Abdullah should immediately implement the UN Convention Against Corruption to strengthen the five pillars of a National Integrity System which are among the fundamental causes for Malaysia’s dismal international corruption index, such as a rubber-stamp Parliament, subservient ACA and muzzled media
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Wednesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi deserves commendation for his courage and frankness in admitting that Malaysia’s position on the international index (which monitors the level of corruption in countries worldwide) was not good enough and must be improved.
Abdullah made this admission in his interview with members of the Japanese media ahead of his first-ever trip to Japan since becoming Prime Minister on Oct 31 and said:
"We have to prove that we are incorruptible. That's the only way we can build our credibility, improve our image and become more attractive for investments and trade."
Abdullah’s statement that he is prepared to adjust policies if the need arises and that the government has to be dynamic, “nothing is cast in stone that cannot be changed”, holds out promise and hope that his declaration of war against corruption may produce results – provided he does not continue as the lone man, as if it is one man versus the system, to create an incorruptible administration with others in Cabinet and government merely giving lip-service support.
Malaysia suffers from two problems with regard to our international corruption index, firstly, that we are not only behind developed countries in the world rating like the first ten least corrupt nations in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2003, viz. Finland, Iceland, Denmark, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Switzerland and Canada but we are also behind other developing countries like Oman, Bahrain, Cyprus, Slovenia, Botswana, Qatar and Estonia.
Secondly, Malaysia’s TI CPI had fallen 14 places in the nine years between 1995 to 2003, while we have not been able to match the CPI score in the first two years of 1995 and 1996, as illustrated from the following table:
CPI Score relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people, academics and risk analysts, and ranges between 10 (highly clean) and 0 (highly corrupt).
Abdullah’s open, frank and courageous admission should end the denial syndrome of Barisan Nasional component parties like Gerakan, Cabinet Ministers like the Primary Industries Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik and top government servants like the Chief Secretary Tan Sri Samsudin Osman who had been burying their heads in the sand in expressing satisfaction with Malaysia’s international corruption index.
I hope Ministers and government leader will henceforth banish the attitude that Malaysia’s international corruption index is satisfactory but with room for improvement and replace it with the courageous admission that Malaysia’s ranking is poor and must be improved!
In the first 40 days of Abdullah as the new Prime Minister, the issue of corruption has taken centre stage in the country. The other side of the coin in the issue of corruption is accountability, transparency and integrity.
What must be done now is to fulfil Abdullah’s pledge of a “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion” administration and identify the causes for Malaysia’s dismal international corruption index.
Abdullah should immediately implement the UN Convention Against Corruption currently being ratified in Mexico to strengthen the five pillars of a National Integrity System which are among the fundamental causes for Malaysia’s dismal international corruption index, such as lack of political will, a rubber-stamp Parliament, a subservient ACA and muzzled media
The following five pillars of a National Integrity System in Malaysia which must be given immediate national priority are:
In being a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption at the three-day convention-signing ceremony currently going on in Merida, Mexico, Malaysia has assumed international commitments and obligations that all these five pillars of a National Integrity System would be fully in place to combat corruption and promote integrity and accountability.
Abdullah should immediately set up a Cabinet task force with representation from opposition parties and the civil society to fully implement Malaysia’s commitments and obligations under the UN Convention Against Corruption, in particular to strengthen the above-mentioned five pillars of a National Integrity System.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman