Call on Government to declare national objective to place Malaysia among the ten least-corrupt nations in the world

Paradoxically, the weakest part of the 1998 budget as compared to all the previous Anwar budgets is on corruption, where the Finance Minister gave a very perfunctory reference to the subject, as its omission would be too conspicuous.

Thus, the statement in the budget that "The recent amended laws on the prevention of corruption does not only penalise the receiver but also the giver, because we believe that corruption will not occur if nobody offers bribes" is not only irrelevant, because similar provision exists in the old corruption laws, but seems to signify a change of position to give emphasis to the giver rather than to the taker.

Gone were the fires and the zeal to declare all-out war against corruption only a few months ago when Anwar was the Acting Prime Minister and declared: "Now is the time to act…we will catch the big ones and we will catch the small ones" and his exhortation to the Anti-Corruption Agency to nab not only those involved in RM20 bribery but also in RM20 million corruption.

It is sad that there had been no official response or concern to the release of the 1997 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) where Malaysia’s ranking fell from 23rd place in 1995, to 26th place in 1996 and now to 32 place in 1997. Malaysia’s CPI score also dropped to 5.01 as compared to the 1996 TI CPI, where Malaysia had a score of 5.32. According to the index, a score of 10 would be totally corruption-free society.

The 1997 TI CPI was released on 31st July 1997, shortly after Parliament had passed a new consolidated omnibus Anti-Corruption Bill and the short-lived all-out war against corruption.

Malaysia's double failure in the 1997 TI Corruption Perception Index to improve on our national ranking as well as on the Corruption Perception Index score should be regarded as a national affront and challenge leading to a national resolve that in future TI corruption perception index, Malaysia must see annual improvements on both fronts.

Malaysia should also be particularly concerned that she has not only continued to trail behind the top ten least-corrupt countries in the TI CPI ranking, namely (1)Denmark (with a score of 9.94), (2) Finland (9.48), (3) Sweden (9.35), (4) New Zealand (9.23), (5) Canada (9.10), (6) Netherlands (9.03), (7) Norway (8.92), (8) Australia (8.86), (9) Singapore (8.66) and (10) Luxemburg (8.61), but have fallen behind other nations like Spain, Greece, Hungary, Italy which were placed after Malaysia in the 1996 TI CPI.

Furthermore, from being ranked fourth in Asia in the 1996 TI CPI, after Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong, Malaysia is now ranked fifth in Asia after Taiwan as well.

I want to know the response of the government and the Anti-Corruption Agency to the 1997 TI CPI.

I call on Government to respond to the adverse 1997 Transparent International corruption perception index where Malaysia's ranking had fallen from 26th to 32nd placing as a challenge to involve all sectors of society to place Malaysia among the ten least-corrupt nations in the world

The Government should mobilise the energies of the entire civil society, whether political parties, mass media, the professions, the religions, the NGOs, to launch a national campaign to create a new culture of integrity in political life and public service with zero tolerance for corruption.

Parliament had just passed the Anti-Corruption Bill after a four-day debate last July. Overall, the Anti-Corruption Bill is an improvement to existing anti-corruption laws. However, there are a few undesirable provisionslike Section 20 with the heavy penalty of RM100,000 fine, 10 years jail or both for false reports, and several other areas where it could be improved to make it into a model for anti-corruption legislation to the world, whether developed or developing.

This was why I had proposed 29 amendments to the Anti-Corruption Bill in Parliament. Although the government is not prepared to accept anyone of these 29 amendments, they serve notice to both the government and the nation as to the areas which the country must give serious attention if we want to have better anti-corruption legislation, like requiring those holding high public office, whether in politics or government, to publicly declare their assets and to make nexplained possession of property a corruption offence.

During the four-day Parliamentary debate on the Anti-Corruption Bill, the comments made by some Barisan Nasional MPs show that they do not understand the need to involve the entire society if the war against corruption is to be won.

For instance, during the debate, the MP for Pokok Sena, Wan Hanafiah Wan Mat Saman asked the Opposition not to use Tan Sri Harun Hashim's experience in debating the Bill, declaring that there was no need for the opposition to organise any round table discussions on corruption, and alleged that Tan Sri Harun and former Auditor-General Tan Sri Ahmad Nordin were "opposition people".

I would have thought that the problem was that there were not more round-table conferences and discussions to mobilise public support against corruption, rather than that there was no need for them.

Were all those who had attended the two Round Tables on Corruption - not to mention the Consensus Against Corruption Conference - like Tan Sri Ahmad Nordin,Tan Sri Harun Hashim, Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas, Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, Tan Sri Samad Ismail all "opposition people" because they oppose corruption?

It is a very sad day for democracy in Malaysia, and bodes ill for the future of any all-out war against corruption, when all Malaysians who oppose corruption are regarded as opposed to the Government. In his speech when introducing the second reading of the Bill, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the war against corruption is not a political agenda but a national agenda. Clearly, this message has not been fully understood by Barisan Nasional MPs.

ACA should convince Malaysians that it does not suffer from a "6218" syndrome where investigations into VIPs proceed at a glacial pace

However, more important than enacting the Anti-Corruption Bill is having the political will to enforce it. If after the passing of the Anti-Corruption Bill, it is still the small ones and not the big ones who are caught, then public confidence in the government's commitment to wage an all-out war against corruption would be seriously undermined. This is why I am so diappointed that the government has not been able to give any report on the progress of ACA investigations into the six Ministers, two deputy Ministers, one parliamentary secretary and eight State Exco members, and "6218" has come to symbolise the glacial pace with which ACA is treating political "VIPs" in its investigations.

In June, Anwar said that it would be unacceptable and unfair just to nab those involved with RM20 bribery but to let loose those involved with RM20 million corruption. When I pressed in Parliament why the ACA had not been able to produce results in its "6218" investigations, Parliament is treated to the sophistry that Malaysia cannot have double standards in giving priority to the ACA investigations into the VIPs as compared to the small fish!

It is more than six months since Parliament was told that eight State Exco members were under ACA investigations, and I hope that during the winding-up of the debate early next month, Parliament and the nation can be assured that the ACA does not suffer from the "6218" syndrome, where it is incapable of making any progress in investigations against political VIPs.

This applies to other VIP cases, whether it be the former Selangor Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Muhammad Taib or Tan Sri Eric Chia in connection with the Perwaja scandal.