The swift response of the MACC to the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the death of Teoh Beng Hock is to be applauded. It is a good example of an enforcement agency that is clear about its raison d’etre and its role and function in the eradication of corruption. It shows that the MACC is dead serious about meeting the public demand for accountability and transparency.

Other government agencies, especially those entrusted  with handling crimes against the individual, the public at large and the state, must follow suit with well-managed public relations strategies in their efforts to  brand and position themselves as credible and trustworthy institutions serving the public good.

The MACC’s announcement that its infrastructure and hardware are to be upgraded with interviewing rooms fully equipped with high tech devises such as television cameras and three-layer recording devices is late but nevertheless welcome. This will ensure a more full-proof interviewing process for witnesses and suspects when the interview methods and techniques employed by the MACC officers will be subject to the minutest scrutiny.

The continuous education and training of the MACC staff and their exposure to the best practice adopted by successful institutions in the country and abroad must continue unimpeded by constraints in costs and logistics. It is vital that the government recognise the MACC’s efforts to fight Malaysia’s greatest moral scourge i.e. bribery and corruption, and provide a higher allocation for it.

The fact that the MACC is getting assistance in planning for its hardware and software from Hong Kong’s well-established Independent Anti-Corruption Commission will boost the commitment level of the staff as well as the MACC’s advisory boards as they become better educated about effective ways of fighting corruption in the international arena.

What has not been so effectively managed is the education of the Malaysian public in viewing bribery and corruption as the despicable crime that it is. What is still not clear in the minds of the people is that they themselves are the perpetrators of the crime they abhor in the public domain. Bribes are given and accepted by people. Abuse of power is committed by those in positions of authority. Corruption is a sin committed by individuals in the private and public sectors.

If corruption is to be successfully eradicated at all levels of the community, there must be a more concerted effort in reaching out to them at the base level of awareness. The concepts of “corruption” and “bribery” must be explained in simple terms which are relevant and easily understood by the target groups. The terms “rasuah” and “korup”  represent modern concepts. Bring back the old familiar terms like “tumbuk rusuk” or “makan suap” which were shunned in traditional societies because of the disgrace and shame they brought to the families of those who committed them.

Trainers and community leaders must be aware that the modern concepts, including related ones such as “integrity” are borrowed from their English etymology with multiple levels of meaning. For the Malaysian public more familiar with their native languages or mother tongues, the concepts have to be broken down into simpler concepts such as “honesty” or “amanah” and parallel ones in the other local languages.

For the education of the better-educated elite, the affluent and those in positions of authority, there must be Acts, rules and regulations under the purview of the MACC which provide effective constraints on the potential to commit corrupt deeds and practices. People in high positions must be as transparent and accountable as the positions they hold. Honesty here involves being honest about their assets and lifestyle which they must be prepared to declare up front, in the same breath that they declare the integrity pacts and sign them.

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July 2011
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