by Lim Kit Siang - Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong
in Petaling Jaya
on Monday, 20 January 1997

Is the ACA ham-strung from further investigating into the case of Muhammad Taib with RM2.4 million cash in Brisbane following the UMNO Supreme Council decision to accept his explanation?

Is the Anti-Corruption Agency hamstrung from further investigating into the case of the Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib with RM2.4 million cash in Brisbane following the UMNO Supreme Council decision on 11th January to accept his explanation?

Before the UMNO Supreme Council meeting, the Anti-Corruption Agency had announced that it was conducting two separate investigations involving the Selangor Mentri Besar and his two former aides following the discovery of large amounts of cash in Brisbane and Shah Alam respectively last month.

Although the ACA director-general Datuk Shafie Yahya had said that “Both investigations are underway” on 3rd January, there have been no signs or indications that the ACA had started investigations into the case of Muhammad and the RM2.4 million cash in Brisbane, whether through questioning the Selangor Mentri Besar or his brothers.

Now that the UMNO Supreme Council had decided to accept Muhammad’s explanation, does this mean that this is the end of the whole episode of the Selangor Mentri Besar and the RM2.4 million cash in Brisbane as far as the Malaysian government is concerned, and that the intention of the ACA to conduct investigations into this case would also be called off?

The other pertinent question is how the UMNO Supreme Council could accept Muhammad’s explanation that he did not know that anyone leaving Australia with more than A$5,000 in cash must make a declaration under section 15 of the Financial Transactions Report Act?

As pointed out by the New Sunday Times yesterday, every visitor to Australia is given a statement warning about the do’s and don’ts, and for foreign currency, the warning is very clear and specific as follows:

Just as the Government would not accept the explanation from any visitor to Malaysia about ignorance that drug trafficking is a capital offence after clear and specific warnings had been issued to all visitors, how could the UMNO Supreme Council accept that Muhammad Taib did not know he had to declare more than A$5,000 currency after similarly clear and specific warnings had been issued to all visitors to Australia?

Recently, Malaysia’s reputation had been repeatedly marred by international mass media reports about corruption in Malaysia and what is worse, the inability of the Malaysian government to project a will and determination to root out corruption in high places.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, was asked about corruption during his recent mission to Los Angeles to promote the Multimedia Super Corridor, and although he said that corruption was to be found in every country, there is no doubt that he would have made a stronger impression on this subject if he could tell the world of a new national resolve to combat corruption, especially in high political places, and that Malaysia intends to improve its ranking in the annual international corruption perception index, whether by Transparency International or by other organisations.

Malaysia must recognise that there is increasing international concern about corrupt practices following a rising tide of scandal, and growing evidence in many countries of public disgust with corrupt officials and institutions - whether from South Korea to India, or Italy to Brazil.

This is why the World Bank had for the first time imposed a corruption clause in its US$5 billion loans over four years to India’s states to improve their crumbling roads. The board of the World Bank approved the US$5 billion States’ Road Infrastructure Development Loan to India in early December on the strict condition that they adopt transparent bidding procedures as the award of contracts for road building or repairs is notorious for corruption in some Indian states, particularly the eastern state of Bihar.

Malaysia’s international competitiveness and whether we can take our rightful place in the world in the 21st century will be affected by many factors, one of which will be the international perception of corruption in Malaysia. This is why the ACA must redeem Malaysia’s international reputation by demonstrating that it has the powers to act without fear or favour in all corruption cases, whether involving the Selangor Mentri Besar and regardless of the political decision of the UMNO Supreme Council.