First step to give teeth to Abdullah’s “combat corruption” call - draw up a 10-year Anti-Corruption Action Plan to be ranked among the world’s five least corrupt countries in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index by 2013

Media Statement
y Lim Kit Siang

(PenangTuesday): Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday called for  more effective measures to curb corruption especially in the public service as out of the 1,342 people arrested for graft between 1998 and 2002, more than half were civil servants.

The time has long past in Malaysia for good speeches against corruption by government leaders, as what is urgently needed is the political will and effective action to combat corruption at all levels. 

Malaysians can still remember that seven years, Abdullah’s predecessor, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had promised a new era in the war against corruption when shepherding the Anti-Corruption Bill 1997 through Parliament, pledging to the nation: "Now is the time to act…we will catch the big ones and we will catch the small ones". 

Ironically and tragically, the only “big fish” to be caught during the 22-year Mahathir premiership was  none other than Anwar Ibrahim himself, who was convicted and jailed for six years for a corruption offence which did not involve a single sen or had anything to do with any monetary or material consideration whatsoever! Apart from Anwar, all the other ‘big fishes” escaped, together with many small fishes.

Can Malaysia make up for the seven years lost in the all-out war against corruption promised in Parliament in 1997?

The last speech made by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir  on corruption was the  Transparency International (TI)  Malaysia National Integrity Medal award ceremony on 28th June 2003  to honour posthumously Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman, Tun Tan Siew Sin and Tun Ismail Mohamed Ali for their integrity  throughout their services to the nation.  TI Malaysia could not find any Cabinet member in the 22-year premiership of Mahathir to share in such an honour!

Mahathir said that Malaysia must compare its public behaviour on national integrity  with Finland, which came out as the world’s least corrupt and most ethical country in the past three years  in the annual TI’s  Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

He said: “I know we have some way to go, but given the level of public support the Anti-Corruption Agency now enjoys, and the wide-ranging anti-corruption measures now firmly in place, we can get to be among the highest ranking countries.” 

Mahathir’s recognition of the work of TI, the global anti-corruption NGO, was most welcome for this was  the first time in seven years that he had  any good word for it or its annual CPI. 

When TI released its first CPI for 1995, placing Malaysia as No. 23 out of 41 countries, Mahathir denounced the Berlin-based organization and its CPI for their  European bias and ulterior agenda against the non-White world, asserting that  European countries were  more corrupt than any other and that if a similar watchdog group was set up in Malaysia, it would find that countries in Europe were the most corrupt! 

Mahathir’s belated recognition and commendation of TI was  all the more pertinent  as in the past seven years, Malaysia’s ranking on the TI’s CPI had  fallen well below the original 23rd placing, viz. 23rd in 1995, 26th in 1996, 32nd in 1997, 29th in 1998, 32nd in 1999,  36th in 2000  and 2001 and  33rd in 2002. 

In contrast, Finland has been able to maintain its position as among the world’s  least corrupt nations, positioned in the fourth  place  in 1995 and 1996,  moved up to second place in  1997, 1998 and  1999,  and from 2000, ranked first as the least corrupt nation in the world   for three  consecutive years to  2002.  The TI’s 2003 CPI should be released within a month. 

Yesterday was not the first speech by Abdullah on corruption, ethics and integrity in the public service in the past  year. At the  Ethics and Integrity Conference last August, Abdullah  had declared that the government possessed ample political will to eradicate  the scourge of corruption in both the public and private sectors, that “"Nothing else will do" as the Government had “zero tolerance for corruption”. 

The time has come for Abdullah to give teeth to the war against corruption, with the first step the drafting of a 10-year Anti-Corruption Action Plan to be ranked among the world’s five least corrupt countries in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index by 2013. 

The 10-year Anti-Corruption Action Plan to create  a corruption-free Malaysia and a culture of zero tolerance for corruption in the public service  should have short-term and mid-term targets, such as: 

  • To be ranked among the 25 least corrupt  nations by end of  Eighth Malaysia Plan in 2005;
  • To be ranked among the 15 least corrupt nations by Mid-Term Review of Ninth Malaysia Plan in 2008;
  • To be ranked among the 10 least corrupt nations by end of Ninth Malaysia Plan in 2010; and
  • To be ranked among the five least corrupt nations by 2013.

Abdullah should present this  10-year Anti-Corruption Action  Plan for formal debate and adoption by Parliament when it reconvenes on Sept. 2 for the 2004 Budget presentation so that it   becomes a national anti-corruption vision and mission.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman