Archive for January, 2013





Published in The Sun 21 January 2013

THE question of how to effectively and quickly eradicate corruption has resurfaced in my email engagements, this time with my more enlightened associates contributing specific recommendations. This is indeed heartening!

While the people’s displeasure at public sector corruption grows stronger with each disclosure of criminal acts of graft, their mud-slinging at the agencies set up to fight corruption is self-defeating. Instead of empowering the agencies with constructive support and urging them on with substantive recommendations, there seems to be a purposeful move to discredit them every step of the way.

My nagging at the immorality of bribery and graft and its socio-cultural basis has not gone down well with people who see these acts as an outcome of societal inequities and inequalities. Their argument is that Malaysians are prone to corrupt practices because of pure survival as “what they are doing is totally justifiable under the circumstances and makes perfect sense. It is the most rationale move in order (for them) to survive”.

In the same way the retiring civil servants rationalise accepting a gift/bribe by saying they have served and sacrificed much for the country. They need to feed their dependants at this critical stage of their lives. They have not been fairly compensated enough for their loyal service. There is no underlying immorality it is argued.

An academic argument distinguishes between “egoistic” corruption when people commit acts of corruption to acquire wealth for themselves and “solidaristic” corruption when they do it for the family, community and the other groups they belong to, including political parties. The so-called cultural elements are apparently inherent in the latter, not in the former.

Their recommendations for swift action from the government include the following:

» Establish more stringent laws and consolidate an independent judiciary, prosecution and investigating agency that will act without fear or favour. Appoint people with the highest integrity to lead these organisations.
» Instil laws that forbid the police from accepting bribes and encourage the public to report such cases. Make the paying of fines easier. Have a demerit point system that makes it difficult to renew the driving licence of repeat traffic offenders.
» Offer civil servants higher salaries commensurate with their service and sacrifice to the nation. Reward retirees well.
» Enforce transparent and fair rules in awarding tenders and contracts. Have a proper pre-qualification phase before calling for quotes and tenders to ensure only qualified companies are allowed to compete. Once the tender rules and specifications are set, do not change the goal posts to favour the well-connected.

For the MACC in particular, the following are recommended:

» Communication with the public must be expertly handled. It is of vital importance that the MACC chief projects the image that he is in command and that the buck stops at his desk. If he is given the power to be the only spokesman in an investigation, this will elevate him into the position of authority to release information to the public in an organised, coherent and concerted manner.
» The MACC chief commissioner must be prepared to face the scrutiny of the press and to do this skilfully, drawing the line between what they can disclose and what they cannot. This will give the impression that he is in full control of the case.
» To ensure that the MACC is open to informed and constructive comment from the public, the press should be allowed to do their own follow-up to check on the veracity of the MACC statement. This will ensure there is no case cover-up, which will in turn bring about positive public perception.

This open and honest engagement with my email colleagues confirms my hypothesis that bribery and corruption which fall under the general definition of “abuse of public office for self-gratification” are highly complex phenomena which cannot be successfully defined and explicated at one level. Neither can anti-corruption efforts be successfully implemented for one group of offenders viz the proverbial “big fish” or politicians.

While these pragmatic recommendations are appreciated, it must be said that some of the measures are already being put in place. In the immediate future, moves such as the establishment of a task force to tackle specific issues will see the real-time collaboration between these agencies.

With the continued support of the Parliamentary Special Committee on Corruption to amend the many loopholes in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 (Act 694) by parliamentary decree, the MACC will be given the bite it deserves.

Lastly, it is highly recommended that the prime minister and his cabinet play a more visible role as powerful commanders in the anti-corruption war. Their lip-service must turn into a battle cry to resonate on TV and the other media.





Published in The Sun 7 January 2013

AS the new year begins I’m full of hope that peace will prevail. Or at least, the quest for peace will pervade society through the minds and hearts of the communities within it.

It does not take much to believe that peace is a blessing every person deserves, be it spiritually and emotionally or physical and socially. We want peace to imbue every aspect of our lives, at home and at work. We expect the society we live in to imbibe a culture of peace.

Peace is therefore a cause worth championing; an ideal that every human group should strive towards; a right that every individual should fight for. It does not take much conscience and reason to understand that a culture of peace, not war, is what God intends for mankind.

How can it be anything else when all religions show us the way to harmony?

For most of us the journey is private and personal, manifested in amicable relationships within our family and friendship circles. Even then efforts have to be actively pursued, goodwill established and nurtured.

Outside of our domestic lives we also need to contribute a greater, more visible commitment to peace. We can no longer afford to be passive in a world where conflict has become rampant – among tribal groups where claims to territory are a cause for war; in nation states where unfairness and injustice are reasons for dissension; in societies where political differences breed hostility and hatred; among communities where prejudice and intolerance create discord.

For indeed, the inequities and inequalities in our lives sow the seeds of disharmony which, fanned by selfish interests and greed, can cause much disarray.

The road to the 13th general election has been far too long and windy, fraught with cracks and potholes that forebode danger.

Daily, we are exposed to misdeeds and wrongdoings as much as to the GTP schemes and projects poised to bring outstanding developments for Malaysia and its people.

Ironically, the vicious circle of humanity brings the bad with the good in terms of projects and people and the other variables in the nation’s economic life.

Waiting for the right time for the elections and the feel-good factor among the electorate has therefore opened more windows for them to feel bad, as more and more the shortcomings of the rival factions in business and feuding parties in politics are exposed.

It is disconcerting indeed to be inundated with media reports, blog postings, Facebook comments, email and face-to-face chats about the sorry state of Malaysian society.

All is not well many people say. The voices of peace are being drowned by the cacophony of dissension.

Malaysians are fast becoming disenchanted and disillusioned as more and more cases of abuse of power and corruption are unravelled.

While the outcome is a social catharsis where the long-festering rot will be cleansed, the journey towards a clean society is a painful one. Eradicating bribery in a society where gifts and upah are culturally acceptable is an uphill task.

Many are still not convinced that money politics is political corruption, that it is wrong to upah their constituents to vote for them.

The abuse of public or political position for personal gains is done with impunity as the higher-ups in the socio-political hierarchies have traditionally allowed for the courting of favours.

“It is they who want to give us the inducements. It is not we who solicit them. So we have done no wrong,” they argue.

Another overriding excuse for the high tolerance of graft and other forms of corruption is that for as long as the big fish are getting away with huge baits, the little fish will continue to grab at the smaller ones. Another vicious circle.

The picture of a society living in peace is fast becoming unreal as informal chats and formal discourses reveal a Malaysian book with a cover that is harmoniously multicultural but with pages and pages of socio-cultural bigotry and political chauvinism.

All these are being perpetuated in the political rhetoric which contradicts the fine picture we are painting of ourselves. All running contrary to the peace initiatives.

We are at the crossroads where the furtive, traditional ways of doing things to ensure a harmonious society are being challenged by modern requirements of transparency and accountability.

We are living with the paradox that conserving the old, tested ways which worked well for our forefathers is no longer sustainable.

Malaysians have to redefine a new quest for peace which is not just anti-war but for everything that strengthens the fabric of society. More people must come to the fore to lend their voices to build up an alternative discourse which promotes construction rather than destruction.

If the politicians cannot stop their bickering and mud-slinging, you and I must. We must promote a culture of peace.

January 2013