Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Politicians must be held accountable

Too often citizens demand accountability from their politicians only during their administrative period. After the politicians' office is over, the public seldom pursue further. But the right way to do politics is to hold the politicians accountable for what he has done during his time even after he has resigned, retired, or simply dethroned.

Barry Wain recently wrote a book 'Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times' that charges mismanagement of RM100 billion on the former premier. Lim Kit Siang has called upon the current government to investigate into the issue by setting up a royal commission of inquiry.

Romans 13 talks about the role of government as God's servant to maintain order in the society. Two things have to be kept in mind when one reads this chapter.

First, the government that St. Paul was referring in that letter does not exist any longer. That means underlying Romans 13, there is a clear assumption of the tentativeness of all governments. No government lasts forever for various of reasons, not even those in our current times.

Second, usually when people read Romans 13, they thought that the people's only part is to submit to the government. But there is more to it. Romans 13.7 highlights retribution and accountability: Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. When a government is holding office, the people have to keep the government retributed and accounted in the same way the government has to keep the people retributed and accounted (v.4-6). It goes both ways. So far what I have heard from almost all Christians, including some who are in theological institution, emphasize only Romans 13.4-6 and completely dismiss verse 7.

To think further, it is precisely this second part on mutual retribution and accountancy that contributes to the tentativeness of governments. The reign of a government is retributed according to its accountability to the people. When a government failed to be accounted for, it has given up this two-ways relationship and turned either into dictatorship or die a slow democratic death. But no matter which option the government takes, its death is ensured.

So even if the politician of a government has retired, he/she still need to be retributed and accounted for whatever he/she has done during reign. That is politics and Christians have more than one part to play.

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