ACA’s role and ability to arrest and prosecute the “big fishes” responsible for the “worst money politics” in history of UMNO party elections the acid test as to whether Abdullah’s war against corruption will continue to  remain at the level of rhetorics degenerating into “cakap tidak serupa bikin”

on the Prime Minister’s Department during the Committee Stage debate of the 2005 Budget
by Lim Kit Siang

(Dewan Rakyat, Thursday): In the week between July 15 – 21, 2004, the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research in collaboration with the Institut Kajian Malaysia dan Antarabangsa (IKMAS) Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia  conducted a nation-wide post-election opinion poll. 

Reflecting on the campaign themes and messages of the March 21, 2004 general elections, the over 1,000 respondents were asked how well they felt the ruling coalition was keeping to its  promises with respect to fighting corruption.


Overall, the post-election opinion poll found that a 56% majority of the respondents report that the Barisan Nasional  was doing a “moderate” job as compared to 10% who perceived that it was keeping to a high degree of its election promises. A remainder of 22% remarked negatively. It was found that those above 55, as well as those in the upper most income bracket were most likely to report in the positive while those with middle income tended to be moderate in their views.


The respondents were asked how they felt about the extent of the fight against corruption, who they felt would be most affected, either VIPs or nondescript civil servants.  The responses were: 38% felt that only “small fish” would be caught, 28% felt that “big fish” would be apprehended while 21% said both would be affected.


I believe that if the opinion poll is conducted now, the results would be quite different, with an even  higher percentage of the 38% of the respondents who felt in July that only “small fish” would be caught – especially after  the “worst money politics” in  the history of UMNO party elections last week.


In fact,  the role and ability of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA)  to arrest and prosecute the “big fishes” responsible for the “worst money politics” in history of UMNO party elections has become an  acid test as to whether the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s  war against corruption will continue to  remain at the level of rhetorics.  degenerating into “cakap tidak serupa bikin”.


It is not the DAP which is saying that the recent UMNO party elections for UMNO Vice President and UMNO Supreme Council is the worst in UMNO history, but UMNO leaders themselves – describing the phenomenon where Christmas came three months earlier, where UMNO delegates were given “wang upah” tambahan, and which had also be described as “curahan wang” and “hujan salji”,  ranging from RM1,000, RM2,000 to RM3,000 on the night before the party elections - which could easily total tens and even hundreds of millions of ringgit for the entire UMNO party elections.


The Information Minister Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, for instance, has described  the Sept. 23 UMNO party election as “the worst case of money politics in the 34 years he had held national-level positions in the party”, making it the worst in UMNO party history. The Minister for Agriculture, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yasin, like other top UMNO leaders, openly admitted that money politics is “an open secret”.


What is most significant and ominous is that no top UMNO leader had categorically denied that recent UMNO party elections had been corrupted by money politics – only voices either asking  for evidence as proof or like from the surprise top UMNO Vice President vote-getter, Tan Sri Mohamad Isa, that everybody should stop talking about money politics in the UMNO party elections, as if stop talking about the worst money politics in the UMNO party elections can wipe out the worst political party corruption in the country.


The UMNO MP for Kota Bahru Zaid Ibrahim had said last week that it is wrong to assume that every UMNO delegate is involved in money politics, and that he had not received a single sen.  I believe him and I am sure that there are also many UMNO delegates and leaders who are not involved in money politics – which among other things explain for the defeat of some of them, whether for Vice President or UMNO Supreme Council elections.


That not all UMNO leaders and delegates were involved in money politics does not detract from the gravity and  the rampant nature of money politics in the recent UMNO party elections,  especially at a time when UMNO, as the backbone of the ruling coalition, should be setting an example of integrity and incorruptibility not only to other Barisan Nasional component parties but to the rest of society, in particular the civil service, the private sector and the civil society.


There are increasing calls, the latest from the Pahang Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Adnan Yaakub, that corruption and money politics in UMNO is an internal UMNO affair and no business even of the ACA. 


This is most shocking  claim and must be repudiated by Parliament, the government and the civil society in the strongest possible terms – for corruption, such as UMNO money politics, undermines the very fabric of national integrity of the Malaysian nation and makes complete nonsense of the National Integrity Plan to create a new culture of zero tolerance for corruption.


Ministers have said that the ACA could only investigate if someone lodges an official report – but Malaysians are aware that ACA had in the past itself lodged reports to allow it to initiate corruption investigations, the most notorious being the ACA report in connection with the statutory declaration by the former Bank Negara assistant governor Datuk Abdul Murad Khalid  dated 26th October 1999 alleging that former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had amassed a fortune of RM3 billion while in government through 20 "Master Accounts". What has happened to these  ACA investigations to prove that it is not just another case of abuse of power and political victimization and persecution – but that is another matter.


The question I want to pose is why ACA could not, on the basis of very widespread reports about money politics in the UMNO party elections particularly in the mainstream media, itself lodge an official report to open investigations?


The excuse that if there is no proof, nothing could be done against corruption is also the standard excuse of all corrupt regimes and administrations to justify inaction against corruption – which had been the stance of Malaysia in the past two decades and it should not be used as an excuse by the administration of a new Prime Minister dedicated to deliver a clean, incorruptible, accountable and transparent government where there would be no room for the corrupt, the inefficient and the self-servers.


In his reply to my speech during the policy stage of the budget debate, warning that Malaysia should not end up like Bolivia which became even more corrupt after the publication of a National Integrity Plan, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz tried to make a distinction by claiming  that Bolivia’s National Integrity Plan was more specific in being an anti-corruption plan while Malaysia’s National Integrity Plan is more comprehensive and holistic.


I have studied Bolivia’s National Integrity Plan and there is no doubt that Bolivia’s National Integrity Plan is more comprehensive and holistic, even pinpointing on the need for integrity in the Judiciary, which is conspicuously avoided in Malaysia’s National Integrity Plan.


This  is another case of a growing list of examples where Ministers have been given the wrong advice to come to Parliament to make  incorrect or inaccurate statements.  Yesterday, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Co-operatives, Samsu Baharun Abdul Rahman committed the major blunder demonstrating that he not only did not understand his subject but did not understand what he was reading out as his Ministry’s reply to points by MPs  raised during the debate.


I had raised the issue of renewal of commercial vehicle licensing affecting companies without bumiputra participation, as there was the announcement yesterday morning about the cancellation of the requirement for 30 per cent bumiputra participation in companies operating commercial vehicles. In  his reply late last night however, Samsu gave a flat denial that there was such a cancellation.  What was most ridiculous was that at the end of his speech, Samsu finally read out the prepared portion confirming the cancellation of the requirement – showing that he had not only failed to do his homework but simply did not understand what he was reading out in Parliament!


The Prime Minister should suspend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Co-operatives as a lesson to all other front-benchers to be competent and efficient.


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