(Penang, Monday): Corruption. Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s appointment as Deputy Prime Minister was hailed on the ground that he is "Mr. Clean". This is a personal credit to Abdullah, but quite an indictment on the rest of the UMNO leadership and even the Cabinet, as if "Mr. Clean" is a rare commodity in the top leadership in government when it should be the rule rather than the exception.
While it is good that Abdullah is generally acknowledged as "Mr. Clean", what the country needs more than anything else is a leader who could clean up the system of corruption and money politics in the country.
When Anwar Ibrahim was the Deputy Prime Minister, he was head of the Cabinet Committee on Corruption and Government Malpractices. Nobody knows whether Abdullah has been appointed head of this Cabinet Committee or whether it has been dissolved.
The Cabinet at its meeting on Wednesday should make it clear that Abdullah is head of this Cabinet Committee on Corruption and Government Malpractices and that "Mr. Clean" is leading a nation-wide campaign against corruption.
In keeping with his image as "Mr. Clean", Abdullah should also ensure that the impending Sabah state general election is a clean, fair and honest one, that there will be no politics of money or abuse of public funds and government machinery in the state general election campaign.
Recently, Federal Ministers are more to be found in Sabah than in Peninsular Malaysia announcing a host of goodies for the people of Sabah.
Last Saturday, for instance, the Rural Development Minister Datuk Annuar Musa went to Sabah to publicly pledge that the Federal Government would immediately build 300 km of kampung roads in the state within the next 100 days, costing RM25 million and involving 227 projects and 186 contractors, including two main roads.
He even said that money was no problem, that even if the road projects are not completed fully even after all the money had been spent, the Federal Government will provide additional allocation.
This is a most blatant form of money politics, electoral bribery and misuse of public funds for a partisan electoral purpose.
The Federal Ministers can go to Sabah to help the Sabah Barisan Nasional in the state election campaigning but they should not be allowed to indulge in the worst form of money politics by announcing any allocation of public funds for development projects.
Can Abdullah as "Mr. Clean" introduce a new chapter of clean, fair and honest election campaign starting with a money politics-free Sabah state general election?