The Round Table on Corruption was attended by a most distinguished gathering of Malaysians who had been concerned about corruption and public integrity over the decades, people like Tan Sri Ahmad Nordin, undoubtedly the most famous Auditor-General in Malaysian history; Tan Sri Harun Hashim, the first Director-General of the ACA when it was formed 30 years ago and the reputation and public confidence in the ACA had never been higher than when it was under the leadership of Tan Sri Harun Hashim; Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas, Malaysia’s world authority on corruption; Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, Director of Just World Trust, leading campaigner and shaper of public opinion against corruption; Tan Sri Samad Ismail, veteran journalist; Tunku Abdul Aziz, Convenor of Transparency International Malaysia; Datuk Param Cumaraswamy, Special UN Rapporteur on Independence of Judiciary and Lawyers, Dr. Jomo K.S., Malaysia’s outstanding economist; Gurmit Singh, environmentalist and Secretary-General of HAKAM; Prof. Hamdan Adnan, President of FOMCA and YB Ruhanie Ahmad, MP for Parit Sulong and Chairman of Barisan Backbenchers Club (BBC).
On 19th July 1997, a second important civil society initiative towards the same objective to strengthen the national integrity system was taken when the Barisan Backbenchers’ Club, together with Institut Kajian Dasar (IKD), Asian Strategic and Leadership Institute (ASLI) and the Centre for Leadership and Development Studies (CELDES), brought together political parties, government agencies, the private sector, trade unions, the consumer movement and NGOs in the historic "Consensus Against Corruption" Conference.
The "Round Table on Corruption - Assembly of Voices" came out with a Ten-Point Consensus on combatting corruption while the "Consensus Against Corruption" Conference issued a most seminal 16-Point Declaration, particularly in its call for legislation for the formation of a National Anti-Corruption Council and to review cases submitted by the Anti-Corruption Agency to the Attorney-General but never prosecuted.
The much-awaited Anti-Corruption Bill was tabled in Parliament for first reading yesterday. The Bill, which will consolidate the existing laws relating to prevention of corruption and make new provisions and replace the Prevention of Corruption Act 1961, the Anti-Corruption Agency Act 1982 and the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance No. 22 1970, will be debated in Parliament on Monday.
Time is therefore very short for the Malaysian public and civil society to give a feedback and views before the bill is debated in Parliament and enacted into law.
In view of the exigency of time, it is proposed that a second "Round Table Conference on Corruption - An Assembly of Voices" be convened which would be open to all political parties, mass media representatives, NGOs and concerned Malaysians in order to provide a forum for the crystallisation of public views on the Anti-Corruption Bill.
The Second Round Table on the Anti-Corruption Bill would be held at the Swiss Garden Hotel, Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 27th July 1997 at 9.30 a.m.
Invitations have been sent out to all political parties, mass media representatives and NGOs as well as panellists and participants at the "Round Table Conference on Corruption - Assembly of Voices" to the Round Table (II) on Anti-Corruption Bill in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
I am also inviting the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah and the Director-General of Anti-Corruption Agency, Datuk Shafee Yahya to the Round Table (II) on the Anti-Corruption Bill so that they could not only have the benefit of direct feedback from the public on the Bill, but could also throw light on some of the new proposals in the Bill.
It is most welcome that the government is giving full recognition to the importance of involving the entire society. If the current all-out war against corruption is to be a success in creating a new culture of integrity in political life and public service with zero tolerance for corruption, public support is a vital prerequisite.
For the first time, the importance of involving the entire society is given statutory recognition in Section 8 of the Anti-Corruption Bill where duties of the Director-General of the ACA has been specified to include "(f) educate the public against corruption; and (g) enlist and foster public support in combating corruption". If the government is to fully involve the public in the fight against corruption, then the Attorney-General and the ACA Director-General must take the civil society into their confidence with regard to the rationales for the Anti-Corruption Bill as well as set the best examples of accountability and transparency. This is why I hope that both Mohtar Abdullah and Shafee Yahya would be able to attend the Round Table (II) on the Anti-Corruption Bill.
I have a further reason in hoping that the Attorney-General would be able to attend the Round Table (II). I had raised in Parliament the absence of the Attorney-General at the Consensus Against Corruption Conference last Saturday although he was scheduled to be a panellist, as it raised the disturbing question whether the Chief Law Officer of the country was not in support of the all-out war against corruption.
I have received a letter of clarification from the Attorney-General explaining that he was on leave and out of the country from 16th June to 14th July 1997, and that he first heard of such a Conference when he returned for duty. He checked and was informed that no letter of invitation to the Conference was received by his office.
When on 15th July, he read in the New Straits Times the comment of the Chairman of the Backbenchers’ Club, Ruhanie Ahmad that the Attorney-General had "yet to confirm attendance", and when he ascertained that there was still no letter of invitation, he instructed his Special Officer, Encik Tun Abdul Majid bin Tun Hamzah, to contact the conference organisers for the invitation and particulars of the Conference.
On 16th July, he faxed a reply to the Conference organisers stating that he was unable to attend the Conference to be one of the speakers of the topic "Eradicating Corruption - the Way Forward" as he had a prior commitment.
I thank the Attorney-General for his clarification that he had not committed the discourtesy of ignoring the invitation and making the Conference to wait for him, not knowing whether he would turn up or not.
However, if the Attorney-General could not attend such an important Conference because of prior commitments, he should have sent a top officer to represent him.
I do not know what actually happened leading to the Conference organisers not knowing that the Attorney-General would not be able to attend, and I apologise for any improper inference for his absence, but reiterate that the war against corruption is finally about transparency and accountability in government - which are the antithesis of corruption.
Under the Anti-Corruption Bill, the Attorney-General as Public Prosecutor has vastly expanded powers, as it is he and not the ACA Director-General who will finally decide whether the new vast powers in the Anti-corruption Bill would be exercised, such as:
These new vast powers to be exercised by Mohtar Abdullah in his capacity as Public Prosecutor make it even more imperative that the Attorney-General must set an example in accountabililty and transparency to restore publlic confidence in the fairness and reasonableness of his office - in particular on the grave issue of selective prosecutions. The rule of law requires that prosecutions on behalf of the state be conducted fairly and reasonably and that prosecutors perform their professional duties in a transparently independent fashion.
If the entire society is to be involved in the sustained fight against corruption, then the civil society should also be fully involved in the formulation and enactment of the Anti-Corruption Bill.
The government should have involved the entire society in every step in the formulation of the Anti-Corruption Bill. This unfortunately has not been the case. The government has also failed to make use of the latest information technology to post the Anti-Corruption Bill on the Internet to promote fullest civil society discussions.
As a public service, the DAP has posted the Anti-Corruption Bill on the Internet through the DAP Homepage, whose URL is:
or the Mirror Site at: