by Pauline Wong
27 November 2012
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia may descend into a “kleptocracy” if corruption is not addressed effectively and comprehensively, academicians warned today.
They warned that the country would be ruled by the corrupt if graft is not tackled in a far-reaching manner which can be felt by the people.
“Kleptocracy”, derived from the words “kleptomania” and “-cracy” or “rule” refers to a government filled with those who seek status and personal gain at the expense of the governed.
At a forum on “Eradicating Corruption: How successful have we been?” organised by the Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) today, National University of Singapore Associate Professor Dr Syed Farid Alatas voiced the danger of kleptocracy taking root as corruption is not a random or occasional occurence but tends to be systemic.
He said “kleptocrats” are usually not mid-level officials who extort money as a means to make a living, but high-ranking officials who see it as a way to accumulate wealth.
Despite positive outcome from anti-corruption initiatives rolled out by the government through the Government Transformation Programme and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Syed Farid said the effects were still not felt by the people.
“The people are still pessimistic about the way authorities are tackling corruption,” said Syed Farid, a Malaysian who was formerly a Universiti Malaya lecturer.
Commenting on Malaysia’s deteriorating position in the Corruption Perception Index, from 37 out of 80 countries in 2003, to 60 in 2011, Syed Farid urged the government to work towards the formation of a truly independent anti-corruption body.
“The MACC, for example has no power to initiate prosecution. The power to prosecute lies with the Attorney-General’s Chambers – which is as such free to practise selective prosecution,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, another panelist, Universiti Malaya Faculty of Economics and Administration Professor Dr Edmund Terence Gomez said grand corruption must be tackled from the top.
“We must first talk about devolution of power, where important institutions like the MACC and the AGC, and even the Judiciary must be independent.
“We have to do this soon, because degenerative corruption is becoming pervasive. Money is being channeled into the political system and we see this in permeation of money politics,” he said.
He also called for a fair and just implementation of good and noble policies to eradicate corruption.
The forum was attended by former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi under whose tenure the MACC was formed.
“When we talk of corruption, we must talk about the integrity of our judiciary. It must be a respected and respectable institution, able to prove that they are able to demonstrate that they are the highest institute of correctness and integrity,” Abdullah said in his closing speech.
Calling for the strengthening of the judiciary to fight corruption, he said the judiciary itself must be above doubt.
“There must be good governance, or corruption will run rampant in the nation,” he said.
Ideas also released yesterday its interim report “Combating Corruption: Understanding Anti-Corruption Initiatives in Malaysia’.
The report concluded that there is a disconnect between public perception and actual data on corruption, and that corruption cannot be measured by perception alone.
“Public perception as measured by the Corruption Perception Index implies that corruption is rampant and the situation is bleak. But data suggests that the problem is not as bleak as the CPI score has painted,” the report stated.
The 55-page interim report which analysed the causes, cost and implications of corruption in Malaysia, also reviewed initiatives taken by the MACC under the National Key Result Area (NKRA) for combating corruption.
The report is funded by the MACC-NKRA division and other local and foreign sponsors.