National Integrity Plan should not end up like the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994 not only as a “dead letter” but a farce because of wide divide between promise and practice

Media Conference Statement
at the Putrajaya Conference Centre  after the launching of the National Integrity Plan
by Lim Kit Siang

(Putrajaya, Friday): The National Integrity Plan launched by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is an important step towards creating a new culture of national integrity with zero tolerance for corruption by political and public leaders and to fulfil the Barisan Nasional general election pledge for a clean, incorruptible and trustworthy government. 

However, the drafting and launching of a national integrity plan does not per se make a country clean and incorruptible or set it  on the path of greater integrity, as many countries have become even more corrupt despite the launch of national integrity plans or  codes of ethics. 

We have had our own such example, as the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994 was not only a dead letter but became a farce when the person responsible for its drafting and launch was also the person responsible for plunging public confidence, both national and international, in the system of justice, rule of law and an independent judiciary to the country’s nadir since Merdeka in 1957.

I have had a quick and cursory look at the National Integrity Plan. It is full of beautiful and noble sentiments.  It is  important that it should not end up like the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994 not only as a “dead letter” but a farce because of the wide divide between promise and practice. 

I am honoured to be invited to the  launching ceremony to accept a copy of the National Integrity Plan from the Prime Minister on behalf  of the Opposition, but I would have felt even more honoured if I had been invited to be fully consulted, or even better, to take part, in the drafting of the National Integrity Plan.  The Chief Secretary, Tan Sri Samsudin Osman said that conferences would be held to invite various sectors of the public  to give further views on the Plan – but this is putting the cart before the horse, as the fullest  consultation should take place before and not after its finalization.  The National Integrity Plan is in fact an example as to how a national plan should not be drafted in an era of democracy, transparency and information technology. 

Let me make three observations about today’s grandiose launching ceremony of the National Integrity Plan.

I am visiting the RM650 million Putrajaya Convention Centre (PCC) for the first time, and I confess to be overawed by its cavernous size, which is quite monstrous and obscene. 

Both Abdullah and Samsuddin in their speeches had referred to the culture of materialism as the root cause of the serious problem of corruption. When listening to them, I reflected on the utterly inappropriate launching of the National Integrity Plan at the PCC, which is the very symbol and apotheosis of such a culture of materialism. 

Secondly, has Abdullah got the support of his entire Cabinet and government in the campaign against corruption?  When he autographed my copy of the National Integrity Plan, he said it represented his commitment against corruption.  I accepted his commitment against corruption but I cannot but wonder whether his commitment against corruption is shared by his Cabinet and government. 

This doubt was further driven home at the launch of the National Integrity Plan this morning.  There was a full turn-out of the Cabinet when Abdullah arrived to give his speech, but when Abdullah left, the entire Cabinet also left – and there was not a single Cabinet Minister present when Samsudin presented the National Integrity Plan after the tea-break.  Clearly, the full Cabinet turn-out was not because of their commitment to national integrity, but to show their faces to the Prime Minister! 

Thirdly, the organizers were on the right track when they invited the Mentris Besar and Chief Ministers of the various states to the launching ceremony, as the fight against corruption cannot succeed if it is confined only to the federal government.  However, the conspicuous absence of the  Chief Minister, who would be the pivotal subject-matter  of any serious discussion about the need to  stamp out long-standing rampant corruption, misuse of power and abuse of public funds in the states, highlights the absence of national consensus and support of Abdullah’s fight against corruption even among key Barisan Nasional leaders at the state level! 

From my quick cursory read of the National Integrity Plan, the most important part is in page 22 on its five-year plan from 2004-2008 to achieve the target of improving Malaysia’s 37th  placing in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index  (CPI) 2003 to 30th place, i.e. improvement of seven placings in five years. 

I find this target most disappointing. Malaysia has the much-boasted “Malaysia Boleh” spirit in many fields, but in fighting corruption, the standard attitude appears to be “Malaysia Ta” Boleh”! 

Malaysia had fallen 14 places in nine years from 23rd ranking in 1995 to 37th placing last year in the TI CPI. If Malaysia really believes in “Malaysia Boleh”, there is no reason why the government cannot accept the DAP proposal submitted in a memorandum to the Anti-Corruption Agency in August last year  for a ten-year action plan for the country to be ranked among the world’s ten least corrupt nations in the annual TI CPI. 

There are many major flaws in the National Integrity Plan.   Although both Abdullah and Samsudin had spoken about the Plan being a holistic approach to deal with the problem of corruption, it is not holistic in many aspects, such as: 

  • No reference to the need for an independent, impartial and informed judiciary and its contribution to a just, honest, open and accountable government.
  • Total silence about the critical role of a free and independent media, and the importance of the right to  information, as without information, there is no accountability; without accountability, there is no integrity.

During the tea-break, I made three proposals to Abdullah: 

  • That the United Nations Convention Against Corruption 2003 which Malaysia ratified at the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in Mexico last December should be presented and formally ratified by Parliament, to underline the message that the campaign against corruption is a national campaign directly involving Parliament and all stakeholders of the society.  Abdullah responded positively to this proposal and I hope that he would personally table the parliamentary motion to ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption in the May/June meeting of the Dewan Rakyat, followed by a wide-ranging debate on the National Integrity Plan.
  • That there should be a  Code of Ethics for all MPs and State Assembly members, as such a Code should  not be treated as an internal party affair, as national integrity must be regarded as an issue which transcends party politics.  Public  asset declarations by elected representatives could emulate the example of New Zealand, United Kingdom and other countries where their legislatures maintain a register of the declaration of  financial interests and assets of members which are public documents open to public scrutiny.  Samsuddin favourably mentioned my proposal in his presentation just now, and I hope this proposal could take concrete shape when Parliament meets next month.
  • Establishment of a Parliamentary Committee on National Integrity to spearhead a  national campaign against corruption.



* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor