I have to give credit to our relatively new Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Dzulkifli Ahmad for his bold remarks to a media caucus yesterday.
It was music to my ears as a former chairperson of the MACC panel on Prevention of Corruption, as I had felt frustration before.
But having stressed his courage and conviction to “rid graft in the country”, I hope all parties – the government, the political leaders, and the people will back the MACC more substantively to fight corruption to the finish.
This may be our last chance, as corruption is now rife and because as the chief commissioner says, “Corruption is everywhere”. Frankly, no MACC chief commissioner has been so frank and bold and we have to congratulate the new MACC chief commissioner for his candour.
So I say, “Hail to the MACC chief for being bold.”
But let’s examine his major issues as follows –
1. Dzulkifli’s request to declare graft as the nation’s No 1 enemy, is right and proper and will be most welcome by all – except the corrupt and the would-be corrupt. But this is his challenge to the government. Will the government accept his brave challenge?
The government should at least call corruption one of the biggest national enemies, together with racism and religious bigotry.
2. Dzulkifli states clearly that by declaring corruption as the No 1 enemy, “There would be radical changes and the war would naturally extend to trafficking, illegal gambling and environmental issues and lax border security”. Now it is clearer why drugs and arms smuggling are also so prevalent.
The situation is getting so bad that it prompts the chief commissioner to seriously propose that, “It’s time to take this seriously”. This could mean that so far we have taken corruption lightly?
3. It is difficult to agree with the chief commissioner on his heavy hints that the MACC would go after the politicians only after the 14th general election. Why do the corrupt enjoy a honeymoon in the meantime?
Are they allowed to make hay while the sun shines and then get away with any loot, scot-free? This would be grossly unfair to the rakyat and will worsen any poor perceptions of the MACC and the government as well. So why not go for them even now, so that the corrupt do not stand for the elections.
4. It is gratifying that Dzulkifli says that he will go for those “who win votes the wrong way”. But then the horses would have bolted out of the stable. So please, chief commissioner, at least warn those concerned personally not to stand for the elections before it is too late and we vote them in, without knowing better. Then it may be too difficult for the MACC to charge those already in power later on after the elections.
5. The chief commissioner is right about most of us. We hate corruption but many dare not report as they see them get away with it and fear reprisals. So please catch them now and arrest and prosecute them, even if it means at least one every day, rather than just “one every week” – to keep corruption away.
Furthermore, why do we need 1,000 MACC officers to play the role of creating awareness and prevention and another 1,000 officers to deal with ‘administration matters’, out of the relatively small number of 2,900 officers?
Should this role not be fulfilled by the civil service under the chief secretary to the government, as in the past? Can’t the religious leaders of all faiths do more to preach against corruption and threaten fire and brimstone on those who are known to be corrupt or who live beyond their means through ostentatious living, and with dubious sources of income? The universities and schools could also adopt campaigns to fight corruption.
6. All the above proposed anti-graft measures can be easily incorporated into the MACC’s proposed Anti-Corruption Revolution Movement which we the public should all support. The MACC could step up its campaign to invite and even reward the public for genuine information on corruption. This could be encouraged among the 1.6 million civil servants and the business community could also help stamp out the scourge of corruption.
7. Dzulkifli`s proposal for “contesting candidates to undergo a background screening” for corruption, is very welcome. Most Malaysians except corrupt politicians, will embrace and support this solid idea from the MACC.
It is hoped that the government will agree to this proposal for all candidates regardless of political preferences.
8. Dzulkifli’s noble mission over the next three years is to create a society which has the strength or willpower to go against it is well said. We hope he will be blessed with the determination, dedication and devotion to duty to serve our country to the best of his ability, with the full support of his keen staff and of course the government and the rakyat.
I hope Dzulkifly is allowed to serve his full term and even beyond in order to make our dreams come true to wipe out corruption almost completely.
I would reiterate, that this may be our last chance to get out of the ‘corruption trap’. It will surely suppress all our progress that we have struggled so long and so hard to build over the years, since Merdeka. Indeed corruption could drag us all down to the depths of destruction and deprivation and even social instability – if we don’t take corruption more seriously and fight the curse of corruption, much more aggressively.
At my age, I like others, hope and pray that the government resolves to take the MACC’s advice more seriously and commits itself before and after the GE14, to declare corruption one of the enemies of our beloved nation and go all out to defeat this threat to our national sustainability and even survival.
RAMON NAVARATNAM is chairperson of Asli/Centre for Public Policy Studies.