Abdullah should prove  that he’s ready to make tough decisions for nation’s sake by  launching the all-out war against corruption which he had held back in the past 19 months after becoming Prime Minister by prosecuting the 18 “high profile” cases for corruption

Media Conference Statement (2)

by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should prove that he is ready to make  tough decisions for the good of the nation by launching the all-out war against corruption which he had held back in the past 19 months after becoming Prime Minister in October 2003 by prosecuting the 18 “high-profile” cases for corruption.

Speaking at the Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM) last night, Abdullah said one of the hardest things he had to do to slash the budget deficit was to review projects that the country could not afford and to reduce pump priming.

Malaysians and the world are now waiting to see whether he is prepared to make a second tough decision – to declare zero tolerance for corruption not only in the police sector, as recently proposed by the Police Royal Commission, but in the entire public sector and Malaysian national life so that Malaysia could be regarded as one of the world’s least corrupt nations as to be ranked among the top ten or 20 nations in the annual Transparency International (TI)  Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for integrity and incorruptibility.

The Prime Minister should realize that with statements coming from his inner circle that he has decided to “let bygones be bygones” as far as past high-level corruption is concerned, public confidence and credibility that he has the requisite political will to declare an all-out war against corruption is not high.

The recent statement by former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad that “corruption might be getting to a point of no return” as it has become a  culture in Malaysia with corruption almost at the "above the table" level and more and more people no longer trying to hide the fact that they are corrupt has led to a flurry of  “finger-pointing” with the “mainstream media” asserting that “corruption became an above-the-table transaction decades ago” and that Dr. Mahathir was not so blameless in allowing the corruption rot to set in.

Dr. Mahathir is both right and wrong - right in pointing out that corruption in the past 19 months has got worse but wrong in protesting too much in claiming that he had done much to keep  corruption in check in his 22 years of premiership.

Dr. Mahathir’s record  as Prime Minister in fighting corruption and ensuring national integrity is a dismal one, as all one needs to ask is why the two highest-profile cases charged for corruption under Abdullah’s watch, Perwaja’s Eric Chia and former Cabinet Minister Kasitah Gadam, were not prosecuted during Dr. Mahathir’s time when the offences were all alleged to be committed during the former premier’s time – not to mention the other 18 “high-profile” cases.

There is no doubt that one  of Dr. Mahathir’s greatest failings as the fourth Prime Minister was on the corruption front, as confirmed by Malaysia falling 14th places in nine years in the annual TI Corruption Perception Index 1995-2003 from 23rd to 37th ranking, which is why the National Integrity Plan launched by Abdullah in April 2004 declared the five-year target for  Malaysia to attain at least 30th ranking  in the TI CPI in 2008.

However, Malaysia under Abdullah watch had an even worse ranking in the TI CPI 2004, falling two places from 37th to 39th placing!

If more evidence is needed about the worsening corruption in Malaysia in the past 19 months, two further reminders  should suffice:

  • The “advice” by the former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Ghafar Baba at his 80th birthday celebration in Kota Bharu last month proposing the auction of top UMNO posts to the highest bidder – with UMNO division chief probably fetching RM50,000 while a UMNO Vice President bidding RM5 million – if there is no way to resolve the problem of money politics in UMNO.  (Berita Minggu 17.4.05)
  • The systemic and even syndicated corruption in the Malaysian police as exposed by  the Police Royal Commission in its Report, which “is part of a larger problem of corruption in Malaysia”.

Dr. Mahathir has said that the government should make public the full list of those who have been given approved permits (AP) to import cars to end suspicions of unfairness in awarding these permits, as he had been told that parallel import of cars could be three times more than those brought in by approved agents, with some imported as low as RM11,000.

The Abdullah administration should resist the temptation to ignore the proposal with the  retort as to why the Mahathir administration had not done the same and instead accept the challenge to go public on the full list of APs as part of a larger programme of transparency and integrity as well as to show the difference between the two administrations on commitment to a clean, honest and incorruptible governance.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman