Abdullah must  demonstrate stronger political will to imprint his priorities on the system or  the next 12 months are going to be an even more  difficult year  for him to fulfill his pledges of a clean, incorruptible, efficient, accountable, trustworthy and people-oriented government

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Parliament House, Saturday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi must demonstrate stronger political will to imprint his priorities on the system or  the next 12 months are going to be an even more  difficult year  for him to fulfill his pledges on becoming the fifth Prime Minister a year ago and in the March general election of a clean, incorruptible, efficient, accountable, trustworthy and people-oriented government. 

Four recent international indicators in the past one month must serve as somber reminders that while Abdullah has raised sky-high public hopes and expectations of a radical change from the past 22-year Mahathir administration, particularly with regard to an open, accountable, trustworthy,  incorrupt, efficient and competent  government, little that is  substantive in terms of institutional and structural changes had been achieved in Abdullah’s first year in office.  

In fact, there are concerns that in some important areas, Malaysia had in fact gone backwards, as illustrated in these four recent international indices in the past one month, viz: 

  • the adverse  Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2004 where Malaysia suffered the double whammy of falling two spots in the CPI ranking  from last year’s 37th  to 39th of 146 countries as well as a lower CPI score of 5.0 out of 10 as compared to 5.2 last year;
  • Malaysia dropping two ranks from 29 to 31 in the Global Competitiveness Report 2004 among 104 countries published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which is accepted as a leading authority in the assessment of the competitiveness of nations.
  • Malaysia dropping 18 places in the Third Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2004 by the international press organization, Reporters sans Frontier (RSF), from 104th ranking last year to 122th out of 167 countries – lower than Indonesia, which had caught up and outpaced Malaysia from last year’s 117th to 110th position.
  • Malaysia plummeting 75 positions from No. 8 to No. 83 ranking in the global study on e-government in the fourth annual e-government survey by Rhodes Island-based Brown University.  Malaysia was ranked 16th in 2001 and 21st in 2002.

It is most likely that conditions will get worse rather than better with the passage of time for the fulfillment of Abdullah’s pledges of a clean, incorruptible, efficient, accountable, trustworthy and people-oriented government. 

It is most shocking for instance that no Cabinet Minister or Barisan Nasional leader apart from Abdullah seems to be concerned or bothered about the adverse 2004 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, as if the challenge of a clean and incorruptible government is no business of theirs but the personal hobby horse of the Prime Minister!  This must be why despite Abdullah’s repeated pledge for a clean and incorruptible administration, he could not prevent the scandal of the worst money politics in the history of UMNO party elections last month followed by an equally scandalous “Datuk politics” with 84 new Datuks conferred by a small state like Malacca. 

Similarly, there had been no high-level Cabinet or Barisan Nasional concern about the 18-place drop of Malaysia’s ranking in the RSF’s 2004 Worldwide Press Freedom Index, when freedom of the press and information play such a critical role in fighting corruption and ensuring accountability, transparency and good governance. 

There can be no doubt that if Malaysia had improved by a single placing whether in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index or the RSF Worldwide Press Freedom Index, this would be the front-page headline news as well as leading radio and television news for days!  The very fact that these adverse international indicators have been  ignored or buried away is the strongest evidence that Malaysia, under Abdullah after one year, has still to regain its status as a normal country! 

Although in Opposition, I for one, for the national interest, would want Abdullah to succeed in his  far-reaching reform programme to repair the ravages wrought  to good governance by two decades of concentration and abuses  of power at the expense of a clean, incorruptible, accountable, transparent,  trustworthy, just  and democratic government.  Abdullah can be assured of Opposition and popular support if he is prepared to trample on the vested interests of the powers-that-be to keep his pledges of clean, just and good governance. 

On the occasion of Abdullah’s first anniversary as Prime Minister, it would be more  productive to focus on how the Cabinet, Parliament and the  civil society can pool their resources to ensure more conducive conditions in the next 12 months  to launch a meaningful fight against corruption, injustices and inequalities, with an  incorruptible civil service and a free  media operating under a Freedom  of Information Act. Otherwise there may not be much to celebrate on the occasion of Abdullah’s second anniversary as Prime Minister next October.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman