As Nazri is being investigated by ACA, Abdullah should introduce a new Cabinet rule requiring all Ministers under corruption investigations to go on leave and taken off their Cabinet powers and responsibilities until cleared by the ACA

Speech (2)
Penang DAP 37th Anniversary Dinner
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangSaturday): Malaysia  has a new Prime Minister for 43 days and Malaysians are still having a “political honeymoon” with Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, hoping that the fifth Prime Minister  will be able to bring about changes and improvements to the fight against corruption, quality of life, governance, democracy and human rights in Malaysia. 

The last time Malaysians had a “political honeymoon” with a new Prime Minister and such high hopes of change and improvement was 22 years ago, when Tun  Dr. Mahathir Mohamad became the fourth Prime Minister in 1981, and he successfully raised the expectations of the people in his first months in office with the ABC slogan of “Amanah, Bersih and Cekap”, the release of 21 long-serving Internal Security Act detainees in his  first two weeks in office, and promises of greater openness, accountability,  press freedom and democracy. 

All these Mahathir promises of 22 years ago have come to nought but the electoral power of such a “political honeymoon” was awesome as shown by the results of the 1982 general election, when  Mahathir won with a  landslide victory with the Barisan Nasional winning 132 of the 154 parliamentary seats, more than two-thirds, in fact more than five-sixths, the parliamentary majority with 85.7 per cent of the parliamentary seats!  DAP’s parliamentary representation was slashed from 16 parliamentary seats to nine, with  the number of parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia reduced to a miserable six. 

The biggest lesson of the “political honeymoon” of Mahathir and the landslide Barisan Nasional victory in the 1982 general election was that the only way to make sure that a  new Prime Minister keeps his “First Hundred Days” pledges of change and improvements is to  strengthen and not weaken the Opposition to keep the new Prime Minister and his administration on their toes. 

Abdullah has the reputation of Mr. Clean, but has he got the support of the entire Cabinet and the top civil service in declaring an all-out war against corruption or is it an example of “one  man vs the system”? 

Abdullah does not appear to have the full backing of the entire Cabinet for a corruption-free administration  or the Cabinet would have given the new Prime Minister total endorsement in the anti-corruption campaign by taking two decisions in the past six  weeks, viz: 

  • Ministers publicly declaring their assets to set leadership by example  in promoting a new political culture of accountability, transparency and  zero tolerance for corruption;
  • Adoption of  a national priority and target for  Malaysia  to be among  the world’s ten least corrupt nations and not as at present, placed in a dismal 37th ranking in the Transparerncy International’s Corruption Perception Index 2003.

Recently, there was a great public row between two Ministers and the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), with  the ACA as the  greatest casualty, especially in the spat  involving the  Minister    for Entrepreneur Development Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz over the allegation on the issue of 6,000 taxi permits to a particular company, destroying whatever little credibility and authority the ACA had  managed to retain despite a dismal record in combating corruption.   

Everybody knows that the ACA cannot  prosecute  top political leaders like Ministers without  the green-light from the Prime Minister or his Office, but now, everybody can see that the ACA cannot continue investigations without the sanction of the Attorney-General, when Tan Sri Gani Patail said on Tuesday that he had directed the ACA to further investigate “other irregularities” that had emerged during the investigations into the allegations on 6,000 taxi permits. 

Nazri has admitted that he is currently under the investigation by the  ACA.  Abdullah should introduce a new Cabinet rule requiring all Ministers under corruption investigations to go on leave and taken off their Cabinet powers and responsibilities  until cleared by the ACA. 

There is another rule which Abdullah should introduce to demonstrate that there is now a political will to introduce a new culture of political integrity with zero tolerance for corruption – by ensuring that no Cabinet Minister or  top Barisan Nasional political leader with  a controversial history or  record with regard to  political integrity should be fielded as candidate in the next general election, unless they could clear their names at the bar of public opinion and public accountability.  There are at least two senior Cabinet Ministers and one  top UMNO leader in this category.

Malaysians must remember the lesson of the 1982 general election and the previous “political honeymoon” with  a new Prime Minister – that a very   strong and not a  weakened  DAP representation  in Parliament and State Assemblies are  needed to ensure that Abdullah’s  “First 100 days” promises  for clean, accountable and fair government could be  delivered in the years after the next general election and that Abdullah could survive in a  battle to clean up a corrupt system of governance.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman