What was most significant about the Teluk Intan by-election result was the 20-Point Teluk Intan Declaration of the voters of Teluk Intan in speaking up on behalf of all Malaysians their hopes and aspirations of the new Malaysia they want to see in the 21st century.
Teluk Intan "wrote history and created miracle" in many instances, one of which was being the first parliamentary constituency in the country to focus on the problem of corruption and to speak loud and clear the Malaysian people’s aspiration for a clean, honest and trustworthy government and to make the demand that the war against corruption should be the first item of the national agenda with the national target to be among the ten cleanest and least corrupt nations in the world.
The people of Teluk Intan must have felt certain satisfaction that shortly after they had spoken loud and clear at the ballot box, there was the campaign of an all-out war against corruption with the Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim declaring that the time had come not only for the "small ones", but the "big ones" in corruption to be arrested.
In a speech in Kedah on 8th June 1997, Anwar declared that the all-out war against corruption must start from the top. He said: "If we are only concerned about nabbing those who accepted RM20 and let those who accepted RM2 million go scot free, we will face the consequences of losing the people’s support".
Unfortunatley, the two-month all-out war against corruption when Anwar was the Acting Prime Minister appeared to be just all thunder and no rain, and the people have yet to see the "big ones" being netted, and those who accepted RM2 million being brought to book rather than those who accepted RM20 bribes.
I would call on the Cabinet at its meeting next Wednesday to have a full review of the people’s perception and disappointment that the all-out war against corruption seems to have petered out, and that the passage of a new Anti-Corruption Act to consolidate and replace all existing anti-corruption laws is not a signal for a new resolve to fight corruption but just a public relations exercise with no major change either in the political will to fight corruption or in nabbing the "big ones" involved in corruption.
It would be most unfortunate if the all-out war against corruption during the period that Anwar was Acting Prime Minister is to be the shortest-lived campaign against corruption in Malaysian history, when what the country needs is a sustained campaign to create a new culture of integrity in politics and public life with zero tolerance for corruption.
This is particularly important as Malaysia has come out badly in the 1997 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index, falling from the 23rd place in the 1995 index to 26th place in 1996 and now going down further to the 32nd place.
The Cabinet should place the 1997 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index on its agenda and work out a strategy whereby Malaysia could be universally recognised as among the ten least corrupt nations in the world – and which is reflected in future Transparency International Corruption Perception Indices.
It would not be easy for Malaysia to leapfrog from the present No. 32 position in the TI Corruption Perception Index to within the first ten least corrupt nations, but if the entire Malaysian society is prepared to adopt the Teluk Intan 20-Point Declaration of becoming one of the ten least corrupt nations in the world, such a goal is not impossible – even if it takes us one whole decade to do so.
What is important is that the the government and the entire nation should have a common commitment to fight corruption and strengthen our national integrity system – aiming to improve our TI Corruption Perception Index ranking by three places a year, which would put Malaysia among the world’s ten least corrupt nations in eight years’ time!
The Anti-Corruption Act which has been passed by Parliament and awaiting the Royal Assent before it becomes law has many weaknesses and loopholes and this is why I had introduced 29 amendments to make the Act more effective and meaningful as a powerful instrument in the fight against corruption.
Although my amendments did not get the support of the Barisan Nasional MPs, they should serve as references by the government in future as to how to make the Anti-Corruption Act really ineffective in fightingt corruption.
Before the Chinese Opium War 1839-1842, the Chinese Imperial Commissioner Lin Tse-hsu who tried to curb the opium trade, posed the pertinent question why the various previous anti-opium campaigns had ended up in a more widespread scourge of opium smoking in the country. The answer of course must be found in the corruption of opium.
Similarly, we should be very concerned whether the various anti-corruption campaigns in the country are ending in corruption becoming more rampant, especially in high places, rather than the opposite.
Last month, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed expressed great displeasure and even anger that Kuala Lumpur was so dirty, and that the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif might have been exposed to the most deplorable unhygienic and unhealthy conditions in Bukit Bintang.
I do not propose to say anything about the Federal Capital tonight, but let us at least be prepared to learn from Pakistan which is currently conducting an anti-corruption campaign.
In Pakistan, to enlist public support and to demonstrate the government’s seriousness in fighting corruption, the people had been offered a reward of 10 per cent of any proceeds recovered from any tip-off on corruption.
Under the new Anti-Corruption Act, a person who makes a false report on corruption is liable on conviction to the penalty of RM100,000 fine or 10 years jail or both. The DAP opposes such a provision as the priority should be to secure public support rather than to deter them from coming forward to co-operate with the Anti-Corruption Agency to expose corruption and malpractices.
One way to counteract and balance such a provision is for the Anti-Corruption Agency to offer rewards for any tip-offs for corruption, such as the Pakistani offer of 10 per cent of any proceeds recovered from any tip-off for corruption.
Thus, if a person is able to tip off the Anti-Corruption Agency about corruption, whether because of possession of unexplained property, lifestyle or other information involving say RM10 million, resulting in conviction and confiscation of property, then the informer should be given a RM1 million reward.
Such a reward may seem excessive, but for the initial period to make the all-out war against corruption credible and meaningful, it is a small price for the country to pay. May be, such a 10 per cent reward for any tip off of corruption leading to conviction and confiscation of property can apply for five years, by which time, the all-out war against corruption would have developed a momentum of its own – with the country heading steadily towards the goal of being among the world’s ten least corrupt nations.