.

The same goes for an anti-corruption pledge which has been signed by football teams, the Selangor Mufti Association, the Petaling District Land Office, Kolej Universiti Islam Selangor, even local council offices such as the Selayang Town Council.

It won't guarantee that all the people involved are clean, no more than somehow having OSHA and ISO certificates makes businesses safe and guarantees quality, or the Rukun Negara guaranteeing that Malaysian citizens are polite and respectful.

But it's a start and a reminder to all that such actions have meaning and boosts the trust of the public in such institutions, while also making it a responsibility for those who do it seriously to take heed of what has been promised.

In the end, all this leads to a question you must ask yourselves – how seriously do you take your promises and pledges? I'll let you ponder on that one.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com