Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On Being Professional

We often find the word professionalism bantered around that it’s assumed the meaning of the term is practically self-evident. I mention this because I was struck by the prime minister’s advice to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) that it must act professionally.

But exactly what does it mean to act professionally? As the Malaysiakini report noted, the PM suggested that dedication, impartiality, fairness, and lawful conduct is essential to professionally discharging ones duties and responsibilities. Frankly, one would be hard pressed to quibble with these traits which have been associated with the notion of professionalism.

For me, however, equally imperative – if not more so – is the criteria of ethical conduct. Above all else, when we conduct ourselves ethically in discharging our duties, it conveys everything else that is implicit and redeeming about the notion of professionalism. Let me give you a superb example of professionalism: High Court judicial commissioner Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof deciding to recuse himself from hearing the case of Nizar vs Zambry and the saga of who is the lawful mentri besar of Perak. And the reason for his decision was? The potential appearance of conflict of interest as the judge was formerly a member of PAS.

Even Badawi would have to concur that such is the essence of professionalism.

Now let me give you a few other scenarios from recent events and let you decide if you consider them radiating with professionalism. Here goes:

The multiple (and at times mysterious) deaths of civilians while in police custody. In this vein, of course we have the highly profiled recent case of A. Kugan.

The conduct of certain teachers in our schools who have reportedly abused students with racist and bigoted slurs.

As the case of P. Prabakar showed, the apparent torture of individuals while under police custody.

I’m sure you can also easily tick off numerous other instances from recent events which would pose as very illuminating examples for assessing the degree of professionalism – or lack thereof – evident therein. Therefore, I won’t belabour the point.

Suffice it to note that we can only hope that the Anti-Corruption Commission is capable of exhibiting at least a fraction of the professionalism exhibited by the honourable Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof.

G. Krishnan