Full support to Anwar when he declared that "Now is the time to act…we will catch the big ones and we will catch the small ones"

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Thursday):
To be frank, I find the Ling Hee Leong and Ling Liong Sik affair a distraction from the very important issue of an all-out war against corruption.

It is not only the MCA publicity machinery which is trying to raise irrelevant and extraneous issues to derail attention from the need to focus all efforts on an all-out war against corruption, even the Barisan Nasional Secretary-General, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat was talking last Sunday about the Barisan Nasional not being perturbed by "the opposition’s attempts to capitalise on current intensified efforts against graft".

Accusing the opposition of taking advantage to "spread slander", Mohamed said the leadership of the ruling coalition was not the least worried over such actions as the Barisan Nasional’s intention was good.

He said: "Our motive is good…The Barisan Nasional, especially UMNO, wants the party to be free from corruption. Previously, opposition parties had charged that the Barisan Nasional, especially UMNO, dared not take action against its members for corruption."

For the past three decades, one of the DAP’s consistent programme is to create a clean, honest and incorruptible government. This is the reason why in the past thirty years, DAP leaders had spoken out loud and clear inside and outside Parliament against all forms of abuses of power, malpractices and corruption and why we had consistently called for greater powers and increased penalties to declare an all-out war against corruption.

The DAP stand against corruption is not a recent position but a history of three decades - and this is why I had said that for the first time since 1966, I am beginning to dare to hope that the government might be prepared to embark on an all-out war against corruption.

I give full support to the pledge by the Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in Sandakan on Sunday for an all-out war against corruption, declaring: "Now is the time to act…we will catch the big ones and we will catch the small ones. In the past, we just caught the small ones. But now through the wisdom of our Prime Minister, we are going after the big ones too."

Just as Anwar said, "In the past, we just caught the small ones…But now…we are going after the big ones", Malaysians are waiting for the "big ones" to be caught, for up to now, no "big one" had been caught - but only middling ones!

I call on all Malaysians to take the high ground of patriotic Malaysians who want corruption weeded out of Malaysia and not to approach it from any narrow, sectional or political party point of view.

Let all Malaysians, regardless of party, embrace the all-out war against corruption initiated by the Government, and see it from the standpoint of Malaysians who want Malaysia to stand tall in the world on the issue of a clean government and a good society and the united national commitment to fight corruption, and to stop seeing it from Barisan Nasional - whether UMNO, MCA, Gerakan, MIC - or Opposition -whether DAP, PAS, PBS - point-of-view.

Let us all take the position that every political leader, regardless of whether in government or opposition, must be clean and honest and support that any corrupt leader, regardless of political party, whether in government or opposition, should be brought to justice.

I would call on the Barisan Nasional government leaders not to be worried about partisan considerations in the all-out war against corruption fearing if Barisan Nasional "sharks" are arrested for corruption, it would redound to the credit of the Opposition and be adverse to Barisan Nasional chances in the next general elections.

This is a great mistake. If the Barisan Nasional government shows that it is now prepared to declare an all-out war against corruption, and to "catch sharks" and not just go for the "ikan bilis", the Barisan Nasional would earn widespread national support which would be converted into votes for the Barisan Nasional in the next general elections.

If I am selfish and only interested in party political advantage, I would not want the government to take action against any "ikan yus", but to continue to catch the "small ones" while indulging in meaningless talk about sparing no one who is corrupt which is not backed up with any action.

Let me state that if the Barisan Nasional government is really prepared, for the first time in Malaysian history, to launch an all-out war against corruption, and in the process win popular support at the expense of the DAP in the next general elections, this is a price the DAP is prepared to pay and worth paying in the larger national interest.

What patriotic Malaysians should worry is that the all-out war against corruption just initiated by the government would fail, as successful anti-corruption reform efforts anywhere in the world have been rare and unfortunately the failures have been numerous.

If Malaysia is to embark on an all-out war against corruption, the government should not only go after the "big ones", it should be prepared to create systemic changes to bring about a culture of public integrity among political leaders and the public service.

This is why in the forthcoming Parliament next month, the all-out war against corruption should be the highlight of the meeting just as the cyberlaws were the highlight of the last meeting of Parliament.

Let all Malaysians recogise that corruption in Malaysia has become very rampant and if left unchecked, would lead to the ruination of our society. It is not for no reason that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad openly wept when he spoke about the scourge of corruption and money politics at the UMNO General Assembly last October.

Privatisation of Corruption

In fact, the extensive privatisation including the privatisation of government services has also led to the privatisation of corruption.

Recently, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, Chor Chee Heung, said his ministry is probing allegations of corruption and malpractices at Pusat Pemeriksaan Kenderaan Bercomputer Sdn. Bhd. (Puspakom) centres.

What is the result of such probes? Three days later, Chor Chee Heung announced as an anti-corruption measure that Puspakom vehicle examiners will only be allowed to carry RM50 while on duty.

Those who have gone through "horror " experiences of corruption at Puspakom centres know that such a measure cannot root out the problem of corruption. I heard one such "horror" story of corruption at a Puspakom centre yesterday and if the ACA is interested, I am prepared to narrate the story to it.

This incident shows that if the government’s all-out war against corruption is to succeed, even more important than catching "big ones" is a comprehensive reform and reorganisation of government to change how the government operates to reduce opportunities for corruption and to create a climate against graft.

Some of the measures which should form part of such comprehensive reforms to create the basis for a sustaining all-out war against corruption include:

This is why the July meeting of Parliament should make the all-out war against corruption the topmost item of the Parliamentary agenda.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong