The fall in Malaysia's ranking in the latest 1997 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) be a salutary reminder to Parliament and 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 and the Anti-Corruption Bill passed by the Dewan Rakyat on Thursday was not the end of the all-out war against corruption, but only the beginning.
The drop in Malaysia's ranking from 23rd place in 1995, to 26th place in 1996 and now to 32nd place in the Transparency International's corruption perception index (CPI), with the CPI score dropping from 5.32 last year to 5.01 (where a score of 10 would be a totally corruption-free country) should be viewed with grave concern by Parliament as a national affront to Malaysia's reputation, particularly at a time when the government has declared an all-out 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.
Malaysia should also be particularly concerned that she has not only continued to trail behind the top ten least-corrupt countries in the TI CPI ranking, namely (1)Denmark (with a score of 9.94), (2) Finland (9.48), (3) Sweden (9.35), (4) New Zealand (9.23), (5) Canada (9.10), (6) Netherlands (9.03), (7) Norway (8.92), (8) Australia (8.86), (9) Singapore (8.66) and (10) Luxemburg (8.61), but have fallen behind other nations like Spain, Greece, Hungary, Italy which were placed after Malaysia in the 1996 TI CPI.
Furthermore, from being ranked fourth in Asia in the 1996 TI CPI, after Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong, Malaysia is now ranked fifth in Asia after Taiwan as well.
The ACA should be asked 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, with the specific responsibility to ensure that there is annual improvement in Malaysia's ranking in future TI CPI.
I am asking for a special debate in Parliament on the 1997 TI CPI as the deterioration of Malaysia's ranking for the past three years should be regarded as a national challenge to the government and nation to embark on a serious all-out war against corruption to be one of the ten least- corrupt nations in the world with the immediate aim to be in the top 20 'corrupt-free' countries in the 1998 or 1999 TI Corruption Perception Index.
The debate should be an occasion for a wide-ranging examination of the entire problem of corruption in a holistic manner, and in particular the following aspects:
(ii) the critical importance of political will of the top political leaders to combat corruption wherever it occurs and to submit themselves to public scrutiny.
(iii) the underlying causes, loopholes and incentives which feed corrupt practice at any level.
(iv) how to ensure that the new Anti-Corruption Bill can become a centrepiece in a serious all-out war against corruption and not have the counter-productive effect of frightening honest citizens from coming forward to co-operate with the ACA to combat corruption.
(v) how to strengthen the national integrity system by creating a partnership between the government, political parties, the private sector, the mass media, professions, religions, and NGOs to foster a new culture of integrity with zero tolerance for corruption.
(vi) examine the laws which should be reviewed and amended because they inhibit and impede accountability and transparency - the antithesis of corruption - such as the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Internal Security Act, and the need for a Freedom of Information Act.
Parliament should play a leading role in the national all-out war against corruption, not merely in enacting the Anti-Corruption Bill, but in leading a concerted national effort involving the entire civil society to declare corruption as Public Enemy No. 1 in the country, as even more serious than the drug menace - which will be Parliament's contribution to ensuring a continuous improvement in Malaysia's ranking in the TI CPI, and it could make the best start by having a special debate on Monday on the 1997 Transparency International CPI.