Put simply perception refers to an awareness, understanding or interpretation of what you see or hear around you based on your intuitions or feelings. Generally it precludes a studied or careful investigation of the phenomenon with its accompanying data and statistics.

In the NST report on police corruption (Sunday, 6 September) former Transparency International Malaysia head Tan Sri Raymond Navaratnam is reported as saying that ” Even if statistics show an improvement, the public’s perception has not improved”.  According to him this is because of the inconsistencies in police action and the lack of transparency among the top police leadership vis a vis the declaration of their assets.

The Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan, on the other hand, insists that the public are as much to blame for police corruption. There would be no opportunities to accept bribes if they were not readily offered. The simple logic is that if there are no givers of bribes there would be no takers. It appears that public perception of corruption in Malaysia is not that naive or superficial after all. People are sure police corruption is widespread because they themselves are party to it!

Demanding honesty from the police therefore requires the public to have the highest standards of integrity themselves. Tan Sri Musa Hassan is intent on raising the integrity of the police personnel by a process of educating, disciplining and rehabilitating them through technologically efficient and effective monitoring systems.  The public must play their part in ensuring that they do not abuse  the police force which is trained to protect them.  

I would like to urge the IGP to go several steps further by conducting a concerted and sustained anti-corruption blitz to educate not only the police force but the general public on what constitutes corruption and the action that can be taken against them if they are found guilty.

The campaign must reach all levels of society from the government agencies to the business corporations;  the judiciary to the legal fraternity; timber magnates to the petty traders;  bank chairmen to the branch managers; political masters to their grass roots!

To remove the racial stereotyping in the public perception of corruption the government must revamp the composition of the civil service, the police force and other enforcement agencies so that no one race is seen as being more corrupt or corruptible than another.

To change the public perception that the Malay policemen, enforcement personnel and government servants are corrupt and that they practise  a racially- biased reward and punishment system or selective prosecution, there must be an equitable distribution of the races in the public service.

Perhaps only then will it be perceived that the government is fair.   Perhaps only then will affirmative action work in any form in Malaysia.


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September 2009
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