establish a “corruption-free” administration with Ministers spearheading
his campaign against corruption unless they establish new credentials as
in publicly declaring their assets
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): In his maiden official speech as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia in Parliament on Monday, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi pledged a “corruption-free” government that is “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion” and denounced corruption as “an odious crime”.
This is fully in keeping with Abdullah’s reputation as “Mr. Clean”. This is why his every step since being sworn in as the new Prime Minister last Friday is being scrutinized and dissected as to whether he would be able to translate his words into deeds, and avoid the failure of the previous administration which had started 22 years ago with the noble ABC slogan of “clean, trustworthy and efficient” only to be marred by the most number of financial and corruption scandals of any premiership, starting with the dizzy RM2.5 billion Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF) scandal and culminating in even greater mega-scandals like the Perwaja and Bank Negara forex speculation scandals which crossed the RM10 billion mark.
After his first Cabinet meeting yesterday, Abdullah announced that he had directed Ministers to set up a task force in their ministries to tighten procedures and reduce bureaucracy in efforts to fight corruption.
Abdullah cannot establish a “corruption-free” administration which is “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion” or win public confidence in the anti-corruption drive by just directing Ministers to spearhead his campaign against corruption when they had been singularly indifferent about public integrity for their respective Ministries the past one or even two decades unless they establish new credentials in their new-found mission against corruption.
What is the record of all these Cabinet Ministers for a clean and incorruptible administration in their respective Ministries? Many of them had not even said a single word on the subject of public integrity in all their years as Cabinet Ministers!
Even more serious in terms of public credibility for Abdullah’s new campaign for a “corruption-free” Malaysia is the fact that several of the Cabinet Ministers had not only been the object of numerous corruption reports, but also the subject of investigations by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), and the prevalent public belief that neither the ACA nor the Attorney-General’s Chambers had been independent and free enough to pursue the corruption investigations against the Ministers concerned to their proper and logical end.
Abdullah should realize that if he is to depend on his Cabinet Ministers to spearhead the new campaign for a corruption-free government which is “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion”, they must regain public confidence and be able to be held in public esteem as the new exemplars of public integrity and modest living – which they are definitely not at present.
This was why the Transparency International (TI) Malaysia National Integrity Medal award ceremony in June this year 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 was such a painful event and national embarrassment that I did not have the heart to accept the kind invitation by the TI Malaysia chapter president Tunku Abdul Aziz to the ceremony, as it was an admission and reminder that Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman’s 13-year premiership could produce two recipients from his Cabinet for the award but not a single Minister from the 22 years of Mahathir premiership.
Abdullah has asked the Ministers to work hard to fight graft but Malaysians do not want Ministers to work hard to produce a diarrhoea of speeches and statements to compete with one another as to who can make the most beautiful speeches and statements against corruption. The people want to see results so that Malaysia can reverse the relentless plunge in the international ranking for public integrity, and seriously aim to become internationally recognized as one of the world’s ten least corrupt nations.
If the present Cabinet Ministers are to play their new role as the new exemplars of public integrity in the campaign to create a new culture of zero tolerance for corruption, then it is all the more important that Abdullah should make a bold beginning by requiring all Ministers to publicly declare their assets to set an example that they are prepared to submit themselves to public scrutiny and accountability to demonstrate that their private wealth have nothing to do with their public positions and duties.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman