DAP to send official memo to Abdullah tomorrow  to express grave concern at the conflicting signals  on the government’s anti-corruption commitment with the Prime Minister declaring it a top priority while the Chief Secretary saying that it is not a “serious” problem

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaSunday): DAP will send an official memorandum to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi tomorrow  expressing grave concern at the conflicting signals on the government’s anti-corruption commitment with the Prime Minister declaring it a top priority while the Chief Secretary saying that it is not a “serious” problem. 

The Chief Secretary, Tan Sri Samsudin Osman, said at the closing of the Fourth Regional Anti-Corruption Conference for Asia and the Pacific on Friday that the rate of corruption in Malaysia was low in the civil service and was not a “serious” problem.  (Utusan Malaysia, Sin Chew, China Press, Sun 6.12.03) 

Samsudin’s statement is most shocking for if Malaysia’s corruption is not serious, was  Abdullah wasting everybody’s time focusing on corruption, raising public expectations that at last there would be an all-out war against corruption in Malaysia or was Abdullah just putting up a big Public Relations (PR) exercise for political mileage? 

Samsudin’s attempt to minimize the problem of corruption after the high-profile stand of Abdullah in his first month as Prime Minister raising great public expectations on the anti-corruption front  seems to confirm the conclusion of the Fourth Regional Anti-Corruption Conference for Asian and Pacific Countries in Kuala Lumpur that the lack of political will to eradicate corruption remains a major stumbling block to development in the region. 

At the last day of the Conference on Friday, in reviewing the progress of the 21 participating countries since endorsing  the Anti-Corruption Action Plan at the third conference in Tokyo in 2001, participants said the lack of political will would hamper social and political reforms and delay poverty reduction. 

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) anti-corruption division head Enery Quinones said although there had been signs of greater political will among member governments over the last few years, governments cannot be complacent as “Political will needs to be renewed constantly” and “It is not enough to talk about it and then forget it because fighting corruption requires an enormous amount of effort”. 

From the Chief Secretary’s statement that corruption is not a serious problem, Malaysia is in danger of committing the mistake of just talking about fighting corruption and then forgetting about it.  This is because the Prime Minister can “talk” but if the Chief Secretary and the entire civil service which he leads want to “forget” about it because it is not a serious problem, then everything will come to nought. 

Samsudin’s claim that Malaysia’s corruption problem is not serious is completely unacceptable and inexcusable, when we have fallen from the 23rd ranking of the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception  Index  (CPI) 1995 to the current  worst position of 37th place in TI CPI 2003!  

When will Shamsuddin regard Malaysia as facing a “serious” corruption problem – is it when Malaysia plunges to the ranks of the most corrupt nations in the world, such as Myanmar, Paraguay, Haiti, Nigeria and Bangladesh, which occupy the last five places in the 133-nation TI CPI 2003? 

As  head of the civil service since 2001, Samsudin must bear responsibility for the plunge of Malaysia to its worst ranking in the TI CPI 2003 from last year’s 33rd to 37th ranking – and the inability to at least get back to the  23rd placing in 1995. The same applies to the Anti-Corruption Agency director-general Datuk Zulkipli Mat Noor, who was appointed to his present post in April 2001 and must bear full personal  responsibility for Malaysia being placed  at the worst TI CPI ranking in the past nine years! 

Both Samsudin and Zulkipli should publicly apologise for Malaysia’s worst TI CPI ranking with a commitment to improve on the country’s international ranking, instead of claiming that the problem in Malaysia was not serious and being quite happy and satisfied with being placed 37th on the TI CPI 2003! 

The smug and complacent attitude of Samsudin raises the question as to whether Malaysia’s decision to become a signatory to the United Nation Anti-Corruption Convention would have an important bearing in the fight against corruption and raise Malaysia’s ranking in the annual TI CPI. 

DAP was the first in the country to call on the government to be the signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption at the conference in Mexico next week for there was international concern as to whether there would be 30 signatory countries required to bring the Convention into force. 

It is now reported that over 100 nations have indicated they will sign the UN Anti-Corruption Convention  to the Mexican government which is hosting the  convention-signing ceremony in Merida, capital of the eastern Mexican state of Yucatan -  including some of the most corrupt nations in the world.

There is now a danger that the UN Convention Against Corruption may make history as the most-signed international convention at its convention-signing ceremony but the least observed, for many of the countries which have declared their preparedness to sign the Anti-Corruption Convention next week are not only among the most corrupt in the world, but do not evince any political will or readiness to go beyond lip-service statements  to enact and implement minimum national laws and legal standards against corruption. 

The UN Convention Against Corruption has triple  purposes, viz: 

  • To promote and strengthen measures to prevent and combat corruption more efficiently and effectively;
  • To promote, facilitate and support international co-operation and technical assistance in the prevention of and fight against corruption, including in asset recovery; and
  • To promote integrity, accountability and proper management of public affairs and public property.

Zambia and Nigeria, ranked respectively No. 94th and 132nd in the TI CPI 2003,  have declared their support for the UN Convention Against Corruption to help African countries retrieve their assets including cash stashed away in foreign countries as it is an open secret that most African countries face the problem of their wealth filling the vaults of banks in several world cities because of the corruption of their former leaders while their citizenry wallow in abject poverty and destitution. But there is no political will to fight the corruption of the present crop of African leaders.

The UN Convention Against Corruption is not going to make much headway in the war against corruption unless all signatory countries pay equal if not more concern and emphasis on the other two of the three objectives of the Convention, namely to declare an all-out war against corruption and develop a corruption-free administration and culture in the home country.

The DAP will give special emphasis in its letter to the Prime Minister tomorrow on  its concern that Malaysia should not be one of the countries wanting to be a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption solely to recover illicit and corrupt assets stashed away in foreign countries, but even more important, to be able to declare an all-out war against corruption in the Malaysian home-ground.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman