UNODC clarification that it was not passing judgment about corruption in Malaysia welcome especially as MACC’s credibility at lowest ebb after pre-IAACA and post-IAACA blows

I welcome the clarification by the chief of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s corruption and economic crime branch, Dmitra Vlassis to dispel perceptions that at the recent 6th International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA) Conference and General Meeting, he was commending and passing judgment about the Malaysian government’s efforts to fight corruption.

I had issued a statement last week questioning news reports about his commending the Malaysian Government for its “serious efforts” in fighting corruption.

I had pointed out at the time that anti-corruption campaigners in Malaysia had been horrified by such a commendation as “they regard this as a major blow by the United Nations anti-corruption agency undermining their efforts to get the Najib government to have the political will to really walk the talk to fight corruption, in particular ‘Grand Corruption’ involving VVIPs, especially top political and public personalities”.

I had also said:

“Furthermore, they are mystified as to how the Malaysian government could merit praise for its anti-corruption efforts when from the 17-year history of Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Malaysia’s ranking and score for 2011 on both counts is lowest on record – ranking No. 60 and score of 4.3 when in 1995 Malaysia was ranked No. 23 and attained a score of 5.32 in 1996.

“In simple terms, TI CPI 2011 underlined the brutal fact that corruption in Malaysia under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is worse and more intractable than at any time under his predecessors, whether the five years under Tun Abdullah or the 22 years under Tun Mahathir.”

In his clarification on what he had said at a press conference during the IAACA gathering, Vlassis said:

“Unfortunately, some of my comments and responses during this press conference were misunderstood or taken out of context. Consequently, they were misinterpreted and may have created erroneous impressions.”

Vlassis said he was asked about corruption in Malaysia. He said:

“I responded that I was not in a position to pass judgment on the matter because it was beyond my mandate and, therefore, inappropriate to evaluate a country’s performance.”

I welcome Vlassis’ clarification that he was not passing judgment on corruption in Malaysia.

I want to make it very clear that I am not saying that Vlassis or any UN or international anti-corruption body or officer should not pass judgment or evaluate Malaysia’s anti-corruption efforts, but such judgment or evaluation must stand up to public scrutiny and examination.

Even without referring to Malaysia’s current worst ranking and score in the 17-year history of Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, it is completely unthinkable that any rational or right-thinking person could praise Malaysia’s anti-corruption record regardless of what criteria is used for the evaluation.

In fact, the credibility of MACC has sunk to its lowest ebb after suffering fatal pre-IAACA and post-IAACA blows.

The thousand-odd “movers and shakers” of the world-wide anti-corruption battle who attended the 6th IAACA Conference comprising prosecutors, investigators, ex-judges and experts with experience in anti-corruption research and practice cannot be unaware that they were meeting under the most embarrassing circumstances for the host country and organisation.

This was because the 6th IAACA Confrerence was held two days after the highly-publicised syariah case where the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud was described by his former daughter-in-law, Shahnaz Abdul Majid, as the richest person in Malaysia and possibly in South East Asia, and that her former husband Abu Bekir Taib was worth in excess of RM1 billion, with 111 accounts world wide with deposits worth an estimated RM700 million.

Three weeks before the 6th IAACA Conference, the Swiss-based NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) dropped a “bomb” when it released in Brussels a report which estimated Taib’s family assets at US$21 billion (RM64 billion) and that of the wealth of Taib himself at US$15 billion (RM46 billion).

There can be no doubt that for the thousand-odd participants at the 6th IAACA, the chief topic in their off-conference chats and conversations would not be any official item on the IAACA agenda, but the impotence of the host organization – the MACC – highlighted by the BMF revelation of Taib’s fabulous fortunes in his three decades as Sarawak Chief Minister and the Prime Minister’s “hands off” warning to MACC when Datuk Seri Najib Razak issued a clear directive not to entertain probes and questions about the BMF report.

As if the Sarawak Chief Minister’s immunity from accountability for his fabulous wealth is not enough to demolish MACC’s credibility and expose its impotence in combating “grand corruption”, MACC suffered an immediate post-IAACA blow when Parliament was told that the RM40 million cash in Singapore currency a Sabah businessman was caught with in trying to smuggle into Malaysia from Hong Kong in August 2008 were political contributions to Sabah Umno and not for Chief Minister Musa Aman and that “no element of corruption was proven”.

This is why I said in Parliament during the debate on the 2013 Budget that MACC and Najib administration have not been able to pass the “test of the trio” in the battle against “grand corruption” – referring to serious allegations of corruption against the Chief Ministers of Sarawak and Sabah as well as the Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail.

In the circumstances, the clarification by Vlassis, the UNODC corruption branch chief that he was not passing judgment about Malaysia’s anti-corruption efforts is most wise and timely as otherwise the international body will be dragged down and itself lose credibility in the eyes of Malaysians and anti-corruption campaigners in Malaysia and the world.

  1. #1 by NotBN on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 - 5:54 pm

    Even for a moment we accept the ‘finding’ of MACC that the RM40M was a donation, then what is UMNO going to do with the money? serve nasi lemak during their ceramahs? Or is it more likely to pay the ‘frogs’ , in which case it becomes the ultimate bribery. How did MACC conduct the investigation? And how much was spent (trips to & from Hongkong )? And it took this long four years to conclude that it was a ‘donation’! Isn’t UMNO answerable for withholding vital evidence? the accountant should be deregistered and charged. There would be more one person in UMNO who knew RM40M would be donated- shouldn’t they all be charged for obstructing justice? MACC- not worth mentioning the name

  2. #2 by monsterball on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 - 8:00 pm

    It always needs someone to expose all double talks….especially by foreign diplomats..and our come their clearer explanations.
    If PR politicians ignore it…it will snowball into “fact” favoring Najib.

  3. #3 by ekompute on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 - 8:23 pm

    Well, UNODC is as credible as UMNO itself… it’s a case of 2 SH1T scratching each other’s back.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 6:51 am

    All these are giving our PM splitting headache. He relies so much on political image grooming by political and media consultants. Image is one thing (only veneer and gloss) substance is another! The show of political will to fight corruption cannot hit its mark (in public perception) against backdrop of swirling rumours of the scorpene deal, not to mention all these allegations by Zainal Abidin Ahmad in public domain against the AG, Shahnaz Abdul Majid’s & Bruno Manser Fund’s expos e on S’wak’s 1st family’s fortunes, AmanGate expos e on Michael Cheah’s RM40 million in HK, NFC etc. MACC’s organisation of 6t IAACA gathering of world shakers in corruption seems a farce when all these are swirling around unresolved with AG determining by law, MACC’s prosecution of corruption! Yet Ah Jib Gor’s headache is immense because he can’t touch these powerful people no matter that they’re demystified by these rumors un-dispelled, which in turn, undermine his image/resolve as corruption fighter in public perception. Some more now Dmitra Vlassis comes out with clarification to negate the spin on what he earlier said! It’s the proverbial saying – he’s caught between hammer and anvil, rendering the grooming by consultants nugatory in effect!

  5. #5 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 10:47 am

    Still say Vlassis has not given a good enough explanation.. Goes to show, you can’t count on others not to mess up your solutions much less to help fix your problem..

    I still say anti-corruption effort can gain more by not letting go of Musa Aman’s RM40m case. It simply a mistake on Najib to put himself on the line by providing a flimsy excuse for Musa Aman and it can only because Musa Aman is vulnerable and they can’t help themselves.

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 4:14 pm

    Right now ikan bilis caught but not Ikan Yu, and the excuse for that is that our MACC law (section 23) has loophole : it cannot for eg in an institutional milieu of permissible negotiated as distinct from open tender, catch the politician for corruption under MACC act when that politician excludes himself from decision process of the group, which trying to ingratiate the politician, on their own accord, award the lucrative contract/licence to the politician’s relative or associate! This argument is not correct. This is because section 50 of MACC raises a presumption of corruption the moment that politician’s relative or associate receives a “gratification” which includes a lucrative contract/licence. There should be barring all politician’s relative or associate from getting any contract/licence from any Ministry/Dept (whether or not it is under that politician’s ministrerial portfolio) unless through open tender and competitive bid and winning fair and square by quantitative and objectiove criteria. Unless one is prepared to do that and have such a law, there will always be a loophole for corrupt politician to circumvent accountability. To have it, politics is no more lucrative for those who seek it as profession for making money.

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