Abdullah cannot establish a “corruption-free” administration with  Ministers spearheading his  campaign against corruption unless they  establish new credentials as in publicly declaring their assets

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaThursday): In his maiden official speech as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia in Parliament on Monday, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi pledged a “corruption-free” government that is “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion” and denounced corruption as “an odious crime”. 

This is fully in keeping with Abdullah’s reputation as “Mr. Clean”.  This is why his every step since being sworn in as the new Prime Minister last Friday is being scrutinized and dissected as to whether he would be able to translate his words into deeds, and avoid  the failure of the previous administration which had started 22 years ago with the noble  ABC slogan of “clean, trustworthy and efficient” only to be marred  by the most number of financial and corruption scandals of any premiership,  starting with the dizzy RM2.5 billion Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF) scandal and culminating in  even greater mega-scandals  like  the Perwaja and Bank Negara forex speculation scandals which crossed the RM10 billion mark. 

After his first Cabinet meeting yesterday, Abdullah announced that he had directed Ministers to set up a task force in their ministries to tighten procedures and reduce bureaucracy in efforts to fight corruption.

Abdullah cannot establish a “corruption-free” administration which is  “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion” or win public confidence in the anti-corruption drive  by just directing Ministers to spearhead his  campaign against corruption when they had been singularly indifferent about public integrity  for their respective Ministries  the past one or even two decades unless they establish new credentials in their new-found mission against corruption. 

What is the record of all these Cabinet Ministers for  a clean and incorruptible administration in their respective Ministries?  Many of them had not even said a single word on the subject of public integrity in all their years as Cabinet Ministers! 

Even more serious in terms of public credibility for Abdullah’s new campaign for a “corruption-free” Malaysia  is the fact that several of the Cabinet Ministers had not only been the object of numerous corruption reports, but also the subject of investigations by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), and the prevalent public belief that neither the ACA nor the Attorney-General’s Chambers had been independent and free enough to pursue the corruption investigations against the Ministers concerned to their proper and logical end. 

Abdullah should realize that if he is to depend on his Cabinet Ministers to spearhead the new campaign for a corruption-free government which is “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion”, they must regain public confidence and be able to  be held in public esteem as the new exemplars of public integrity and modest living – which they are definitely not at present. 

This was why the Transparency International (TI) Malaysia National Integrity Medal award ceremony in June this year  to honour posthumously Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman, Tun Tan Siew Sin and Tun Ismail Mohamed Ali for their integrity  throughout their services to the nation was such  a painful event and national embarrassment  that I did not have the heart to accept the kind invitation by  the TI Malaysia chapter president Tunku Abdul  Aziz to the ceremony, as it was an admission and reminder  that Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman’s 13-year  premiership could produce two recipients from his Cabinet for the award  but not a single Minister from  the 22 years of Mahathir premiership.  

Abdullah has asked the Ministers to work hard to fight graft but Malaysians do not want Ministers to work hard to produce a diarrhoea of speeches and statements to compete with one another as to  who can make the most beautiful speeches and statements against corruption. The people want to see  results so that Malaysia can  reverse the relentless plunge in  the international ranking for public integrity, and seriously  aim to become internationally recognized as one of the world’s ten least corrupt nations. 

If the present Cabinet Ministers are to play their new role as the new exemplars of public integrity in the campaign to create a new culture of zero tolerance for corruption, then it is all the more important that Abdullah should make a bold beginning by requiring all Ministers to publicly declare their assets to set an example that they are  prepared to submit themselves  to public scrutiny and accountability  to demonstrate that their  private wealth have  nothing to do with their  public positions and duties.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman