The Mahathir years are best exemplified by a reckless disregard for public duty in the public interest. Public opinion was totally ignored because with the concentration of power at the centre, there was no need even to pretend to care.
For example, a senior officer, in possession of a large sum of money that he could not explain satisfactorily and who was the subject of an Anti-Corruption Agency investigation, was rewarded with an appointment to a high public office that symbolised the pinnacle of integrity: a disdain for public opinion at its worst.
Nowadays, we hear a great deal about the “social contract” in the context of the Constitution. There is no such contract relating to our so-called special rights and privileges.
There is, however, an unwritten and unspoken social contract between the government and the governed that is implicit in the duty of the government to ensure that in all its undertakings, the interests of the people will be of paramount consideration.
This is a sacred duty in the performance of which a government renews its commitment to govern justly and conduct its affairs with integrity, putting the people and their welfare, irrespective of race or creed, above all else.
As we move on, let us regard the Mahathir years as the lost ethical years that are best forgotten, as we do a bad dream.