Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Corruption: Not as serious as you think? — Lim Sue Goan

JULY 4 — Corruption is the most intractable problem in the country. It is difficult to curb.

Younger brother to the prime minister and CIMB group chief executive Datuk Seri Nazir Razak told the Financial Times that the government must overcome corruption to move up from being a middle-income economy. He said that Malaysia could consider granting an amnesty for those involved in minor corruption, as has been done in Hong Kong, to reduce resistance from the vested interests.

It is doubtful that letting small fish go without an institutional reform can actually curb corruption. In fact, the biggest obstacle is senior officials do not believe that corruption in the country is serious.

The Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) pointed out at the end of last month that Malaysia has been improving in its graft fight over the past three years. It added that a great controversy would be stirred like a dust storm every time a corruption case is publicised, but it does not mean that the situation has turned serious.

However, assessments of the outside world are inconsistent with the official statement.

When Transparency International (TI) published the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) in 1995, Malaysia was ranked 23rd in a total of 41 countries, scoring 5.28. However, our ranking has slid in the past three years, from 56th place in 2010 to 60th last year, and the score dropped from 4.4 to 4.3, which is lower than the government’s target of 4.9.

Why is the situation still getting worse after so many anti-corruption movements have been launched? Why were there no subsequent reports about the Government Transformation Plan (GTP) and the National Key Performance Areas (NKRA)?

It reminds me of an anti-corruption farce during the administration of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The Malay Mail reported on August 11, 1989 that a prisoner was spotted walking freely to a family-run garment factory located at Jalan Ipoh. He was not accompanied by a prison officer and his expression was one of ease. Only when he found that a reporter was following him did he covered his face with his hands and run into the factory.

More details were revealed later and it was reported that the prisoner, Chinese Muslim Abudullah Ang, was actually allowed to go out freely for private business and sleep on a water bed in his cell.

As usual, an investigation team was set up by the Prison Department and it claimed to have conducted a thorough investigation. However, it was able to submit only a five-page report. The Home Ministry was not satisfied and therefore, an investigation committee led by a deputy secretary-general of the Ministry was formed for an in-depth investigation. Later, the committee recommended dismissal or disciplinary actions be taken against the three prison officials involved.

It is still as dark as ever nowadays. Berita Harian reported that a few policemen and prison officers actually assisted prisoners to smuggle drugs into prison, where they could earn 30 per cent to 50 per cent of commission for contraband sold in the prison, while prisoners who provided assistance would also get a monthly bonus of RM20,000.

The drug smuggling network formed by policemen and prison officers in collusion with prisoners is a perfect ring absolutely corrupted.

Prison life still remains as dark even after 23 years have passed. It will continue to decay if the curtain is not drawn back to reveal the culprits.

Anti-corruption has never been an easy task. Moreover, corruption tactics have become increasingly sophisticated. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) alone would not be able to curb all highly organised groups.

If the authorities keep denying the problems, preferring to trivialise them instead, just like how crimes are dealt with, the anti-corruption movement would remain an idle ideal. Sooner or later, it will shake the country’s foundations. — My Sinchew

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