Malaysia, no pass marks in the corruption index

By Tunku Aziz

About this time each year when Transparency International in Berlin releases its Corruption Perceptions Index, there are many in high places chewing their sticky, dirty fingers while keeping them crossed, hoping against hope, that the world would be kinder and Malaysia’s score on the corruption league table would come out more favourably than last year’s and all the previous years since the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index was first released in 1995. The prayers of the corrupt in government and politics have been ignored again. The predictability of it all is uncanny. The question is why are we continually perceived as corrupt, and are the perceptions justified?

The ambivalence of Tun Mahathir to corruption during his 22 year administration was never in dispute. In a perverse sort of way, he was charmingly honest and did not try to pretend that he was against corrupt practices. He was a great “in the national interest man” who saw corruption not in monochrome, but in glorious Technicolor which could even be made to look extremely attractive seen through his 20/20 Vision however sordid it is in reality.

I am sure the great visionary of all that is tallest, longest and biggest did not lose any sleep over the many shady deals involving Bank Negara and the Employees Provident Fund that, but for the grace of God and the beneficence of the milch cow that is Petronas, would have rendered us insolvent and a hostage of the IMF. He made no promises to fight corruption, and we did not expect anything from him in this respect. He was, by my definition, a corrupt man.

His successor, the one term wonder, affectionately known as Pak Lah of the “work with me and not for me” fame, was made from a different mould. A perfectly decent human being, he possessed impressive religious and moral credentials. When he declared that his top priority was to take the war against corruption into enemy territory, the country rejoiced, but it was to be short lived. A lot of white washing here and there, and a little tinkering around the edges did nothing to reduce corruption. If anything, the consensus was that corruption during Pak Lah’s watch was worse than when Mahathir held sway over us.

As Pak Lah himself admitted without saying so in so many words, there were other more pressing matters requiring his attention that it was only in the twilight of his stewardship that he woke up and realised that there was a little promise he had made that he had to fulfil. So in great haste, all he managed to do, bless the poor man, was to leave behind a less than useless legacy in the shape of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission which on present showing is useful neither to man nor beast. And that is being charitable.

The first anti-corruption public relations exercise was the setting up of the National Institute of Integrity Malaysia which, while trying its best to justify its existence, has achieved next to nothing because it is seen as being unable to focus on its mission. Institutions of themselves are not as important as what their people do inside their often magnificent buildings. Malaysia’s dismal failure to curb corruption as effectively as Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, the cleanest in this region, has everything to do with the leadership in government, the Attorney-General’s chambers, the police and the MACC. It all comes down to people in the end. Mere institutions without people of honour and integrity to lead them do not amount to anything. Remember that saying about how you can fool some people some of the time, but not all people all of the time. It is a lesson that seems to have escaped our leadership.

With one scam after another swirling around their ankles on a daily basis, our leaders, no matter what tricks they try to come up with, have all but lost their high moral ground from which to sermonise on the evils of corruption. The country is mired in corruption and every level of the service has been touched by corruption, defined as the “abuse of entrusted power for personal gain, and official corruption in our country is escalating to enormous heights because there is no political will to begin with. The thing to remember about the Corruption Perceptions Index is that it reflects the views of the expatriate business community, resident in our country. They are the people who are sought to respond to questionnaires about corruption in our country. And they are not blind to what is going on in their dealings with the government. True, many have no direct experience of being subjected to official extortion, but they exchange stories which are the basis of their perceptions.

There were several countries that were written off as chronically and systemically corrupt and have succeeded remarkably in breaking out of the vicious cycle of corruption. Corruption is not part of our culture and yet we have allowed it to become our way of life. We are the product of our environment and the government has a responsibility for creating an environment that makes corruption a “high risk, low return business.” But to do that the Prime Minister must lead by example and must confront corruption in all its manifestation, no matter who commits it. A real challenge for Najib if he can find some time to drop his 1Malaysia and look at corruption in the face.

I am not at all sanguine at all about our future as a nation if, by default, we look the other way when disaster is heading straight at us. We will slide further and will have for company those countries that we used to look down upon because we were cleaner. Yes, there was a time, when Tunku Abdul Rahman was prime minister, when corruption only happened in other countries and when ministers and senior Malayan Civil Service officers lived well, well within their means.

Najib must shake off all traces of corruption within our system of governance if Malaysia is to reappear on the competitiveness radar screen of countries that foreign investors feel confident to park their money. Is Najib up to the challenge?

  1. #1 by James on Sunday, 22 November 2009 - 2:26 pm

    Very sad BUT absolutely true of the situation in present day Malaysia. If anything the honourable writer has been too euphemistic in his message.

  2. #2 by Winston on Sunday, 22 November 2009 - 2:28 pm

    Well said, Tunku Aziz!
    But then we don’t think that the incumbent PM will ever take any action to rectify the situation as they are all too steep in the muck!
    It will be up to the PR when they take over the reigns of the Federal government. That’s why I have always emphasise that we go all out to garner votes for this party; it’s our only hope for a better future for us and for our off-springs!
    I and no doubt others have also come across the Federal government apologists who wrote to this blog to try to change the minds of its visitors.
    To them, I say “Welcome but we reserve the right to go into a feeding frenzy!”. To tear you to shreds!
    Just imagine, fifty over years of utter filth and we still have people around to apologise for them!
    What sickos are these!

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Sunday, 22 November 2009 - 3:51 pm

    Once the big fat father of all corruptions started OKing them in 1981
    There is no turning back
    We r way past de slippery slope stage
    To Umnoputras n their cronies, power = wallowing in corruptions
    Jiak, jiak, jiak n kaya raya for 5 generations b4 de oil runs dry

  4. #4 by bennymat7 on Sunday, 22 November 2009 - 5:15 pm

    Until Pakatan Rakyat take over the Country under Anwar & his Keadilan-Dap-Pas Team , the MACC ,Polis & Judiciary will always be the political tools for Umno/Bn agenda.
    Tunku Aziz is a shining example of a TRUE PATRIOTIC MALAYSIAN like Dato Zaid Ibrahim.
    Very well said indeed Tunku.
    ‘For Evil & Corrupt practices to continue & flourish ,Good Men & Women say and do Nothing ! ‘.
    Thank God we still have many Good Men & Women in Malaysia in Keadilan-Pas-Dap.

  5. #5 by vsp on Sunday, 22 November 2009 - 8:10 pm

    Why is it impossible for corruption be eliminated from Bolehland? Because the head himself is corrupt and the body he leads is infested with all kinds of moral diseases known to mankind since the time of Sodom and Gomorrah.

  6. #6 by albert308 on Sunday, 22 November 2009 - 8:48 pm

    Tunku, what a strong and absolute correctly defined Mahathir as CORRUPT MAN! 22 years of holding power in the important phase of development make this nation very rotten.
    Come to Abdullah era, corruption become even more rampant ever. Accurately written.
    Najib’s era promised pinnacle of corruption in the history of Malaysia. Police and judiciary are joined together by MACC as instruments to clinch on power.
    Of all these three premiership, the Bapak of Corruption title still belong to Mahathir!

  7. #7 by tenaciousB on Monday, 23 November 2009 - 12:45 am

    Lest not forget mahathir was a good stage actor, remember his teary episodes that kept winning emmy awards. now the MCA folks are adopting it. what buffoons!

  8. #8 by tenaciousB on Monday, 23 November 2009 - 12:49 am

    i like DAP’s suggestion for MCA to adopt najib as their temporary president. Rosmah can be the women’s chief and Hisapmudin can be the youth chief, purr-fect, then it can be formally called 1mca.

  9. #9 by House Victim on Monday, 23 November 2009 - 1:16 am

    1.” The country is mired in corruption and every level of the service has been touched by corruption, defined as the “abuse of entrusted power for personal gain, and official corruption in our country is escalating to enormous heights because there is no political will to begin with. ”
    a) Why members of Parties keep voting “leader” with corruption or obvious lacking of Credibility or Performance?
    b). Why voter keeps UMNO for the last 50years?

    2. “Najib must shake off all traces of corruption within our system of governance if Malaysia is to reappear on the competitiveness radar screen of countries that foreign investors feel confident to park their money. Is Najib up to the challenge?”

    a) Should this question be firstly gone to UMNO members, or, at least those senior members of UMNO?

    3. No Pass Mark for Malaysia
    because the Judicial system (Court/Judges/Lawyers) are also in Mud??

    4. Not only “because there is no political will to begin with” but also because People have no “ethnic” in mind what is Right or Fair to begin with!!

    “Personal Gain” has been deeply sown in most of the minds. “Shame” – who cares??
    “KING WITH HIS NEW DRESS” on the Stages!!

  10. #10 by monsterball on Monday, 23 November 2009 - 2:12 am

    Is Najib up the challenge?
    Are you serious Tunku Aziz?
    Excellent piece and let Najib respond.
    To me…he lost his power…lost his credibility…lost his personality and dignity and what we keep seeing and reading are acting and spoken words of sweet nothing.
    Pak Lah is a selfish coward and Mahathir is back to save his adopted son.
    The show must go on…clinging onto hopes and prayers .a miracle will happen to make voters give UMNO another chance.
    So…out comes…”1 Malaysia” ‘People First.Performance Now” slogans to trap young voters.
    Khairy said “Let forget the past” declare openly.. he will support Najib to save his own skin.
    Mahathir so critical over Pak Lah..declaring in a POLICE state…under Pak .so quiet with much more police brutalities…under…Najib.
    Ever so anxious to expose corruptions…under Pak Lah…now supporting corruptions under Najib
    The signs are clear…Najib and the rest of the corrupted UMNO gang do not care two hoots what you or anybody wrote…Tunku Aziz.
    He does not even care to arrest Bala…with so clear explanations…why he made the 2nd affidavit.
    People’s opinions do not matters Najib.
    He know his time is up.

  11. #11 by taiking on Tuesday, 24 November 2009 - 10:18 am

    Corruption index means nothing to umno. The fact that it will make us less attractive to investors also means nothing to them. The cake into which they constantly sink their greasy fingers will shrink. Even that is not of any concern to them. Look at the latest matrade expo project. They are not perturbed any bit by the index. They have political power. That is all they ever needed. When the going gets tough, they could and would readily use more of their political might to get going. They would use it to deny more people access to the cake. Rights of common malaysians became the rights of bumiputras which subsequently became the rights of umnoputras and finally (believe me are heading there) the rights of super-elite umnoputras.

    “A real challenge for Najib if he can find some time to drop his 1Malaysia and look at corruption in the face.” you say tunku? This feat is actually a great deal easier than one can imagine. Just give jib a mirror!

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