It’s not easy but we must fight on!
The more transparent we are in discussing the scourge of corruption and how to combat it, the sooner we can overcome this menace.
However, I do not agree with the view of some that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s “promise to wipe out corruption was politically unwise”.
Abdullah’s mission to fight corruption will not “dim his political star” but will instead brighten it if his government is able to exert the strong political will that is a pre-requisite for better performance by the Anti-Corruption Agency.
Although Abdullah does mean business, based on his many statements against corruption, the public remains unconvinced that enough is being done substantively.
This poor public perception is borne out by the first survey commissioned by Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) on “Malaysian Transparency Public Survey.”
The full report will be released shortly. Of course, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index also shows that Malaysia declined by five notches from a rank of 39 in 2005 to 44 in 2006, out of 163 countries.
Here again, there should be no comfort or complacency that “three-quarters of the world is behind Malaysia”.
I would agree that corruption is “easily one of the nation’s most formidable challenges”.
But this begs the question as to whether all our elected ministers, parliamentarians and state assemblymen, and appointed (that is unelected) local authority councillors are as publicly committed as our prime minister in combating corruption.
Actually this “struggle” should be adopted as our national jihad – the struggle to be really successful and to benefit our society and country.
I wish that this jihad would also include some fundamental issues in this national campaign against corruption:
– All elected representatives of the people should declare their assets and liabilities and report any changes every year to Parliament or to a Special Commission of Eminent Persons who have the public’s confidence and are known to be non- corrupt.
– The Anti-Corruption Agency must be made a truly independent body that is answerable not to the government alone but to Parliament as well.
– Those living beyond their means must prove that they are not corrupt and should be investigated and prosecuted if their explanations for ill-gotten gains are not satisfactory.
– All education institutions must teach subjects related to the evils of corruption and how to prevent it.
In this regard, TI-M will soon launch a School Corruption Awareness Project with the Ministry of Education’s support and technical assistance from the Embassy of Switzerland.
– Government enforcement agencies should be more active and punitive in fighting abuses and corruption in the public and private sectors.
– The Official Secrets Act should be replaced by an Information Act that will protect both the government’s security and public interest and human rights, for transparency and good governance.
– Tenders and contracts should be made transparent although preference for Bumiputera contractors could be maintained.
– All religious groups should be encouraged to promote the teaching of religious and moral values to strengthen the anti- corruption campaign.
If all these basic elements are taken into account by the government and if the government will show greater political will, TI-M is confident that we will be able to reduce corruption and improve transparency, integrity, accountability and good governance in Malaysia.
But, of course, the silent majority must also support the government in this war against corruption – for a better Malaysia for all Malaysians.
Tan Sri (Dr) Ramon V. Navaratnam
Transparency International – Malaysia