Malaysian government and people should be concerned about the latest Transparency International corruption perception index (CPI) where Malaysia has slipped from 26th place to 32nd place and embark on a serious all-out war against corruption to be one of the ten-least corrupt-nations in the world

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Friday):
The Malaysian government and people should be concerned about the latest 1997 Transparency International corruption perception index (CPI) released yesterday where Malaysia has slipped from 26th place to 32nd place and embark on a serious all-out war against corruption to be one of the ten least- corrupt nations in the world.

Malaysia's Corruption Perception Index score has also dropped to 5.01 as compared to the 1996 TI CPI, where Malaysia had a score of 5.32. According to the index, a score of 10 would be a totally corruption-free country.

At a time when the government has declared an all-out war against corruption, and Parliament has just passed a new consolidated omnibus Anti-Corruption Bill, Malaysia's double failure in the 1997 TI Corruption Perception Index to improve on our national ranking as well as on the Corruption Perception Index score should be regarded as a national affront and challenge leading to a national resolve that in future TI corruption perception index, Malaysia must see annual improvements on both fronts.

I would call on the Anti-Corruption Agency to set up an unit to specially monitor the TI Corruption Perception Index, which should be accepted as a measure of Malaysia's success in the fight against corruption.

In fact, Malaysia should aim to be in the first 20 countries in the 1998 TI Corruption Perception Index and I call for a concerted national effort, involving the government, political parties, the professions, the religions, the mass media and the entire civil society to adopt this as an immediate aim in the war against corruption.

Transparency International has explained that its 1997 Corruption Perception Index is the most up-to-date and reliable index on corruption so far. Using only data from 1996/7 its figures are more precise than in previous years when the CPI covered a period of several years. The 1997 CPI draws on surveys undertaken by Gallup International, the World Competitiveness Yearbook, assessments by Political & Economic Risk Consultancy in Hong Kong, DRI/Graw Hill Global Risk Service, Political Risk Services in Syracuse, USA and data gathered from internet sources directly by Dr. Johann Graf Lambsdorff, an economist at Gottingen University, Germany who developed the CPI for Transparency International.

The adverse 1997 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index for Malaysia should be a salutary reminder to all Malaysians that the all-out war against corruption launched two months ago had only taken the first steps in a journey of a thousand miles.

The Anti-Corruption Bill passed by the Dewan Rakyat yesterday is not the end of the all-out war against corruption, but only the beginning.

The DAP has right from the very beginning given full support to any government effort to combat corruption. This is why we have supported the Anti-Corruption Bill which is an improvement on the existing anti-corruption laws in enhancing penalties for corruption offences, although we disagree on certain provisions in the Bill.

We would like to see a better and more effective Anti-Corruption Bill, and this is why during the Committee stage of the debate on the Bill yesterday, the DAP had introduced 29 amendments, including important proposals which would have made Malaysia the world model for both developed and developing nations by introducing the "sunshine" provision requiring MPs to publicly declare their assets, incomes and liabilities and to make unexplained possession of property a corruption offence.

It is most shocking that there were Barisan Nasional MPs who regarded the two amendments on MPs publicly declaring their assets and making unexplained possession of property a corruption offence as malciously aimed against them, which was articulated by the Barisan Nasional MP for Tanjong Karang.

Something is very wrong when there are MPs who could regard these two amendments, which could make Malaysia a world model for anti-corruption legislation, as being aimed against the Barisan Nasional leaders.

It is also most unfortunate that while the civil society is generally concerned and opposed to Section 20 of the Anti-Corruption Bill providing the heavy penalties of RM100,000 fine, 10 years' jail or both for false reports as likely to discourage honest citizens to come forward to co-operate with the ACA, many Barisan MPs seem to be delighted by the Section 20 provision.

There were even Barisan Nasional MPs who imply that Section 20 was designed to deal with Opposition MPs from lodging ACA reports, suggesting that the various ACA reports which had been lodged by Opposition leaders would be caught by Section 20.

During the winding up, I specifically asked the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the specific question whether Section 20 would mean that a report lodged to ask the ACA to investigate as to how Ling Hee Leong, son of MCA President and Transport Minsiter, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik could at the age of 27 years and without any corporate track record could embark on RM1.2 billion corporate acquisitions and whether there had been improper use and influence of his father's political and Ministerial position would be caught by Section 20 as a false report after the enactment of the Anti-Corruption Bill. In reply, Anwar gave a categorical denial and said that reports like the Ling Hee Leong report would not be caught by Section 20.

It is also shocking that a MCA MP yesterday should suggest a clampdown on press reports about corruption, even suggesting that an ACA officer who confirmed that a police report had been lodged should be regarded as an offence.

I welcome the reply from the Deputy Prime Minister that it is illogical to hide something which is public knowledge and that he did not want a situation where no one dared to mention information that was well known, which would create fear and cause the government to fail in its efforts to combat corruption.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong