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.


7 Responses to “TOOTHY TIGERS”

  1. 1 Thumb Logic
    January 22, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Dear Nini,

    I must thank you for having placed such a lucid posting on your blog. What you have said has been said before you but to date very little has been done to address the issue. Not many cases have come up before the courts and the MSM has failed in its duty to report them. Our courts are being inundated with all kinds of cases and like our hospital if you need surgery there is a indecent waiting time.

    Our problems are growing at the rate of our GDP which is around 6%. But if you look at the law enfrocement agencies they have not been growing at that rate. So much so PDRM is bogged down with providing escort services to VIPs and with very few bodies to address the criminal cases. I have observed over the years how corruption has brought down nations because of the lack of political will to address it. And I must also add that I have observed nation that were our peers in the 60s achieve developed status in our time.

    Your article covers all bases except one. Declaration of wealth by public office holders and more importantly constitutional public office holders must be asociated with criminal liability. And accumulation of wealth way beyond the total emoluments paid to you during your service in govenment must become prima facie evidence for prosecution.

    The present level of political will demonstrated will only end up where The Mother of All Democracies finds itself today with the Head of Government defending corruption based on the argument that we cannot allow the views of one man to determine the kinds of laws the Supreme Policy Making Body – Parliament can and will enact. There, too, the courts are unable to hear cases in a timely fashion because the expansion of the law enforcement agencies including the judiciary has not kept pace with population and GDP growth. And it is common for cases that come up for hearing being postponed beyond the current parliamentry term so that political will can be kept in check.

    We are no longer in a catch 22 situation. We are now in a catch 44 situation and the issue in question should have been addressed when you and I were still in school.

  2. 2 ninitalk
    January 22, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Hi thumb logic

    So nice to get your comments again on ninitalk. I hardly get any feedback unlike
    Din Merican, so it’s refreshing that one of my (few) blog readers is interested

    Yes – these are not new issues or outstanding recommendations given by my email colleagues.
    We have all talked about them in our social face-to-face interactions. I’ve written about them
    regularly in the past. The concerns are common, their solutions can be more bold and dynamic I agree!

    I don’t agree that the MACC and the other enforcement agencies have been complacent. The
    MSM have reported on many corruption cases including the “big fish” ones. But I agree the
    follow-up (recommended in my article) has not been forthcoming by the agencies concerned and
    independent writers. These things have to be kept alive in the public eye, revisited so the
    people are constantly reminded of the ramifications of their crimes. This in itself is
    will create and sustain awareness.

    Re the declaration of assets/wealth – this was also covered in the media when the PM announced it for the Cabinet
    and MPs some months ago. Again there must be follow-ups and reinforcement to keep it current. The paradox in
    Malaysia is that all the positive affirmations about the GTP and BR1M which contribute to the feel-good
    factor take precedence over the negative reports. So people forget!

    A more outstanding development will be to give powers to the MACC to investigate any outstanding acquisition
    of wealth. Another is to get the leaders at state and federal levels to agree that participation in state development
    or development in their own departments/ministries by their immediate family is not allowed
    Anti-corruption, integrity, corporate governance code of ethics pledges have started to make their rounds. Today on
    pg 7 of NST is the PETRONAS advertorial on its NO GIFTS POLICY. Timely and apt from the government’s major industry

    Who says we are not moving thumb logic? Maybe not as fast as some of us want, but the anti-corruption war is on and will
    gather momentum if the public is right behind it

  3. 3 Thumb Logic
    January 23, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Thank you very much for your kind response. I agree with all that you say.Over the lat 50 years all of us including me have become very defensive. When we say something or express a view we are not anti government. Our views are a reflection of a particular issue at a particular point in time. The citizens of Third World countries are aware that bad governance comes with the territory and have learnt to accept it like people who swim in the ocean know they have drink salt water from time to time. We have all the laws but I am of the view that the implementation is flawed. We can spentd the another 50 years debating if the glass is half full or half empty in the case of Malaysia. Those who live in and around Putrajaya will agree with the former and the rest of us who are just one pay cheque away from banruptcy will tend to go with the latter. The future is in our hands and those who are in Putrajaya must, while declaring that the glass is half full, work towards making the part ofthe glass that is half empty also full.

  4. 4 ninitalk
    January 23, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    I couldn’t have said it better thumb logic!
    Whether we see something as half-full or half-empty is a matter of interpretation.

    Like you I lament the inefficiencies in government administration and governance,
    legal jurisdiction etc, some of which are flawed. Also seriously flawed are some of the
    people who handle them.

    The journey towards the highest levels of efficiency and integrity is an uphill
    one but God willing our country is taking the right steps forward. With a dedicated
    and discerning civil society I believe Malaysians will be drinking less and less salt water.



  5. 5 Thumb Logic
    January 24, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Dear Nini,

    I am a God fearing man and I am pleased that you invoked God. There is only one God and like One God there is only one truth. A God fearing Man must uphold the principle that there is only one truth. I wish you well in the remainder of your term on the Board of Advisors to the MACC and hope that you will be able perform your task without having drinking the water from the ocean.

  6. 6 ninitalk
    January 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    ABSOLUTELY thumb logic!

    Perception and opinion, even legal argumentations, court judgements and RCI findings are
    but interpretations of fact -pure or impure. God’s TRUTH is absolute.

    Thank you for your good wishes. I drink water filtered by my quest for peace, with a deep conscience
    and informed reason.


  7. 7 Thumb Logic
    February 3, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    PS. Quote: I hardly get any feedback unlike Din Merican….End Quote. Do not worry about it. You are Blogger because you write most of your articles. But, if you emulate others you will just become another newspaper.

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