Royal Address that corruption is not prevalent in the country contradicts BN public admission during 2004 general election that its  government  was corrupt and rotten to the core

Speech (Part 5)
in the debate on the Motion of Thanks for  the Royal Address
by Lim Kit Siang

(Dewan Rakyat, Thursday): The statement in the Royal Address that “corruption is not prevalent in this country” is very shocking, especially as during the recent 2004 general election campaign, the Barisan Nasional had made a public admission and confession that the government was corrupt and “rotten to the core”. 

I have here the full-page advertisement taken out by the Barisan Nasional in all the Chinese newspapers on 16th March 2004 during the election campaign confessing that the government was  “corrupt and rotten to the core…with no aspect of life untainted by corruption”, that “down the years, only Pak Lah dare to declare an all-out war against corruption, and that he is just and stern like Justice Bao”. The advertisement ended with the Barisan Nasional  pledging  to “Defend the People” by ensuring  “a clean and transparent” nation for the people and future generations.  

How can the Barisan Nasional now be trusted when two months after publicly admitting and confessing that its  government was “corrupt and rotten to the core…with no aspect of life untainted by corruption”, the government could come to Parliament to claim innocence and  make the policy statement that “corruption is not prevalent in this country”? 

I call on the Prime Minister to declare why the Barisan Nasional had taken out  the full-page  advertisements in all the Chinese newspapers on 16th March 2004 as part of the general election campaign admitting that the government was “corrupt and rotten to the core”, pledging a total clean-up, and yet could renege on this statement two months later, to justify inaction or low-keyed action in the fight against corruption? 

This flip-flop of position between the full-page advertisements in all the Chinese newspapers and the Royal Address statement yesterday  totally contradicting each other on the question of corruption in a matter of two months has only reinforced doubts as to whether Abdullah could “walk the talk” in an  all-out war against corruption -  “without fear or favour”. 

This is why I have considerable reservations about the National Integrity Plan launched by the Prime Minister last month as to whether it would make any contribution to create a new culture of national integrity with zero tolerance for corruption by political and public leaders and to fulfil the Barisan Nasional general election pledge for a clean, incorruptible and trustworthy government. 

The drafting and launching of a national integrity plan does not per se make a country clean and incorruptible or set it  on the path of greater integrity, as many countries have become even more corrupt despite the launch of national integrity plans or  codes of ethics.  

Bolivia is one example.  In 1998, it launched its National Integrity Plan.  In 1998, Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Bolivia 69 out of 85 countries with a score 2.8; which progressively worsened, as illustrated as follows:


                     Rank               Score

1998               69 (85)            2.8
1999               81 (99)            2.5
2000              71(90)              2.7
2001               85 (91)            2.0
2002               89(102)           2.2
2003            106(133)            2.3

Will Malaysia follow in the footsteps of Bolivia, of getting even worse TI CP after the launch of the National Integrity Plan?

We have had numerous  examples, such as the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994 which was not only a dead letter but became a farce when the person responsible for its drafting and launch was also the person responsible for plunging public confidence, both national and international, in the system of justice, rule of law and an independent judiciary to the country’s nadir since Merdeka in 1957.

The  National Integrity Plan is full of beautiful and noble sentiments.  It is  important that it should not end up like the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994 or the Bolivian National Integrity Plan 1998,  not only as a “dead letter” but a farce because of the wide divide between promise and practice. 

The  most important part of the National Integrity Plan  is in page 22 on its five-year plan from 2004-2008 to achieve the target of improving Malaysia’s 37th  placing in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index  (CPI) 2003 to 30th place, i.e. improvement of seven placings in five years. 

I find this target most disappointing. Malaysia has the much-boasted “Malaysia Boleh” spirit in many fields, but in fighting corruption, the standard attitude appears to be “Malaysia Ta” Boleh”! 

Malaysia had fallen 14 places in nine years from 23rd ranking in 1995 to 37th placing last year in the TI CPI. If Malaysia really believes in “Malaysia Boleh”, there is no reason why the government cannot accept the DAP proposal submitted in a memorandum to the Anti-Corruption Agency in August last year  for a ten-year action plan for the country to be ranked among the world’s ten least corrupt nations in the annual TI CPI. 

There are many major flaws in the National Integrity Plan.   Although both Abdullah and the Chief Secretary, Tan Sri Samsudin Osman  had spoken about the Plan being a holistic approach to deal with the problem of corruption, it is not holistic in many aspects, such as: 

  • No reference to the need for an independent, impartial and informed judiciary and its contribution to a just, honest, open and accountable government.
  • Total silence about the critical role of a free and independent media, and the importance of the right to  information, as without information, there is no accountability; without accountability, there is no integrity.

I had made three  proposals to Abdullah during tea break at the launching of the NIP, viz:

  • That the United Nations Convention Against Corruption 2003 which Malaysia ratified at the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in Mexico last December should be presented and formally ratified by Parliament, to underline the message that the campaign against corruption is a national campaign directly involving Parliament and all stakeholders of the society.  Abdullah responded positively to this proposal and I hope that he would personally table the parliamentary motion to ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption in this  meeting of the Dewan Rakyat, followed by a wide-ranging debate on the National Integrity Plan.
  • That there should be a  Code of Ethics for all MPs and State Assembly members, as such a Code should  not be treated as an internal party affair, as national integrity must be regarded as an issue which transcends party politics.  Public  asset declarations by elected representatives could emulate the example of New Zealand, United Kingdom and other countries where their legislatures maintain a register of the declaration of  financial interests and assets of members which are public documents open to public scrutiny.  Samsuddin favourably mentioned my proposal in his subsequent  presentation of NIP, and I also hope this proposal could take concrete shape in the current meeting of Parliament.
  • Establishment of a Parliamentary Committee on National Integrity to spearhead a  national campaign against corruption.



* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman