(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): I wish to declare open the DAP Teluk Intan parliamentary by-election campaign by declaring that we will make war against corruption the first item of agenda and we will press for a national consensus for Malaysia to set the national objective to be among the first 10 cleanest and least corrupt nations in the world.
In his speech at the National Congress on Vision 2020 on Tuesday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad proposed that Malaysia take giant steps forward on the national social agenda of ensuring "a fully moral and ethical society, whose citizens are strong in religious and spiritual values and imbued with the highest of ethical standards".
He said: "Of course, we must always be on guard against corruption. Today, as ever, we should take not an ounce of comfort from surveys which show that by so-called ‘Asian’ standards or developing country standards or ‘world’ standards we are not too badly off; or that we are said to be no more corrupt than quite a few ‘developed’ countries. Thank God corruption in Malaysia is not, as it is in most countries, a way of life."
There is not only no cause to take "an ounce of comfort" from such surveys but real cause for concern that in international surveys, as in Transparency International’s international corruption perception index for 1996, Malaysia is ranked No. 26 out of 54 countries.
With the big number of high-profile but unresolved cases of corruption involving leaders in high political places, there is great danger that Malaysia’s ranking in the international corruption surveys will slip further behind for this year.
The seriousness of corruption in Malaysia can be seen by the fact that it is ranked by international IT/multimedia companies as the fifth "critical issue" which could affect the success of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC).
The Government should take a bold giant step in the fight against corruption by setting the objective to be among the first ten cleanest and least corrupt nations in the world.
To make a success of the MSC, the government has enacted the Computer Crimes Bill with the most severe penalties in the world for the same computer crime offences. For instance, the new offence of unauthorised access to computer material under Section 3 of the Computer Crimes Bill, passed by the Dewan Rakyat after a three-day debate yesterday, is 12 times more severe than in the United Kingdom and two-and-half-times more severe than in Singapore for the same offence.
There is even a section providing for a statutory presumption that a person who has in his control or custody a computer program or data which he is unauthorised to have would be deemed to have committed the offence of unauthorised access, which entails the heavy penalties of RM50,000 fine, five years’ jail or both - unless he could prove he is innocent. This completely reverses the traditional legal principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty!
Let Malaysia send out a clear message to the world that the country is serious in wanting to allay concerns of international IT/multimedia companies who have rated corruption as the fifth "critical issue" affecting their decisions whether to invest in Malaysia.
This can be done by amending the Prevention of Corruption Act to provide for a statutory presumption that a Minister, Deputy Minister, Chief Minister or Mentri Besar who has properties running into tens or even hundreds of millions of ringgit, whether in the form of properties in Australia or other countries, should be deemed to be guilty of corruption unless he could prove that his extraordinary wealth had been derived by lawful means.
Let the Barisan Nasional Government and the Opposition reach a consensus that the country should move vigorously forward to fight money politics and corruption in high political places, just as the Barisan Nasional Government and the Opposition have reached a consensus on the importance of Malaysia taking the quantum leap into the information age.