Emergency email to all Cabinet Ministers – empower and not disembowel the ACA if a “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion” government is not to remain empty rhetoric

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaTuesday): I have sent an emergency email to all Cabinet Ministers asking them to empower and not disembowel the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) if a “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion” government as pledged by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in his official maiden speech in Parliament on November 3  is not to remain an empty rhetoric. 

In my email to Cabinet Ministers in time for their deliberation before the fifth Cabinet meeting under Abdullah tomorrow, I made two important points. 

Firstly, that the greatest casualty of the Ministerial row with the ACA is the anti-corruption agency, destroying whatever little credibility and authority it managed to retain despite a dismal record in combating corruption, as illustrated by the sharp drop of Malaysia’s ranking of Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perception Index from 23rd placing nine years ago to the current 37th position and the long catalogue of unresolved and unprosecuted mega-corruption scandals involving VIPs, including many Cabinet Ministers. 

Without gong into the rights and wrongs of the fracas between the Minister for Entrepreneur Development, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and the ACA  Director of Investigations, Datuk Nordin Ismail, when a Cabinet Minister can publicly demand the removal of an ACA investigation officer because “he is no longer trustworthy and neutral” and declare that  the ACA is not only answerable to the Prime Minister’s Department but also to the Cabinet and therefore to all Ministers, ACA’s public stocks have plunged to its lowest depths in its 36-year history. 

When a Cabinet Minister can belittle and humiliate the No. 3 man in the ACA hierarchy, asking why he should declare his assets to “a junior officer like him”, the ACA has lost all shreds of public respect and standing! 

The enormous damage the Ministerial row with the ACA had done to the ACA cannot be undone by now sweeping the whole row under the carpet, with everyone clamming shut. 

It is most tragic that at a time when Malaysians had such high hopes in the new Prime Minister believing  that at long last there is going to be a serious and no-holds-barred clean-up of corruption and malpractices in the country, the ACA’s authority, credibility and integrity had been irreparably damaged by none other than Cabinet Ministers themselves.

Nazri rubbed  salt into the wounds he had inflicted on the ACA when he declared:  “I have to teach him (Nordin)  that politicians are not called political masters and him the government servant for nothing.”   

Such Ministerial hauteur and arrogance is the most powerful proof of the lack of  professionalism, independence, autonomy and integrity of the ACA, with  ACA officers treated  as no better than minions. Nazri is actually wrong   as  the real political masters in a meaningful  parliamentary democracy are not the Ministers and elected representatives but the ordinary rakyat and the electorate, but these rights of the people  have been hijacked by the Ministers! 

The biggest challenge of the Cabinet tomorrow is not how to sweep the Ministerial row with the ACA under the carpet, but how to restore ACA morale and  public confidence after  the unprecedented damage to the authority, credibility and   integrity of the ACA, which have plunged even lower than before the transfer of power from  Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to Abdullah on October 31. 

There is only one way to repair the grave damage that had been done to the ACA as a result of the Ministerial hatchet jobs in the past few days – for the Cabinet to take the bold and long-overdue decision to make the ACA completely independent of the Executive and no more answerable even to the Prime Minister but only  to Parliament through an all-party Parliamentary Committee on Corruption headed by an Opposition MP. 

In fact, are the Ministers aware that when Malaysia becomes a signatory to  the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in Merida, Mexico on Dec. 9 – 11, 2003, it has the  international obligation  under Article 6  of the Convention to reform the ACA by creating  a truly independent anti-corruption body, or in the words of Article 6 of the Convention, to create an anti-corruption body which is vested with “the necessary independence to carry out its functions effectively and free from any undue influence”?  Nazri has made it very clear that the presently-constituted ACA does not qualify as a truly independent anti-corruption body under Article 6 of the UN Convention Against Corruption. 

The second point in my email to the Cabinet Ministers is to urge them to give full support to the new Prime Minister in his pledge to lead a “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion” administration, as he appears to be the only one in the Cabinet who is  committed to this goal. 

I asked the Cabinet Ministers to ensure that they must not allow Abdullah’s campaign against corruption to degenerate into one man vs. the system, with Abdullah the lone voice against corruption with all the other Cabinet Ministers bystanders or merely giving lip-service support.  

As a first step, the Cabinet  should  fully endorse the new Prime Minister in the campaign for a corruption-free administration  and a new political culture of zero tolerance for corruption by taking two decisions, viz: 

  • Ministers  to publicly declare  their assets to set an example by leadership in promoting a new political culture of accountability, transparency and  zero tolerance for corruption; and
  • Adoption of the national target for  Malaysia to become the world’s ten least corrupt nations instead of the present dismal national showing of 37th world ranking after falling 14 places from 23rd position in 1995 in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman