Abdullah should immediately implement the UN Convention Against Corruption to strengthen the five pillars of a National Integrity System which are among the fundamental causes for Malaysia’s dismal international corruption index, such as a rubber-stamp Parliament, subservient ACA and  muzzled media

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangWednesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi deserves commendation for his courage and frankness in admitting that Malaysia’s position on the international index (which monitors the level of corruption in countries worldwide) was not good enough and must be improved.

Abdullah made this admission in his interview with members of the Japanese media  ahead of his first-ever trip to Japan since becoming Prime Minister on Oct 31 and said:  

"We have to prove that we are incorruptible. That's the only way we can build our credibility, improve our image and become more attractive for investments and trade."

Abdullah’s statement that he is prepared to adjust policies if the need arises and that the government has to be dynamic, “nothing is cast in stone that cannot be changed”, holds out promise and hope that his declaration of  war against corruption may produce results – provided he does not continue as the lone man, as if it is one man versus the system, to create an incorruptible administration with others in Cabinet and government merely giving lip-service support.

Malaysia suffers from two problems with regard to our international corruption index, firstly, that we are not only behind developed countries in the world rating like the first ten least corrupt nations in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2003,  viz. Finland, Iceland, Denmark, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Switzerland and Canada but we are also behind other developing countries like Oman, Bahrain, Cyprus, Slovenia, Botswana, Qatar and  Estonia.

Secondly, Malaysia’s TI CPI had fallen 14 places in the nine years between 1995 to 2003, while we have not been able to match the CPI score in the first two years of 1995 and 1996, as illustrated from the following table:


Malaysia’s CPI Ranking and CPI Score from 1995 – 2003

  1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
CPI country  rank 23 26 32 29 32 36 36 33 37
CPI score 5.28 5.32 5.01 5.3 5.1 4.8 5.0 4.9 5.2

CPI Score relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people, academics and risk analysts, and ranges between 10 (highly clean) and 0 (highly corrupt).

Abdullah’s open, frank and courageous admission  should end the denial syndrome of Barisan Nasional component parties like Gerakan, Cabinet Ministers like the Primary Industries  Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik and top government servants like the Chief Secretary Tan Sri Samsudin Osman who had been burying their heads in the sand in expressing satisfaction with Malaysia’s international corruption index.

I hope Ministers and government leader will henceforth banish the attitude that Malaysia’s international corruption index is satisfactory but with room for improvement and replace it with the courageous admission  that Malaysia’s ranking is poor and must be improved!

In the first 40 days of Abdullah as the new Prime Minister, the issue of corruption has taken  centre stage in the country.  The other side of the coin in the issue of corruption is accountability, transparency and integrity.

What must be done now is to fulfil Abdullah’s pledge of a “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion” administration and identify the causes for Malaysia’s dismal international corruption index.

Abdullah should immediately implement the UN Convention Against Corruption currently being ratified in Mexico to strengthen the five pillars of a National Integrity System which are among the fundamental causes for Malaysia’s dismal international corruption index, such as lack of political will,  a rubber-stamp Parliament,  a subservient ACA and  muzzled media

The following five pillars of a National Integrity System in Malaysia which must be given immediate national priority are:

  • Political will  of the government – and there can  no better demonstration-effect  of such political will than for Ministers to set an example of a new culture of political integrity with zero tolerance for corruption  by  publicly declaring their assets and the adoption of a national objective to make Malaysia one of the world’s ten least corrupt nations;
  • Parliament playing the role of watchdog and regulator  at the centre of the struggle to attain and sustain good governance and to fight corruption, spearheaded by an all-party Parliamentary Committee headed by an Opposition MP with powers to hold public hearings and monitor the  annual performance of the Anti-Corruption Agency.
  • A truly independent, professional and authoritative  Anti-Corruption Agency which is not answerable to the Executive or the Prime Minister’s Department but only to Parliament;
  • An alert, vigilant and independent media backed up by  access to information laws.  In 2003, of the ten countries scoring best in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perception Index, nine  had effective legislation enabling the public to see government files. Of the ten countries perceived to be the worst when it comes to corruption, not even one had a functioning access-to-information regime.
  • An open, genuine competitive and transparent system of public procurement.  If there is such a system, Abdullah will not be facing his first test over  the RM14.5 billion electrified double tracking rail project, awarded to  latecomer Malaysia  Mining Corporation Bhd -Gamuda consortium (MMC-Gamuda JV) in disregard of the  interests of fair play, competitive pricing, transparency and integrity and Malaysia’s long-term economic relationships with China and India.  

In being  a signatory to  the United Nations Convention Against Corruption at  the three-day convention-signing ceremony currently going on in Merida, Mexico, Malaysia has assumed international commitments and obligations that all these five pillars of a National Integrity System would be fully in place  to combat corruption and promote integrity and accountability.

Abdullah should immediately set up a  Cabinet task force with representation from opposition parties and the civil society   to fully implement Malaysia’s commitments and obligations under the UN Convention Against Corruption, in particular to strengthen the above-mentioned   five pillars of a National Integrity System.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman