MACC: Old wine in a new bottle

by Tunku Abdul Aziz
Sin Chew

What a waste of public funds! The creation of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission will go down in history as a feeble and pathetic final clutch at the straws by a sitting duck prime minister best remembered for his inexhaustible supply of good intentions but with nothing to show for them. The MACC was hastily conceived against a murky background of a web of duplicity and deceit. It was a desperate attempt at deluding the people of this country and the world anti-corruption community at large that the Abdullah Badawi administration still had a lot of fire in its belly to make corruption a high risk and low return business. The whole process was nothing more that a charade, a sleight of hand that we had come to expect of this government. In the meantime, corruption continues to be in robust good health.

In 1995 my friends and I started to look at corruption in our country seriously and to view with growing unease its debilitating effects on our society. This led incidentally to the formation of Transparency International Malaysia as it has come to be known. We saw the Anti-Corruption Agency for what it really was in operational terms. It was the weakest link in both the “supply and demand sides” of the corruption equation. We saw the ACA as part of the problem of corruption and not, as it should rightly have been, part of the solution. We thought its claim to “independence” was a joke in poor taste. It was as independent as a beached whale.

We demanded from day one that the ACA be converted into an independent commission along the lines of the highly professional Independent Commission Against Corruption with a strong and influential oversight civilian committee to keep an eye on the staff who could otherwise be tempted to abuse their wide powers.

After years of insisting that the ACA was independent despite glaring examples to the contrary, the government finally relented just as the Abdullah Badawi administration went into its death throes. Abdullah Badawi woke up all of a sudden to try to put in place the flawed Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. He is, he has just told us, happy with the judiciary and the MACC. But then our prime minister is an easy man to please. You will note that for all the rhetoric about an independent commission, the key operating word itself does not appear in the name and title of the new body. I suppose it matters not what name you give it, the creation of the MACC is nothing if not a clumsy attempt at decanting old wine into a new bottle.

As for the much hyped up “Hong Kong model” upon which the new corruption fighting machine is apparently based, the less said about this the better. It is clear for all to see that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission falls far short of the Hong Kong template on at least two counts. The first and most obvious shortcoming is an absence in the current law a provision enabling a MACC officer to call anyone to account for their wealth and lifestyle that stick out like a sore thumb against his known income.

It is not a crime for public servants to be wealthy, but would they please explain how they have acquired their wealth to the satisfaction of the authorities, assuming naturally that the authorities themselves are incorruptible? The absence of this specific provision in the law renders the fight against corruption an exercise in futility. The legions of the corrupt in Malaysian public life know that they cannot be touched. The framers of the law knew what they were doing when they decided to omit this powerful provision both in the 1997 Act as well as the current law. They claim that there is no need for it as there is already in the statute book a provision against money laundering. They have missed the point deliberately and with a cynicism of Machiavellian proportions. It is frighteningly sinister.

The second and equally serious shortcoming is the quality of the commissioners. You cannot by any stretch of the imagination compare them with their highly professional Hong Kong counterparts. I have kept abreast of the excellent work of the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption from the time when the iconic Bertrand de Speville was its commissioner. The Hong Kong model works because of the quality of the officers employed. They are all of them drawn from the professions, and are well trained to behave and act professionally. Above all, the ICAC is truly independent, set out to be just that from day one.

Now that the MACC has been officially launched, let us hope it will shed its reputation for bias and sloppy approach to its mission, and above all, its officers must resist the great temptation of seeking premature publicity such as the “million flying licenses” of some years ago. Let your professionalism be its own reward, and Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan, the head of the organisation should learn to keep his counsel and not repeat that most uncalled for and disgraceful act of finding Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim guilty while his “car and cow” case was still a work in progress.

I wrote this piece before the official launch of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday, and I am glad that I delayed submitting it to the editors so that I can now have the pleasure of congratulating Datuk Anwar Fazal, a partner in the setting up of Transparency International Malaysia, Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin, and Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon, all strong anti-corruption advocates and my co-workers, on their appointment to the advisory board. They have their work cut out for them, and I wish them well.

As for the MACC, remember this; we can have the best legal framework, systems and procedures, but if we put crooks in charge, nothing will change. A “bunga taik ayam” by any other name will not smell like a rose.

  1. #1 by undergrad2 on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 6:54 am

    ( deleted )

  2. #2 by pulau_sibu on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 7:43 am

    Old wine? Old wine is usually better than new wine. This title is bad. We better use a different example, such as rotten eggs.

  3. #3 by homeblogger on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 8:13 am

    The MACC cannot be truly independent because it would put the ricebowl of the corrupt at risk. EVERYONE knows it.

  4. #4 by wanderer on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 8:37 am

    It is more appropriate to say, “MACC is nothing if not a false attempt at replacing rotten wine into a new bottle.”
    It is nothing new, equally, a corrupted judge was made Chief of the judiciary. The UMNO-BN administration is so corrupted to the core, without having all these tainted institutions shielding them, these leaders in BN and Chiefs will be booking a place for their permanent stay in the “Kumunting Retirement Resort”
    Blame it on ourselves, on our poor judgment, to vote them in since Merdeka. So you either join them or change them…..if a bottle is broken, change it!

  5. #5 by pulau_sibu on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 8:53 am

    There is a well know Chinese saying, changing the soup but not the medicine (Chinese medicine). It applies exactly to this MACC. Can we imagine that this is already the best that Abdullah and UMNO can do? It would be so simple to combat corruption even without having ACA or MACC. Just make your UMNO less corrupted. A lot of corruptions are due to UMNO

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 8:59 am

    I will but speak only in general terms.

    Tough anti corruption legislation does not make tough anti corruption enforcement. What we get is sporadic and selective enforcement.

    A society/government can put a tough anti corruption legislation into effect only if it diagnoses objectively and faces squarely the the many faces of corruption and its causes and has the political will to end it.

    This of course cannot happen if the very bases of power of the political group in power sustains its own perpetuation and feeds itself on flawed structure of patronage culture.

    By definition, in a political patronage culture, the elites in control enrich themselves by availing themselves and their family members, cronies and their political supporters to the benefits of public assets. Privatisation becomes piratisation in relation to public assets. To consolidate power not just from political supporters within party heirarchy but also the larger elector/voter community at large, some parts of the gains from this privatisation/piratisation are channelled back to the electors/voters during election or by elections. Also under the cover of affirmative action programs, the allegiance of whole whole constitutency is secured by promises of rent payment from the country’s resources.

    Under such a power structure, patronage politics slips imperceptibly into corruption politics that soon permeates every nook and corner of the system including even the private sector and their corporate captains whose complicity is secured to contribute to funds necessary to hold such a structure together.

    All institutions – judiciary, law enforcement and civil service – are also inducted to support and protect a system in which key controllers of these institutions have vested interest in upholding and feeding upon.

    When the fabric of the entire political system are woven upon such premises, the anti corruption legislation instituted will only look good but behave ineffectual, effective only when its tough and draconian measures are selectively used against opponents and dissidents of the system….

    In any society enmeshed in such a system where corruption is endemic and reeks at the seams, there is no way a tough anti corruption legislation can even touch much less solve the problem.
    People in power will not use legislation to end the very practices giving rewards that they hope to reap by entering into politics in the first place!

    History has proven that only change via ballot box or unconstitutional means other than ballot box can and even then not unnecessarily so when the next group of people coming to power by exploting an anti corruption platform but imbued by the same values they decry, resort to same tactics of self aggrandizement and perpetuation. The other way is of course some apocaplytical economic and social upheaval that strikes the system at its core. A global economic devastation may fit the bill but what comes out of it – good or bad – is debatable.

    The permanent way is that the grass roots and ordinary people who are electors/voters must themselves be educated on the social/political/economic depadations of corruption and take an ethical stance in revulsion of its practices. Unfortunately this is a process that takes time – sometimes decades, centuries and eons – well before which, the society is already irreparably devastated and destroyed by the corruption malaise.

  7. #7 by sani on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 9:03 am

    YB + Friends

    All those who thinks + finds the MACC independent + uncorrupted, put up your hand.

  8. #8 by lopez on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 9:05 am

    one ninkapooh assume control of the blue , the other clings on the green
    so far the one in blue looks dumb. taking mileage at expense of common people…the other is more dumb but also at expense of common people
    it appears common people are most dumb especially those who got suck into their cries and curses………

    YES YES lets change….yes change everydamn thing …my way ..says the dummy in green….AND BRAGGED so far i succesfoolly made change …i have change the ham bee AT BERAK
    and the blue dummy says wait till YOU ll see how a lion come into submission….but this dummy did not know this lion is no ordinary lion he is the hope of the commoners and he is OKU too.

    So says the blue dummies that they can make change too….their way…we ll see

    imagine Two ninkapoof claiming credit from the same crowd that they wallop and beats,tormenting and torturing, threatening and raping them and thier children and parents.

    …what do you think the common people are made of….

    mud head, co^k head, coconut head…

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 9:07 am

    ooops – ‘depredations’ in last para

  10. #10 by mata_kucing on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 9:13 am

    No two-way about it, the only way for the MACC to be effective is for it to report to an independent body and not to the PM. Reporting direct to the PM is the problem. It has positioned itself to become the protector of the corrupt, not the prosecutor. Call it by any other names, it still stinks to high heaven in it’s present form.

  11. #11 by taiking on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 9:19 am

    50 years of no result and bad results is quite enough to educate all malaysians that this umno government is not to be trusted at all. Tuan Rempit McBullys too are well aware of the truth and it is common knowledge that their outward denial is a result of their political positions (which money could purchase) which were somehow strategically planted at the beneficial end of all those no result and bad results.

    The way forward is certainly not more new laws and more new bodies by any fanciful names. Corruption is this country has changed its character from a covert practice to a right and now it has even been overtly embeded and enmeshed into some claimed racial privileges. The race of course is malay in name but strictly-T.R. McBullys-only in reality and in practice. The common Joe Ahmad has been sidelined and marginalised and has now become the poor adopted brother of Mr and Mrs Hamba deBully.

    The whole thing stinks just like kl on a hot day.

  12. #12 by taiking on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 9:22 am


    …. poor adopted “son” and not “brother”.

  13. #13 by ALLAN THAM on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 10:00 am

    A old smelly can of worm in new branded can.

    It get smelly as time to come.

    Old wine in what ever bottle will only get better.

    The problem was we must change the worm into old that will solve the problem.

    New can is the hard ware, what ever can you put you must change the smelly worm into wine( change the people who head MACC)

  14. #14 by sotong on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 11:03 am

    Decades of bad leadership and damaging politics had created an environment where most people do not care about fairness and justice and the best interest of the country…..there is no quick fix.

  15. #15 by mendela on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 11:07 am

    Pls read article in Jeff Ooi’s Screenshot on the MACC head and his kinky pilot son.


  16. #16 by passerby on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 11:07 am

    Corruption is so well entrenched and is part and parcel of the daily lives of all the ministers and government servants. Just simply pick any name and he or she is stink with corruption.

    Those days we used to laugh at the Indonesian and now they are laughing back at the Malaysian. To be frank, we don’t even believe and trust Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan is clean and has not lived beyond his means. If he is, let him declare his assets and the assets of his family members and relatives before appointing him as the head.

  17. #17 by LBJ on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 11:11 am

    An institution is only meaningful when the citizens accord to it the respect of its professionalism and support. Unfortunately, the leadership of MACC has chosen to take side with its political master. As such, it brings suspect and contempt to it.

    I think it is wise to have MACC version 2. Call it MIACC – I for independent. Close down MACC. Sack all within and start again.

  18. #18 by bennylohstocks on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 11:56 am

  19. #19 by vsp on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 11:57 am

    If the MACC is independent, then 99.9% of UMNO politicians would be behind bars and 90% of BN politicians would be disqualified for office. Najib would charged for grand larceny of the country’s wealth and resources and treason for blackmailing the Sultan of Perak and grabbing power through unlawful coup d’etat. ..Abdullah Badawi would be banished to Timbuktu for sheer incompetence and corruption.

  20. #20 by vsp on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 12:00 pm

    Najib would charged…

    correction: Najib would be charged…

  21. #21 by shortie kiasu on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 12:15 pm

    This MACC is one of the greatest gimmicks created by Abdullah and his cronies in the BN attempting to hookwink the people of the country.

    But the people are not dumb. What they see for now are all the same antics and waste of public funds for all the nonsense created.

    Ahmad Said the chief of MACC, the ex chief of ex ACA, has joined the wrong organization of MACC he should be in UMNO party instead of in MACC, claimed to be “independent” of political baggauge.

    The corruption is too entrenched in the culture of this country’s administration, since the Independence of the country.

    The country is ruled since then by the same party, same culture of corruption. How could they ever shake off this debilitating disease of corruption? The country is doomed if the culture of corrupt in the ruling coalition persist?

  22. #22 by limkamput on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 12:59 pm

    The issue we face today is never who the commissioner or members of the advisory board should be. It is not even whether our anti corruption legislation is comprehensive enough.

    The issue is really the people in power know who to appoint as the commissioner and the members of advisory board. If they know how to appoint the “right” people, they will know how the law will be implemented in the “right” way. It is really a big issue (and beyond me) how our country has evolved to this stage where almost every institution of substance has been subverted beyond recognition. It is easy to point out piecemeal deficiency here and shortcoming there. But the reality is that people appointed to positions all seem to possess a unique trait – their ever willingness to trade official duties and responsibility with personal interests or comfort. Alternatively, if a person is independent and incorruptible, that person will never get appointed, period.

    Perhaps our power is too centralised. Perhaps the vested interest/corrupted groups are already in fully control of the country. Politicians and ministers are merely their henchmen. That is why I have often asked if PR were to gain power, would the situation be any different. Our poor institutions of government are already part of our national ethos – like the double parking that has evolved and now accepted. PR need to start thinking from now. Good government needs more than just change in people in charge.

  23. #23 by orang_cina on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 2:10 pm

    The best way to prosper, is to learn from others. We (country under UMNO rules) became arrogants because of our little success. Now we rather to be jaguh kampung, while seeing our neighbours going international.

    Why don’t we stripped off our arrogance and get a real professional to work for us? Phillipinnes government hired Albert Kwok, ex-commisioner of HK’s ICAC to reform its anti corruption bureau. Can we do the same? Since our PM acknowledged that MACC is based on ICAC (unless if he’s not sincere)?

    Both HK and Malaysia are based on Commanwealth constitution, so it’s easier for them to adopt into Malaysian culture. Besides, corruption is the same everywhere! Or maybe our PM said “not possible, because they don’t understand Malaysian (or Malay) corruption(UMNO??) culture”?

    The real champions are those who are willing to learn from others.
    Too bad, we all are not.

  24. #24 by KennyGan on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 2:58 pm

    In The Star interview today, Ahmad Said spoke of the uphill task of changing public perception of the MACC. Of course this public perception is not without basis. When he commented on Tan Sri Khalid’s case, he himself delivered the strongest hammer blows to the image of the MACC.

    What he did was to practically declare an opposition politician guilty of 2 trivial cases which the are not even corruption to the public eye even before charges had been laid and with investigations completed at lightning speed in the background of hundreds of serious cases against Umno politicians which never see the light of day.

    What do you expect the public to think? If you behave like a drunk then don’t be surprised if people think you’re drunk.

  25. #25 by waterfrontcoolie on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 5:23 pm

    The interview in the STAR would certainly make the MACC’s head looks like a C–K, the other head! His decisions have been so one-sided that he had the audacity to say otherwise. what is he taking the average Malaysians to be? As stupid as he is?!! Please don’t insult our intelligence! You can submerge your GOBLOK Head in the sand or water and think for yourself BUt don’t ever think for the rest of the population.

  26. #26 by monsterball on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 6:13 pm

    First they give you the good news….to show..they listen to Malaysians demands for justices….especially on corruptions.
    Then…one by one…we see those people appointed…..especially the leader of the team… is pro UMNO. If the team is made out of five…you can be sure 3 are pro UMNO…and if 7….4 are pro UMNO..and so on and so forth.
    It is a always…side shows..full of shit…non stop protecting UMNO with no work done.
    When a political party who governs the country for more than 52 years….still need to protect itself…it is clear signs….that People’s Power is what they are afraid of.
    All Malaysians need to do… stay calm …tolerate..and be patient..and do not fall into their traps…to create fear and disorders…for them to govern….with or without a general election. That’s the most important day…..the 13th election. Sooner or later it must come…..and it is better to be late than never to vote them out.

  27. #27 by Onlooker Politics on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 7:14 pm

    “The first and most obvious shortcoming is an absence in the current law a provision enabling a MACC officer to call anyone to account for their wealth and lifestyle that stick out like a sore thumb against his known income.” (Tunku Abdul Aziz)

    The suggestion to include a provision which allows a MACC officer to “call anyone to account for their wealth and lifestyle that stick out like a sore thumb against his known income” certainly sounds good. However, even if such a provision is included in the MACC Act, there will still be some loopholes to get around with it.

    The loopholes are as follow:
    1) The married suspect of a corruption case can give a cautioned statement that the wealth was the gift from his wife who worked as a prostitute overseas.
    2) The unmarried suspect of a corruption case can give a cautioned statement that the wealth was the gift from his female companion who worked as a prostitute overseas.

    Notwithstanding, the inclusion of such a provision will still be good because it will at least discourage the corrupted officers from being too brave to indulge themselves in the squandering extravangaza and luxurious lifestyle until they can no longer hold a stop unto their greedy blood-thirsting desire for sucking the people’s money.

  28. #28 by ktteokt on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 7:40 pm

    As if Malaysia is going to adopt what the ICAC in Hong Kong is doing! MACC is nothing but a mutation of a corrupted ACA! If at all they are serious about eliminating corruption, follow the Chinese law! You can only be corrupted ONCE IN A LIFETIME only in China, because once found guilty of a corruption charge, you will be EXECUTED with a bullet at your own cost and expense!

  29. #29 by KennyGan on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 7:50 pm

    “The first and most obvious shortcoming is an absence in the current law a provision enabling a MACC officer to call anyone to account for their wealth and lifestyle that stick out like a sore thumb against his known income.” (Tunku Abdul Aziz)

    I guess with this law, all the BN ministers and deputy ministers will have to go to jail.

  30. #30 by limkamput on Sunday, 1 March 2009 - 9:21 pm

    I guess with this law, all the BN ministers and deputy ministers will have to go to jail. KennyGan

    i think many including Tunku Abdul Aziz still don’t get the point. With this law, BN ministers and deputy ministers will not go to jail. Instead, more opposition politicians will be harrassed and to account for the two cents they have in their bank account. Got it?

  31. #31 by katdog on Monday, 2 March 2009 - 12:11 am

    The problem is not that the law is insufficient, the problem is that the enforcement of the law is lacking.

    And no amount of law on paper can ensure that the enforcement upheld. At the end of the day, only the people in charge can ensure that enforcement is done properly.

    And that is the real problem. We lack responsible and dedicated persons in order to really make the MACC work. And the UMNO leaders are there to ensure that even if there were such persons, they would never be given a position of such authority.

    You can create all sorts of fancy laws but in the end if the people don’t uphold it then it makes no difference. Change the people first then we can start talking about creating fancy laws.

  32. #32 by pulau_sibu on Monday, 2 March 2009 - 1:41 am

    After the terrorist attack in America, the checking system of the banks has become more efficient. I think if the opposition will get some foreign companies to monitor such information, they should be able to find out the in-flow to the accounts of the BN politicians in the banks all over the world. You think BN politicians are stupid to put their money in the boleh banks so that it will only turn money into banana papers? They must be putting the money overseas.

  33. #33 by anna brella on Monday, 2 March 2009 - 1:55 am

    Speaking from some winey experience in keeping with the spirit here, I’ll just say that, irrespective of the container, price or brand/other name, good wine will be good wine, whether young or old/vintage, and plonk will be plonk always.

    It’s like they say, good wine needs no bush.

    “Imagine Power To The People” John Lennon.

  34. #34 by chengho on Monday, 2 March 2009 - 7:45 am

    I love the old wine normally taste exotic and long lasting taste
    and of couse depending on the season of the grape and the soil condition….Najib will do better like LKY…

  35. #35 by Godfather on Monday, 2 March 2009 - 8:11 am

    “Long lasting taste” is correct. Bad long lasting taste in the mouth with C4 as the PM….you can ask Altantuya if she had a bad taste in her mouth…

  36. #36 by dranony on Monday, 2 March 2009 - 8:56 am

    Do most men here have child pornography on their handphones, for which they are prepared to plead guilty in an Australian court for?
    If it was not child pornography, why did MACC boss’ son plead guilty to such, in an Australian court?
    Was the son subjected in Australia to PDRM-type interrogation (read: torture) of such severity that he admitted to that which he was not guilty of?
    By uttering such a general sweeping statement, does Ahmad Said himself admit that he too, has such similar pornography on his own handphone (or computer)?

    While MACC boss might be forgiven for pleading \Don’t link me with son’s offence…\
    BUT I think he is trying to tar most Malaysian men, as well as rationalising is own son’s criminal conviction in the Australian court, when he said:

    \Ahmad Said vehemently denies that it was child pornography. He said that the titles of the video clips found in his son’s laptop computer were misleading.

    “I can bet with you that it’s something that you will find on most men’s handphones,” he said.\

  37. #37 by k1980 on Monday, 2 March 2009 - 9:09 am

    The type of leader who should be PM

    Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat is against the use of the “bumiputra” term when applying for government assistance.

    He said the term not only smacked of racism, but also deprived other races, who share similar rights and possess similar identity cards, of the facility.

  38. #38 by undergrad2 on Monday, 2 March 2009 - 9:43 am

    (deleted again)

  39. #39 by anna brella on Monday, 2 March 2009 - 10:19 pm

    Child pornography = paedophilia;
    From the OED: noun, a person who is sexually attracted to children.

    And I think I am right in making the fair assumption that only sick b**tards who are paedophiles or those with the tendency to be a paedophile will be in possession of or enjoy watching such filthy violence perpetrated by supposedly grown-up men (paedophiles are almost always males) against innocent, highly vulnerable children.

    What caught my particular attention in this sordid case of Ahmad Said’s son being nabbed in Australia for being in possession of paedophilic/child porn material was the nauseating fact revealed in the report that the son was a father of two young children.

    “Imagine Power To The People” John Lennon.

  40. #40 by anna brella on Monday, 2 March 2009 - 10:28 pm

    Sorry, to clarify:
    From the OED: paedophile = noun, a person who is sexually attracted to children.

    “Imagine Power To The People” John Lennon.

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