DAP welcomes further measures on the anti-corruption front which has
made me dare to hope for the first time in three decades that there is
a possibility that the Government may embark on an all-out war against
corruption in high political places
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The DAP
welcomes further measures on the anti-corruption front indicating that
there is a possibility that the Government may embark on an all-out war
against corruption in high political places.
This is what the voters of Teluk Intan wanted when they "wrote
history and created history" in producing the Richter 6 "political
earthquake" in the Teluk Intan by-election on May 17, for the fourth
item of the Teluk Intan 20-Points on their Fundamental Demands and Aspirations
"4. Demand that the whole nation should make the war against
corruption as the first item of national agenda with the national target
to be among the 10 cleanest and least corrupt nations in the world - instead
of being placed in the 26th position out of 54 countries in the Transparency
International's international corruption perception index for 1996."
When former Malacca State Exco member, Datuk Sahar Arpan was dropped
from the new Malacca State Exco and was arrested by the Anti-Corruption
Agency (ACA) and charged in court early this week on three charges of corrupt
practice, I had welcomed it but cautioned that "a swallow does not
make a summer".
I stressed that while Malaysians welcome a more effective Anti-Corruption
Agency, questions remain as to whether the government is serious about
fighting corruption in high political places and whether the ACA would
have the adequate powers and independence to launch an all-out war against
corruption, free to arrest any political leader for corruption without
having to get any political "green-light".
I must say that the events in the past few days have made me dare to
hope for the first time in my three decades of political crusade against
corruption and to strive for a clean and honest government that there may
be a possibility that the government might heed the voice of the people
as those articulated by the voters of Teluk Intan and embark on an all-out
war against corruption in high political places.
The events in the past few days on the anti-corruption front are:
- The announcement by the Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim
that all new state executive councillors would have to declare their assets
to the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) before taking office. · The
arrest of an executive secretary of a Selangor exco member on suspicion
of accepting bribes.
- The stripping of Datuk Sahar Arpan, who currently faces charges of
corruption, of all party posts by UMNO Supreme Council.
- The sacking of Primary Industries Deputy Minister, Siti Zainab Abu
Bakar for her involvement in the "missing" RM1.8 million from
the Wanita UMNO account and her suspension from all party posts, together
with the movementís former secretary, Senator Habshah Othman, who was also
implicated in the scandal.
- The order from London by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir
Mohamad in his videoconference yesterday to UMNO to wage an all-out war
- The announcement that the Cabinet had approved heavier penalties sought
by the ACA for corruption offences, doubling the maximum jail sentence
from five to ten years while the maximum fines had been increased ten-fold
from RM10,000 to RM100,000.
These are welcome measures although more would have to be done if the
government is to convince Malaysians that it is really serious in wanting
to wage an all-out war against corruption.
For instance, I would expect further follow-up measures to be taken
on some of the developments of the past few days to show a government fully
serious and committed to an all-war out against corruption:
- Extension of the new ruling governing all new State Exco members to
also require all new Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries
as well as Mentri-Mentri Besar and Chief Ministers to declare their assets
to the ACA and subject to ACA clearance before taking office.
- The stripping of Datuk Shahar Arpan not only of all UMNO party posts,
but also his sacking as deputy chairman of the Malacca State Development
Corporation as well as his resignation as Malacca State Assemblyman for
- The reference of the cases of Siti Zainab Abu Bakar and Senator Habshah
Othman to the Anti-Corruption Agency or the Police for the due process
of law to take its course. Malaysia does not have two types of criminal
offences, divided into those which are "internal party matters"
and others which are within the jurisdiction of the courts. In fact, the
top UMNO and government leaders would be failing in their fundamental duty
as law-abiding citizens as well as breaking the law in not reporting criminal
offences within their knowledge to the police authorities. Furthermore,
the failure to report Siti Zainab Bakar and Senator Habshah to the ACA
or police authorities would run counter to the order given by the Prime
Minister in his videoconference yesterday that "We will not defend
anybody who is corrupt. Otherwise, people will think that just because
we are in power, we protect them...this is not healthy for the party and
- The increased penalties for corruption offences sought by the ACA may
be adequate one year ago, but they are now grossly inadequate when there
is a greater realisation of the bane of corruption, which could cause the
ruination of nations and societies, and when Malaysians have a higher expectation
about the importance to wage an all-out war against corruption. The increase
of the maximum fines for corruption by tenfold from RM10,000 to RM100,000
is not impressive at all, when taking into account that tens or even hundreds
of millions of ringgit could be the subject of corruption in high political
places, and that in the recent amendment to the Copyright (Amendment) Bill,
the maximum fine for copyright offence is as high as RM500,000. How can
Malaysia tell the people and the world that we are serious in declaring
an all-out war against corruption when a copyright offence attracts a maximum
penalty five times higher than that of a corruption offence?
- The lack of seriousness or sense of urgency in amending the anti-corruption
laws to enable the ACA to fight rampant corruption, as seen by the fact
that the Prevention of Corruption Act had not been amended for the past
26 years since 1971. Even the amendment on the minor increase in penalties
for corruption offences agreed by Cabinet is not expected to be tabled
in Parliament until end of the year, if not later. The Cabinet must take
a policy decision to introduce amendments to the Prevention of Corruption
Act 1961 in the July meeting of Parliament to send out a clear message
that the government is serious in the fight against corruption. The amendments
to the Prevention of Corruption Act should make the anti-corruption law
in Malaysia the most severe and stringent in the world and should increase
the powers and independence of the ACA as well as enhance penalties for
corruption offences, including the powers of confiscation of properties
and wealth completely disproportionate to known sources of income of a
Minister, Mentri Besar or Chief Minister.
Although I am beginning, for the first time in three decades, to dare
to hope that the government might be prepared to embark on an all-out war
against corruption, particularly in high political places, and I have seen
not just one swallow but a few swallows, they still do not make a summer.
I hope I could in the next few months state that my daring to hope that
the government might be prepared to embark on an all-out war against corruption
is not misplaced - and which better place to do so then in the July meeting
of Parliament, with the government introducing a new and comprehensive
anti-corruption law to give the ACA independent status, enhanced powers,
increased personnel as well as the most severe penalties for corruption
in the world, just as Malaysian Parliament has passed the most severe penalties
in the world for computer crimes.
*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary
Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member
of Parliament for Tanjong