As I mentioned in my invitation, this "Round Table and Assembly of Voices" is not about personalities or political parties but to focus on how Malaysia can create a new culture of integrity in political life, the administration and public service, with zero tolerance for corruption.
Let me explain briefly how this idea of a Round Table and Assembly of Voices originated. At the end of last month, at a meeting of the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee, YB Ruhanie Ahmad, the Chairman of the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers’ Club, informed me that the BBC, together with three other organisations, would be holding a national conference on the problem of corruption, to be known as "Consensus Against Corruption" on July 10, and I was invited to be a speaker in a forum at the conference.
I accepted the invitation and welcomed the BBC’s initiative in organising such a Conference. I told Ruhanie that there should not be just one conference, but a series of conferences by various bodies to create public awareness about the importance of fighting corruption as without public support, no war against corruption could be won.
It is in this spirit that I started organising this "Round Table on Corruption - An Assembly of Voices" for July 13, three days after the proposed "Consensus Against Corruption" Conference, to keep up the momentum in the national awareness campaign in the fight against corruption and to make an impact on the deliberations of Parliament, which will reconvene tomorrow and is expected to debate amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act.
I was later informed by Ruhanie that the "Consensus Against Corruption" Conference had been changed to July 12, and much later, that it had finally been fixed for July 19, making this "Round Table on Corruption - Assembly of Voices" the first instead of the second in what is hoped would be a series of National Conferences on how to reduce and minimise corruption in Malaysia and to create a strong national constituency for a new political culture for public integrity with zero tolerance for corruption.
The "Round Table - Assembly of Voices" today and the "Consensus Against Corruption" next Saturday are not competing, but complementary, events and I hope that there would be more such conferences by political parties, civic organisations, the mass media, professional bodies, the religions, the private sector and even by the government.
In fact, I would call for the formation of a national coalition for national integrity involving the government, legislature, judiciary, political parties, the mass media, religious organisations, the professions, the private sector and NGOs to create a new culture of public integrity with zero tolerance for corruption.
Such a national coalition for national integrity is vital if the all-out war against corruption launched by the Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim with the approval of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is to succeed.
The last time the government made an attempt to create a system of national integrity was in 1981, under the motto of a "clean, honest and trustworthy" administration. However, it had gone the way of the numerous unsuccessful anti-corruption reform efforts in mankind’s history, and this is best testified by the fact that 15 years later, the Prime Minister was moved to tears when he spoke about the cancer of corruption and how money politics could bring about the ruination of the country.
A number of the panellists today had tried their utmost best to make a success of the 1981 "clean-up", most notably Tan Sri Ahmad Nordin, unquestionably the most outstanding Auditor-General in the history of Malaysia. Other panellists who had tried to create a system of national integrity, whether through public advocacy, writings or through their respective positions of responsibility, include Tan Sri Harun Hashim, Dr. Syed Husein Alatas, Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, Tan Sri Samad Ismail, Datuk Param Cumaraswamy, Gurmit Singh and Prof. Hamdan Adnan.
This "Round Table Conference - Assembly of Voices" should be able to profit not only from their experiences and views as to how to create the conditions for a new culture of public integrity with zero tolerance for corruption, but also from the lessons from the failure of the 1981 "clean-up" campaign.
The failure of the country’s first attempt to create a national integrity system in 1981 is worthy of a full case study, as for instance,
One important reason why the 1981 "ABC" - "Amanah, Berseh dan Cekap" - campaign failed was because there was no national coalition for national integrity involving the government, legislature, judiciary, political parties, the mass media, religious organisations, the professions, the private sector and NGOs.
This is a lesson the country must learn if the present "all-out war against corruption" is not to join the long list of failures of history’s anti-corruption campaigns.
In my mind, the success or failure of the all-out war against corruption will depend on three factors:
Let us hope that this "Round Table Conference on Corruption - An Assembly of Voices" would contribute to the formation of a national coalition for national integrity to create a new culture of public integrity with zero tolerance for corruption.