My first question in next month’s Parliament will be on the Selangor Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Muhammad Taib’s RM2.4 million cash caper in Brisbane on December 22 last year, when he was arrested and charged in a magistrate’s court the next day for violating an Australian law requiring any person leaving the country with more than A$5,000 to make a declaration.
The question which I have submitted to Parliament is as follows:
This question would be posed in Parliament on March 25, four days after Muhammad Taib is fixed to appear in the Brisbane magistrate court for the charge that he had not declared RM2.4 million cash on his person when leaving the Brisbane International Airport for New Zealand as he had not submitted any plea when the charge was first preferred against him on Dec. 23.
Whatever the outcome of the proceedings in the Brisbane magistrate’s court on March 21, it would have no bearing on the parliamentary question, which is not about his failing to comply with the Australian law on declaring foreign currency in excess of A$5,000, but concerning the source, origin and purpose of the RM2.4 million found on the person of the Selangor Mentri Besar in Brisbane, and in particular, the discrepancy between what Muhammad Taib had publicly explained about the origin and purpose of the money and the Brisbane Courier Mail report of Dec. 31.
Even more important, the question would establish whether the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) has new freedom of action after the speech by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the UMNO General Assembly last October, when he shed tears in his very moving call for an uncompromising war against money politics and high-level corruption to save the country from ruination.
It is open knowledge that the ACA’s greatest weakness ever since its establishment in the sixties had been its inability to act independently against politicians in high office in government. For instance, if the ACA had required all high political and government leaders to declare their assets and next of kin and to explain the origin of assets or wealth completely disproportionate to their known sources of income, the ACA would be able to take action against a number of them.
However, the ACA had no independent powers to act “without fear or favour” to uphold the anti-corruption laws as far as those holding high political office is concerned.
This is why Malaysia’s standing in the Transparency International’s international corruption perception index is so low, falling from No. 23 place out of 41 countries in 1995 to No. 26 place out of 54 countries in 1996.
The question Malaysians want to know is whether after Mahathir’s tears at the UMNO General Assembly last October, the ACA has been given more freedom of action to fight corruption and the ACA handling of Muhammad Taib’s RM2.4 million cash caper in Brisbane would be one important indicator.
If the ACA demonstrates that it still does not have freedom of action to act independently against politicians holding high political office, Malaysia’s ranking in the 1997 Transparency International’s international corruption perception index, which would be released in the middle of the year, would remain low, reflecting a dismal corruption record.