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Monday, September 22, 2003


Combating Corruption -- A Cheap Charade
Martin Jalleh

Almost every other day the Prime Minister and his deputy crows about combating corruption in this country.
Citizens of this nation are made to realize that when it comes to corruption -- Malaysia Boleh! -- and mind you, civil servants are a little ahead of the curve.
Frankly, people are tired of hearing the battle cry (and are quite relieved that the PM will no longer cry at UMNO general assemblies) against corruption.
After 22 long years of Dr Mahathir’s premiership and without any concrete results but a worsening crisis at hand, the battle against crooks has become clearly but a cliche.
The fact that the problem has increased in frequency and severity since the PM’s “Clean, Efficient and trustworthy” campaign, reduces the rage against rogues to mere claptrap.
The slogan that followed -- “Leadership by Example” -- is equally ironic for there has been no shortage of leaders who prove their competence in corrupt practices.
Indeed, the Government’s fight against corruption has become quite predictable and there is everything to suggest that it is only a cheap charade.
Encouraging corruption
At a closer look, the culture of corruption is in fact an excellent way of the State in enhancing subservience. The powerful elite can gain much from the ways of the greedy.
Political cohorts and weak characters are allowed or even encouraged to be corrupt. Safe and secure are the scoundrels whose submission serves the interests of the powers that be.
If the corrupt were to suffer from sudden pangs of conscience, it would suffice for the PM to show them a file which would convince them of the wisdom to remain pliant.
Those who compromise their principles have to be at the beck and call of the “puppeteer”. Controlled and manipulated, they remain life members of the hall of shame.
From time to time, the Government, in order to convince the whole world of its supposed anti-corruption commitment, casts its net to catch a few “ikan bilis”.
Charges of corruption have also been used to get rid of political opponents. Prosecution (also read as persecution) awaits those who cross swords with the people on top.
Those who have a falling out with UMNO and especially the president of UMNO will have to resign and disappear into oblivion -- or be found corrupt or even made corrupt.
Surely the Kitingan brothers and the prisoner of Sungai Buloh of whom the deputy PM had once said with great certainty that the world would forget, can confirm this for a fact.
Then there are the big sharks like Rafidah Aziz, who, though “certified” corrupt by the ACA and A-G’s Chambers, are made immaculately clean by the PM’s Department.
Rewarding the corrupt
When the cover-up of corruption by a Menteri Besar, or minister is impossible, he/she is given a post overseas where he/she can live in comfort instead of in a local cell.
There are also those, who, even though under investigation either by the police or the ACA for corruption, are held up high as heroes of the nation and given honorific titles. (In spite of on-going ACA investigations for several alleged acts
of corruption, Information Minister Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob was conferred Sabah’s highest award recently.)
Another factor which brings to light the Government’s hypocrisy is the varying degrees of speed by which the institutions to counter corruption function.
The “committed haste” of the police, ACA and A-G Chambers in certain corruption cases and their feet-dragging in other cases like Perwaja, no longer surprises the public.
In the fight against corruption, political will depends very much on political expediency. Is it surprising therefore that corruption has crept into the very core of life in Malaysia?
"Let the whole country be corrupt, let the whole country not be transparent. What has that got to do with this case?” Justice Augustine Paul's remark in the Anwar Ibrahim "corruption" trial bears much relevance.
From the Cabinet to the city councils, the courts to the crony companies -- the cankerous effect of corruption is felt. It attacks every system, structure and the very soul of this country.
Calloused hands have become cheating hands. There are no longer any checks and balances in this country, only cheques and balances. How ironic -- the whole of Malaysia is on sale.
How is the public to believe that the Government is serious in its anti-corruption stance, when it castigates those who expose corruption, and even sends them to jail?
What credibility is there left of this Government that misuses the Official Secrets Act (OSA) to conceal damning evidence of corruption -- which have become an open secret?
How can it be convincing when its officials choose to remain mum, dumb and defensive, when interviewed by groups like Transparency International’s Malaysian chapter?
The Attorney-General Chambers, Auditor-General’s Office and Anti-Corruption Agency have no autonomy, they remain beholden to the PM who pulls the strings and control their purse strings.
To start off his premiership, Abdullah Badawi has chosen the same rallying cry as Dr Mahathir. If Mr Clean is really serious about containing and crippling the virus, he has to stop the charade.
Sad to say, there are already indications that his relatives, cronies and loyalists will not allow him to! Malaysia Boleh!

Martin Jalleh
(22 Sept 2003)


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