Declaration of a ten-year national objective to be ranked among the world’s five least corrupt countries in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index by 2013 would make 46th National Day most unique, meaningful and historic
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaua, Thursday): Recently, both the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had made stirring calls for an all-out war against graft and to create a culture of zero tolerance for corruption in the country.
At 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, Mahathir said that Malaysia must compare its public behaviour on national integrity with Finland, which tops the world as the least corrupt and most ethical country in the past three years in the annual TI’s Corruption Perception Index.
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.”
This is quite a tall order, for Finland had been able to maintain its position as among the world’s least corrupt nations in the annual TI Corruption Perception Index, 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.
In contrast, Malaysia had ranked poorly in the TI’s Corruption Perception Index in the past seven years, starting on the 23rd placing in the first TI Corruption Perception Index in 1995, falling to 26th in 1996 and 32nd in 1997, recovering a wee bit to 29th in 1998, again slided further to 32nd in 1999 and 36th in 2000 and 2001, improving slightly to 33rd in 2002 – which is still a far cry from the original 23rd position seven years earlier, which was denounced by Mahathir at the time as a biased and unfair ranking.
Only three days ago, Abdullah returned to the theme of public integrity and no compromise with corruption, when he 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 challenge of Mahathir that Malaysia should compare and compete with Finland on the anti-corruption front should be accepted by the Cabinet and the entire Malaysian people.
For this reason, the declaration of a ten-year national objective to be ranked among the world’s five least corrupt countries in the annual TI Corruption Perception Index by 2013 would make the 46th National Day most unique, meaningful and historic – which is clearly a loftier and nobler goal than having the tallest building, the longest bridge or the largest dam in the world.
Six years ago, there was a national effort supported both by the government and the opposition to build an all-party/NGOs national consensus against corruption in the run-up to the tabling of, debate and enactment of the Anti-Corruption Bill 1997 by Parliament to usher in a new era in the war against corruption.
This 1997 national consensus proved very short-lived, although the DAP convened two round-table conferences on corruption and the government sponsored one before the promise of spring-coming quickly turned to frosty winter.
On the threshold of the 46th National Day, Malaysians are again at a time in the nation’s history when we should decide whether we should make another new start to come to grips with the worsening problem of rampant corruption in Malaysia.
DAP calls for the rebuilding of an all-party/NGOs national consensus against corruption and towards this end, the DAP proposes to reconvene a Round-Table Conference on Corruption, tentatively on Sept. 14, where we propose to invite the Deputy Prime Minister, the Anti-Corruption Agency director-general, Dato’ Zulkipli bin Mat Noor, the first ACA director-general and former Federal Court judge, Tan Sri Harun Hashim, Transparency International Malaysia Chairman Tunku Aziz, Malaysian scholar on corruption, Prof. Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas, and other eminent Malaysians concerned about corruption, to be panellists to revisit the scourge of corruption and sketch a roadmap for Malaysia to be ranked among the world’s five least corrupt nations within a decade.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman