Individuals lie. People lie. Institutions lie. People and institutions lie. The fact is people and institutions everywhere are lying and when we think they are not relevant to us we actually enjoy reading the lies they make and the effects these lies have on others.

Today, however, most Malaysians aren’t happy because they are being lied to.

Malaysians want to do many great things, including being transparent, or where lies are concerned, being honest.

And so we had a group of people who told us if transparency was what we wanted, they would give us transparency; if honesty was what we wanted, they would give us honesty. They were saying they were people of integrity.

Malaysians believed them and so Malaysia Baru was born.

Unfortunately, things have not looked right ever since, largely because in the centre of it all is the question of integrity in the very people who have been entrusted with the task of addressing the lack of transparency in the system.

Let’s look at this story again: “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”

There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself he took a great breath and sang out, “Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!”

The villagers came running up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The boy laughed at the sight of their angry faces.

“Don’t cry ‘wolf’, shepherd boy,” said the villagers, “when there’s no wolf!” They went grumbling back down the hill.

Later, the boy sang out again, “Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!” To his naughty delight, he watched the villagers run up the hill to help him drive the wolf away.

When the villagers saw no wolf they sternly said, “Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don’t cry ‘wolf’ when there is NO wolf!”

But the boy just grinned and watched them go grumbling down the hill once more.

Later, he saw a REAL wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, “Wolf! Wolf!”

But the villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn’t come.

At sunset, everyone wondered why the shepherd boy hadn’t returned to the village with their sheep. They went up the hill to find the boy. They found him weeping.

“There really was a wolf here! The flock has scattered! I cried out, ‘Wolf!’ Why didn’t you come?”

An old man tried to comfort the boy as they walked back to the village.

“We’ll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning,” he said, putting his arm around the youth, “Nobody believes a liar… even when he is telling the truth!”

Malaysians are grappling with leaders who had come on the strength of promises that they now struggle to make good. Their problem, it would seem, is they just don’t know how to even begin because they don’t have the basic tools.

And, that’s the current debate all about. If you cheat about your qualification, it simply means you are not qualified as you claim to be. Now that can be dangerous. If you are not a lawyer but pass yourself off as one, your client is going to lose his case. He could be a pauper because of you.

Worse still, if you claim to be a doctor and do surgery on your patient, he could be maimed for life or even die.

Or, you claim to be an accountant when you are not and you are entrusted with managing the nation’s finances, isn’t it a wonder that nothing seems to be right with the economy?

I feel pity for the Prime Minister, he trusted every one of them, but they disappointed him, which is probably why he announced Monday the formation of the new Economic Action Council (EAC).

They asked him to answer for their shortcomings and he has got it – EAC.

To members of his Cabinet, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was like the old man who tried to comfort the sheep boy with these words: “We’ll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning… (but) Nobody believes a liar… even when he is telling the truth!”