15 Sept 2013 by Adeline Lum CM-
In many societies, paying ‘under table money’ to facilitate a deal in our favour is so embedded in today’s work culture that it has come to be accepted and practiced as a way of life. Anyone who even dares to dream of a ‘clean’ system is seen as ‘silly’ and ‘naive’; not surprising anymore since bribery has become the lifeblood of many businesses for as far back as can be remembered.
What is the meaning of corruption? According to anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, corruption is defined as ‘the abuse of entrusted power for a personal gain or benefit.’
For one, Datuk Paul Low – a former President of Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) – believes that corruption can be realistically curtailed, if not eradicated.
On May 2013, Datuk Low was unexpectedly invited to join the Malaysian Cabinet as the Lead Minister for Governance and Integrity, demonstrating a willingness of the country’s leadership for him to drive the battle to curtail corruption on a national level in view of his unique past experiences.
“So, what has driven me to do all this (joining the Cabinet) unless it is a direct answer to a prayer that I had been praying? I believe that God put that desire in my heart. Incrementally through the seasons, I was trained and conditioned by God to accept the calling,” he said candidly.
Although Datuk Low was given just 24 hours notice to decide whether or not to accept the offer, he was able to respond positively in faith and obedience as he knew God had been preparing him for this purpose over the last ten years.
As a businessman, he learned to trust God in dealing with the craftiness of both partners as well as opponents with uncompromising integrity. With extensive knowledge and experience in the glass manufacturing and automotive industries acquired over a career spanning more than 35 years, Datuk Low served as the Managing Director of Malaysian Sheet Glass Sdn Bhd until he retired in March 2010.
Managing an NGO like TI-M also taught him how to find constructive solutions to various community or societal problems. In addition, he also served in many key agencies in the Malaysian Government, including the National Economic Action Council (NEAC), Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA), Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) and Malaysian Service Department Council (MSDC).
Most importantly, he grew to understand the spiritual realm in a comprehensive manner while faithfully carrying out his role as an elder in his local church, i.e. preaching the Word regularly and also engaging in healing and deliverance ministry.
Everything starts with prayer, and Datuk Low was quick to commend our local churches for carrying out this obligation of corporate intercession faithfully, especially in recent years. However, he observed that the Christian community in the past has been relatively passive in the social context, and – commenting candidly – that speaking up about good governance was rare nowadays.
He believes one of the reasons for this passiveness is the misinterpretation of Romans 13:1–5. Most of us subconsciously fear that voicing even constructive feedback to God’s elected authority figures would be deemed as disrespectful. The truth however, is that we as believers and citizens should actively participate in providing solutions for the myriad problems that our country faces.
Submission to Governing Authorities
Romans 13 tells us:
1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
“As a Federal Minister, it is my job to be critical of the Government constructively, meaning: wherever you criticize, you must offer the solution,” said Datuk Low –emphasizing that the proffered solution should come from a pure heart, not for personal glory or any other agenda.
“The Christian community is good in helping out in missions work and disaster relief. But how about transforming a nation?” he added.
The years after 2008 have been a period of revelation, when we have begun to realize more and more that we are to be the salt and light of the world as believers in Christ (Matt 5:13-16). For a lamp to make an impact, it has to be taken out from the comfort zone under our beds to shine forth into a world of darkness.
“Unconsciously, we tend to build walls in church, to the point where we don’t actually impact society anymore,” said Datuk Low. “That is also one of the reasons why I took part in TI-M – because it is a good platform to fight corruption across walls and borders.”
God has a divine and sovereign purpose for everything. For example – when Job asked God why he innocently suffered trials and tribulations – God did not give Job any specific reason. Instead, He asked him to look at the immense depth of knowledge, wisdom, and love that God possesses; and to just trust in His sovereignity.
Likewise, instead of holding on to our disappointments and bitterness with God, let us as Malaysians focus now on how we can work together as unique stakeholders in different industries and sectors, to create a new culture of good governance, not only in our time but also for our future generations.
“As far as I am concerned, once God has set a Government in place, I will follow Romans 13 to honor the King and leader of our country,” said Datuk Low firmly.
No Government is perfect; all come with their own unique set of pros and cons. So, are we going to fold our arms and count our days to when we migrate to another country, not wanting to participate in any transformative projects? Such decisions are clearly negative and cynical, and bring no good to the body of Christ and society at large.
How then are we going to operate under governance that is perceived as “imperfect”? Perhaps, we can look into how Daniel and his three friends served the Babylonian kings, shared Datuk Low. In God’s wisdom, the Israelites were commanded to plant vines and multiply, instead of becoming slaves for the King. Who was the one who created these conditions? Obviously, God’s favour upon Daniel and his three friends translated into favour upon the Israelites, though they never compromised their faith through various trials. In other words, God has a purpose for everything.
“You can’t find absolutely perfect leadership even in churches. My calling is to serve God’s purpose and I go according to the vision He has given me. When I do that, I stay committed until the vision is completed, regardless of the trials,” continued Datuk Low, who has made it his over-arching personal goal to do God’s Will and please Him above all else.
“When I work under an imperfect leader whether in my church or in my country, I want to see my vision aligning with the church leader or Prime Minister’s vision,” he added.
Although we may be impatient to see change, he stressed that “changing happens one step at a time; the direction I am setting is radical, but the change will be gradual.”
Having no direct prosecution or investigative powers as a Minister (these lie in the hands of Agencies or Institutions such as the MACC), Datuk Low works instead to make a difference by expressing his views and recommendations to his other fellow Ministers in Cabinet and Parliamentary meetings.
He believes that Ministers should take ownership to restructure, enforce ethical guidelines, and build compliance facilities within their own Ministerial purviews. Other relevant governmental departments such as the NKRA should also spearhead fighting corruption efforts.
As for the private sector, TI-M has been actively advocating the adoption of the ‘Corporate Integrity System’ (CIS) to provide a framework for sustainable good governance in the business sector, and this was complemented by the successful introduction of the Whistle Blowers Act 2010.
For individuals of society, Datuk Low recognizes the need to breach the gap between the citizens and governing authorities of this country, where the people’s needs should always be heard loud and clear.
“You must engage the people purely because the expectations of various groups are different. Today, they are more knowledgeable due to the prevalence of social media, and young people are more intolerant of social injustices,” he reflected.
“In the end, we must remember that only God can change things according to His Will and His timing.”
“If I were to change things with God’s help and the Government becomes more righteous, is that not good for everyone? I know full well Malaysia’s vast potential to prosper itself. Curtailing corruption can only increase our chances for prosperity much more,” he said.
Besides ensuring Good Governance, Datuk Low is also in charge of Human Rights – a subject pertinent to what we believe in as Christians. What an opportunity to impart moral values to people on a national level!
He is also currently spearheading the fighting of crime and human trafficking in the country. While we as believers may fight these social issues as front-liners, Datuk Low has the opportunity to collaborate both with Ministers as well as non-government organizations (NGOs) at national level, benefiting people on a larger scale.
“God is concerned about the human heart, relationships, widows, poor children, exploited people, and the moral values of our society.”
“That’s why I am not getting stressed because of the vision that God gave me; I have a passion for these people. All I need is to get more resources to do it. There are many more innovative things for me to propose and to implement,” he added.
Hence – due to the political realities, institutional capacities, and varying cultures – Datuk Low is realistic and constructive in his approach to raising the bars of Governance and Integrity in Malaysia; steadily but surely.
“I need God’s wisdom through prayer and God’s Word to guide me. Most importantly, a clear conscience is crucial. If you don’t have a clear conscience, you cannot fight corruption because you don’t know what’s right or wrong. You cannot stand in integrity.”
“You can say that you are full of faith but when the cost is high, many of us whose faith and conviction are not strong will back down… I take a strong stand on that.” stressed Datuk Low.
Although he has had various experiences in dealing with the world and in his faith, he confessed that he had many more things to learn. But thanks to God’s training over the past decade, the Lord has built a sure foundation for him to trust in Him almost unquestioningly.
“If you come in without really trusting God, you will not last. If you come in with expectations to serve yourself, then you will not be first. With God, there’s a timing and season to everything. As long as I keep myself humble, always willing to learn and discuss, it should be okay,” said Datuk Low, who identified his position as bipartisan and apolitical.
Indeed, God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isa 55:8–9). Although Datuk Low never dreamt or thought that he would be one day appointed as a Minister of the country, God obviously knew full well about this plan way before it became a reality (1 Cor 2:9).
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Datuk Low – on the other hand – has remained obedient and humble before God, living day by day in his work and personal life following the ways of the Lord. While we may think that our mundane everyday responsibilities are nothing, remember that those who are faithful in the little they have now will be entrusted with much greater responsibilities in the future (Luke 16:10). Seek first the Kingdom of God and all else will be added to you (Matthew 6:33). In other words, get to know your Lord first and everything else in your life will fall into place.
As for our response as believers in our country – instead of complaining and folding our arms in passiveness, a more constructive approach would be to be actively supportive in regenerating and building up a ‘clean’ system in the country. Before we build a ‘clean’ country, perhaps we should also check whether we have ‘clean’ hands.
Do not underestimate the power of an individual in changing a country for the better, especially when good governance is in God’s will. Continue praying, talking to God, and listening to Him through the Word and His Holy Spirit. Also, let us pray for the leaders of our country, especially Datuk Paul Low who has been appointed by God as a Federal Minister for the sake of our nation. May the Lord continue to bless Datuk Paul Low with wisdom, humility, and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. May God’s will be done. Amen.
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