Working together towards zero corruption

– Dr Ahmad Satar Merican
The Malaysian Insider
29 October 2014

It has been a while since YB Lim Kit Siang touched on the issue of corruption in Malaysia. Two days in a row and he raised a number of things for us to think together.

I’m always following his views on this issue and welcome his views. Based on his recent comment piece, there is one which I agree and would like to share my thoughts on it.

First, we always talk about the “big fish” and “small fish” matter, often in comparing views. We often say that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) only goes after the “small fishes”. In this case the comparison is made with Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the ICAC Hong Kong.

I do agree that the conviction rate of cases by the KPK are quite high compared to the MACC. We also need to recognise that the scope of cases investigated by the MACC and the KPK are different.

Therefore, in my opinion, we need a review of the terminology of “big fish”.

I understand what is meant by “big fish” from a political standpoint that is associated with politicians in the country. Do all politicians involve in corruption? The answer is no. Does every member of the Cabinet and the executive council of the ruling party at the federal level, fall to corruption? The answer is no. Are all Pakatan Rakyat leaders clean or are also involved in corruption? I think we should not say so.

We often assume that there is no “big fish” due to the low statistics involving politicians brought to court in Malaysia. If we a look at the development since the MACC was formed in 2009, more than 50 cases of “big fish” were brought to court.

The latest was the case involving 30 Customs Department officers including state directors. Media reports highlighted that the act of smuggling goods out of the Free Trade Zone in Port Klang amounted to an estimated RM4 billion. Would this not translate to a “big fish” scoop? In fact, the “big fish” in the private sector can be reflected as in the case involving Sime Darby and Silver Bird two years ago.

We are not claiming that Malaysia is free from corruption completely. Not yet!

Much remains to be done. We need to give space to the MACC to perform its job. Corruption cannot be eliminated overnight and I strongly believe that YB Lim Kit Siang will agree with me on this.

Cooperation and participation of all parties in anti-corruption efforts is crucial. In Malaysia, we need to admit that those involved in corruption are quite smart in planning this hideous activity. They know the in’s and out’s and the loopholes in the current legal system. Those involved can be categorised as being “legally right but morally wrong”.

For this, Malaysians need the “will power” of politicians and not politicians being a wall to development and intentions to improve. Don’t support any corrupt politicians no matter which side of the political divide they belong to.

Convicted politicians of criminal acts or corruption should not be allowed into any political party in Malaysia. Don’t ever go to the streets to support members who have been investigated or convicted of corruption.

In fact, the MACC must be given stronger powers to act. They need powers to look into political funding. I understand that most politicians do not agree with the provision to declare their political fund. If this is true, I think political leaders should stop blaming each other as they are walls depriving development. Instead, they should be supporting such provisions and make the MACC stronger in curbing corruption in the political sphere.

In Indonesia, the political leaders declare their political funding. Gifts and souvenirs received must be notified to the Commission within 28 days. Will our political leaders be willing to do so in Malaysia? I, as a Malaysian, want to see this in the near future.

Secondly, I’m sure that we do not intend to go backward in the fight against corruption in the country. If not, it is definitely not going to gain recognition by world bodies on efforts taken by the government and the MACC. A total of 23 good practices and successes have been recognised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in compliance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

Similarly, the report of the Global Competitiveness Report 2014/15, which was released in early September 2014, is another proof. Let me cite part of the report: “Continuing its upward trend, Malaysia makes its way into the top 20 for the first time since the current GCI methodology was introduced in 2006. The country remains the highest ranked among the developing Asian economies. Brazil advances nine positions in the institutions pillar, which largely drives this year’s progress. It ranks no lower than 60th in any of the 12 pillars of the GCI.”

The report added that “it (Malaysia) ranked an outstanding 4th in the financial market development pillar, which reflects its efforts to position itself as the leading centre for global Islamic finance. And it ranks 7th in the efficiency of its goods and services markets and a business-friendly institutional framework.”

Other important points, “in a region plagued by corruption and red tape, points Malaysia as one of the few countries that have been relatively successful in tackling these two issues, as part of its economic and government transformation programmes.”

Third, as mentioned earlier, in Malaysia, corruption is still one of the main issues, but still manageable. We often choose to cite some of the results of the study to create an overview. There are also some studies that show the opposite – positive development. For example, Malaysia has surged to sixth position among 189 economies in the World Bank’s latest Doing Business 2014 report, putting it ahead of economies such as South Korea, Norway, the United Kingdom, Australia and Finland.

Fourth, I agree with the views of many in which “the government must consider to widen the MACC’s powers to launch probes on civil servants who live beyond their means”. MACC needs additional power to deal with the issue of corruption in a comprehensive and effective manner. It is time that the MACC Act is bolstered with amendments according to current needs.

In short, I recognise that the way to fight corruption in Malaysia may not be at a convincing status. If you take a look, in the course of six decades, we have to accept the fact that there have been many changes. We see between perception and reality.

I appreciate the spirit of YB Lim Kit Siang in combatting corruption. But we should not be in despair of not doing anything. Answering the question “is there a strategy by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib and the MACC to avert this disaster?”, I’m sure there is.

We need to work together! Think together, move together and be together to get rid of this destructive element which is capable of destroying nations, economies and its citizens. The Malaysian Anti Corruption Foundation is happy to work with all parties towards zero corruption. – October 29, 2014.

* Dr Ahmad Satar Merican is the deputy president of the Malaysian Anti Corruption Foundation.

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Friday, 31 October 2014 - 3:59 am

    ZERO corruption
    Wah lau eh, go DREAM, dream, DREAM
    D author must b fr another planet
    Absolute power + OSA – how NOT 2 enjoy corruption n self-enrichment

  2. #2 by AhBeng on Friday, 31 October 2014 - 9:16 am

    to catch big fish very easy to do if the top leadership is clean………big “IF”.
    Ask all ministers and leaders to declare assets and then we can see who has ill gotten gains…

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