CORRUPTION IN MALAYSIA
- ISSUES AND CHALLENGES
SPEECH DELIVERED UPON INVITATION OF THE ANTI-CORRUPTION AGENCY (ACA) IN MBKS Auditorium on Thursday 13. 12. 2007
The Effect of Corruption on Politics, Government Administration and the Public Sector.
The World Bank had identified corruption as a tough obstacle to overcome when implementing developments in any developing country in the world. Malaysia, being a young developing nation could not, at this moment get off this shackle and rid itself out from this spotlight of the international community. Corruption in a developing country could affect the flow of foreign investments. Coupled with unsound development policies and inability to keep corruption in control will definitely shun foreign investors away from our shores. Corruption has the bad effect of distorting the rule of law and sabotages policies and programmes that aimed at reducing poverty.
In the political realm, corruption could undermine democracy and good governance and also distort the quality of representation in the Legislative Assembly and Parliament. When elective office could be bought, public accountability would suffer and the public may not have quality elected representatives and will not hear quality debates and if corruption involves the judiciary, the rule of law could then be easily compromised to fit the crooks, cheats and those in the underground. Those who should be convicted got away and the innocent could also be victimized and see jail.
If corruption involves public administration, then the public will never get quality public service, procedures will be disregarded and resources siphoned-off and it will cause erosion of public confidence in public administration.
In the private sector, corruption will increase cost of business and prices of goods. In the development industry involving government officials and agencies, illicit payments changing hands will not see quality structures of buildings. This is because corruption reduces compliance with standard procedures and compromises with safety and quality and costs will then pass to the general public. In many developing countries, like the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, corruption can cause public unrests and collapse of governments.
Prime Minister Needs Support to Combat Corruption
When Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi became the Prime Minister of Malaysia in October, 2003 the Prime Minster set himself the task to fight the war against corruption. The new Prime Minister had a mission seeking Malaysians to walk with him and not to work for him in fighting corruption with the one objective, that is, for a clean, incorruptible, efficient, trustworthy, democratic, just, people-oriented government which was prepared to hear all grouses or allegations of officials and politicians involved in corruption.
With such a positive statement, the Malaysian public threw their weight behind him and with that, BN in 2004 general election won 91% of the total contested seats in Parliament. The Opposition was nearly wiped out with PAS suffering heavy defeat and PKR was made impotent in Malaysian political scene, but, DAP was a bit lucky, just managed to hang on with some seats and also saw the return of our Party’s Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh back to Parliament. Our Party advocated great support for the Prime Minister to fight grafts and called all Malaysians to close ranks and put all differences apart, whether political or otherwise, with the one hope of Malaysia getting better ranking from 37th in the Corruption Perception Index compiled by Transparency International in 2003.
We had to close rank as we all known, the Prime Minister could not do it alone because corruption had eaten the heart of our society. The Prime Minister, when he took office, promised the Malaysian public to bring 18 high profile cases to justice, but, until now, we had been kept guessing.
While the 18 high profile cases had kept the Malaysian public in suspense, the Prime Minister came out with the National Integrity Plan which was launched in 2004. To ensure a clean, first-class Police Force, the Prime Minister called the setting up of the Royal Police Commission. The Royal Commission recommended the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to check the widespread corruption and abuse of power by members of the Police Force. To our dismay, the Royal Malaysian Police Force opposed the setting of the IPCMC and the government until now could not come with good reasons why this was implemented yet.
Recently the Datuk Seri Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi , as Prime Minister and Finance Minister allowed huge salary increment in the civil service and Police Officers in the country took a big jump in their pay. The big jump in salaries of the government was well supported by the Opposition because it was with the hope that with better pay to combat rising cost of living, corruption among government servants, especially, the police could be kept at bay. The Police Department also got big slice of the budget for the improvement of their facilities and logistics.
From actions taken, it seems that the Prime Minister was moving into the correct direction, but, why corruption is still rampant in Malaysia. Instead, corruptions or grafts had become worse each day and each year we saw we fell in Corruption Perception Index. We need to examine where went wrong and we need to examine our political system.
The Role of Both Opposition and Ruling Party
In a country that practices democracy, both the Opposition and the ruling party has individual role to play. When an issue is before Parliament, both the Opposition and the ruling party have to debate on the issue with the hope that both parties could come with a common best idea where policies could be formulated to tackle issue affecting the country. When policies had been formulated, it has to be implemented; and a success or a failure to combat a certain issue by way of policy formulated, for example, corruption, depends on two major factors, that is, first, how sound and acceptable is the policy to the general public, and second the effectiveness of the implementation of the policies formulated.
We can have many policies and sometimes these policies overlapped each other, but, where the implementation was wanting, the policy collapse. The end result is that the issues that we wanted to tackle for the good of the Nation, will not be effectively solved and instead will deteriorate further with each day becoming worse.
The people who implemented the policies were none the other, but, the cabinet ministers, their political secretaries and the government servants.
If the policy formulated is not sound and acceptable to the public, it will then not able to take off as lack of public support. The public will be against it.
For example, for every development consented to by the minister in a constituency, the constituents have to offer monetary gifts to the minister, this will sure invite political unrests and street demonstrations as such gifts are none other, but, bribes! The end result is that the minister will get richer and the people become poorer! Corruption and abuse of power will then become more rampant and there would be chaos in the country. No one with reasonable mind would support this policy.
If the cabinet ministers themselves when enforcing the policies had deviated from the strategies of the policies by themselves not being upright, by themselves participating in corrupt acts and susceptible to the practise of political corruption, through nepotism, cronyism, patronage, grafts, embezzlement and any form of misuse of political office, then, the policy however sound, will collapse and remain a dream to disappear into the thin air! In the end, the Nation will see billions of ringgit gone through unexplained or unaccountability of loss of public funds.
This unexplained or unaccountable loss could be done by inflating the costs of implementing the policy or a given project, then, by siphoning part of the public fund away to other directions or purposes. This is what we normally called, “kickback payments”. Normally, the modus operandii was that, if infrastructures or a development project was involved, the development of the project was given to a crony company and the inflated costs passed to the public. Here, we will then find people in the corridors of power become richer and richer and the wealth of the Nation been “sucked-off” by the few, leaving the majority of the population to live in poverty. This is because national wealth could not reach a larger segment of the society.
If the government servants were given the task, but had failed to properly implement it, then, the Malaysian public will not be able to see the success of the policy.
Certain factors could affect the success or failure of the implementation of a policy. For example, if the integrity of the government servant is questionable, lack of discipline and will power in implementing the policy, the unethical interference of superiors and political leaders or politicians, especially that of the ruling party, prejudice in implementing the policy due to personal political inclination to a certain party or the wrong conception of the government servant that he should only give audience or preference or only to respect the views of the politicians of ruling party, thereby restricted himself from hearing views from the members of the Opposition, could also cause the failure of the policy. With respect, such a wrong misconception could instead, harm the implementation of the policies formulated by Parliament in which both the Opposition and the ruling party played major role.
In this respect, government servants are begged to remain neutral as government servants never change and go with the collapse of a government. They are there to do work for the Malaysian Government, not to do work for the ruling party or BN and also not for the Opposition. They received their benefits or pay because Parliament allowed it and the Opposition was involved in making of it a possibility. The Opposition rarely or never in a country that practises democracy, opposes something that should be good for the people and the government servants. To repeat government servants are not paid by the Barisan Nasional or by the Opposition, but, by the Malaysian Government and there is no such thing as Malaysian Government comes and go with each election as long as Malaysia exists!
With this, we need to remind each other that the National Integrity Plan (NIP) launched by the Prime Minister in April, 2004 was clear to involve all strata of society and programme activities in the NIP also involved members of the Opposition. If we see on community development in the NIP which was with a view to inculcate patriotism, interethnic relations and good values, the implementing agencies include local Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen and the Prime Minister did not in that National Integrity Plan exclude Opposition YBs!
Corruption In Malaysia
In Malaysia, we recently have heard many scandals and the amount of money allegedly involved were very alarming! Whether true or not corruption exits, but, due to lack of information and transparency, the public was always kept in suspense. Someties, these allegations, although may not be true, could disrupt the trust of investors and public against the people in the corridors of power.
We have heard of money politics involving political parties and UMNO and even Dr. Mahathir was sick of it. To get elected, millions was said changed hands. If money politics is not corruption, then, I don’t know what this was, but, the culprits involved were yet charged in court. Can we allow persons in money politics to be in the government?
From political parties, we have “Money For Freedom” controversy of RM5.5 million allegation against a Deputy Minister who was accused of freeing three underground kingpins under police investigation.
Some years ago, we also have heard of a very powerful politician being arrested in trying to smuggle A$2 million to Brisbane, Australia. Why he wanted the money to go to Australia was shrouded with controversy. Was that corrupt money?
We have heard of a substandard RM270 million court complex in Jalan Duta Kuala Lumpur being handed over to the Prime Minister’s Department and also massive losses of the Perwaja Steel! The Anti-Corruption Agency had done good work in investigating the RM270 million court complex and we hope this time the ACA will achieve success in pinning down the culprits to justice.
Former top cop, Tun Haniff Omar, once said 40% of senior police officers could be arrested for corruption without investigation based on their lifestyles!
The present top cop, Tan Sri Musa, then called Tun Haniff Omar to provide proof! The challenge by the present top cop against his former boss to produce evidence was not a correct procedure at all. When there was such a serious allegation, an investigation or at least an inquiry should be conducted straightaway and police should get to the bottom of the line. The duty of the police is to collect evidence and we could not expect Tun Haniff Omar, who now has retired and has no statutory power and resources to produce proof of his own allegation to provide proof. This was a wrong demand and a wrong demand can always create injustice.
Mr. Yip Pit Wong, a Senior Assistant Commissioner II, of the ACA and also a Deputy Director of ACA Penang, recently was of the opinion that even a layman is able to spot some symptoms of corruption around those involved, such as the sudden change of lifestyle or a person or a person’s inability to explain away his sudden wealth.
The Royal Police Commission Report in May 2005 found out that “corruption is widespread among police personnel”, recounting the case of a police officer who made an asset declaration of RM34 million, but, no charges had been preferred against the said police officer. Datuk Ramli Yusuff was unlucky, he was recently charged as a “RM27 million cop”.
Observations had been made that police corruption, which is a form of misconduct, if too rampant can cause the increase of crime rates. It involves financial gain or political benefit for the police officer concerned in exchange for not pursing a criminal or selectively pursing the criminals. A good example is police officers accepting bribes from organized drugs and prostitution rings in exchange for not reporting these illicit activities. Another example is police officers ignoring police code of conduct in order to fully able to catch a suspected criminal, for example, in cases of forgeries, house breakings and robberies whereby fingerprints which could be detected were said not detected!
Lawyers and the judiciary were also not spared in shoddy controversies! The Lingamgate Tap is still a hot topic in the public. Years back a senior High Court Judge resigned after making some exposures about the judiciary and lawyers!
We have to remind ourselves in countries where corruption was rampant involving people of high places, the country will plunge into chaos. Modern history told us that, the Army being very disciplined, seldom got themselves involved in corruption and malpractices, but, would normally move in by coup de tat to take over the political system of the country when they no more could withstand to see corruption destroying their country.
Modern history also told us that when Army took over the administration of their country, democracy will pave way to dictatorship. When dictatorship comes, the country’s wealth will be plundered by the Army. We have seen what happened to the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia when ruled by the Army. These countries, especially the Philippines and Indonesia became very poor under Army chiefs and instead better, corruption became more prevalent.
The Challenges Ahead
1. To be able to combat corruption more power should be given to the Anti-Corruption Agency and the ACA should be able to act on its own and to report direct to Parliament, not to the Cabinet. Being directly under Parliament, ACA will come under the scrutiny of Parliament where their actions and inactions could be questioned or queried. Suspicions of selective prosecution may not arise as at present, where cases were said swept under the carpet. If not, where are the 18 high profile cases promised by the Prime Minister?
2. There should be better government transparency in giving out works to contractors and public tenders should at all times be called;
3. The Right to Information Act, probably modelled liked the Indian Right to Information Act 2005 need be passed by Parliament;
4. There should be better freedom for freedom speech and publications;
5. An agency with full time staff should be set-up to monitor impartiality in executing orders and enforcements of laws by government agencies;
6. The principle of separation of powers should be enhanced and there should not be any political interference against government servants carrying out their duties;
7. The need for proper accountability must at all times be instilled;
8. There should be a need for a strong and independent judiciary and also a strong legal profession to defend the weak and the oppressed and also a strong prosecution department to ensure that kingpins and crooks could not run away;
9. Better protection for whistleblowers and those who expose the whistleblowers should be severely dealt with ;
10. There need for a Fair and Independent Election Commission
which reports to Parliament;
11. Declaration of assets of politicians to Parliament and Legislative assemblies.
12. Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) as recommended by the Royal Commission must be set up in soonest possible. Otherwise, we need to set-up a full time Royal Commission Against Corruption and Abuses by Enforcement Agencies with staffs to monitor police corruption and abuses and also that of other law enforcement agencies. This Commission could supplement the work or ACA because one could not expect ACA to monitor its own officers with impartiality.