Only clean and selfless politicians could be regarded as patriotic

Media Statement
by Ronnie Liu

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): In the recent DAP Merdeka Month Celebrations, DAP leaders have tried to define patriotism in simple terms and practices, such as love for the environment, the family, the elders, the teachers, the neighbours and also helping the poor and down-trodden and unfortunate people. We also said that only politicians who are not corrupted and selfless could be regarded as patriotic.

The outgoing PM Dato Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has written a beautiful article on corruption in a book entitled "The Challenge" published way back in 1986 by Pelanduk Publications.

The biggest irony is that after 22 years of his leadership, Malaysia has turned into a society of rampant and widespread corruption as described by him in his book. In fact, to borrow the words he used in his article, corruption has become " a way of life" in Malaysia under his reign.

 But the analogies and arguments he used in the article were so apt and powerful that they were still very much relevant and unmistakably true even read in in today's context and perspective.

He described vividly how "tipping" can turned into a form of corruption, and eventually brings losses to the businesses and in the end the customers were penalised through rising rates of "tipping".

He said that " for the government in a country, corruption has definitely worse consequences and can lead to the downfall of the government and a state of chaos."

He argued that " corruption occurs everywhere. No country or nation is free from it. To erase it a hundred percent is impossible. However, its effects can be lessened provided it has not reached two critical stages."

" The first critical stage is when corruption is still kept secret but links have been formed between junior and senior officials. At this stage the junior accepts the bribe and proceeds to share it with the senior, or vice versa. When this happens, every official will protect every other. This may involve the highest officials, including Ministers and other politicians, and even the judiciary and the enforcers of the law."

" The effects of this stage are obvious. A report from an aggrieved party will be futile. Worse, even when the masses want to clean up the system, there is nobody to take action because everybody is involved in corruption. Ministers and officials may be replaced, but those who take their places will in no time be drawn into the corruption. Even if they refused to be involved, they are paralysed, for their staff will not obey their directives. To sack all government staff and recruit new ones is impossible. If this is attempted, the result will be chaos and worse evils."

" The second critical stage of corruption is when it is no longer hidden and is accepted as common practice by a society. Sometimes inadequate pay is cited as the reason why a bribe must be given. If this were true, the high salaried, like senior officials and Minister, should not take bribes. The fact that those with high pay, no matter how high, only ask for bigger bribes. There are no limits to human greed."

" When corruption is openly practised and is in essence no longer illegitimate, its effects on a nation are most pernicious. First, the government is weakened, for each time a bribe is accepted, the government loses revenue or is deflected from a proper course of action.

He also argued that " if the government has insufficient funds, social services like education, health, public utilities and others cannot be given. Not only will it be impossible for the nation to progress; the gap between the poor and the rich will grow wider. This is because the public services provided by the government would normally help reduce the expenses shouldered by the poor."

" In a situation where the poor grow poorer, their lot is further worsened by corruption, for being unable to offer bribes, they cannot obtain the services of officials. This state of affairs can only deteriorate with time. Justice will lose its meaning and the majority of the people will sink into despair."

He also argued that " it is important to identify these two critical stages of corruption, for once they are reached, there is no hope of remedy. The general public and certain groups in society will condemn corruption, will clamour and protest against its practice, will threaten to act against the officials and the government unless they stamp out corruption. But it will all be in vain. Even if the officials and government are replaced, reform will only be momentary. "

He said " misuse of government funds is definitely to be considered corruption, as is misuse of power."

Interestingly, towards the end of his writing, he said " a chapter such as this is not easy to write, for the reaction to it will be to try to show that the writer also practises corruption. Given the wide interpretation of corruption, nobody can possibly boast of being clean. For a politician to write such an article is tantamount to ensuring failure in the future."

Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been talking about corruption time and again, and he has even cried for UMNO on several occasions on the topic of money politics in UMNO. But borrow his own words, " declaration after declaration is made that corruption shall be erased. Campaigns are held. But corruption goes on. "

May be he should take out "The Challenge" from his bookshelf to refresh his mind on the topic of corruption. It would be good for him and the nation if he could seriously do something about corruption before he finally steps down for his office in October this year.


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP national publicity secretary and DAP Selangor chairman