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Intolerable affront to national integrity system and Abdullah’s campaign of zero tolerance for corruption in public service for Isa to remain a single day as Cabinet Minister when he has to relinquish all UMNO posts for the crime of money politics and corruption
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Wednesday): It is an intolerable affront to the national integrity system that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi wants to establish and his campaign of zero tolerance for corruption in the public service for Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad to remain a single day as Cabinet Minister when he has to relinquish all UMNO posts because he had been found guilty of money politics and corruption by the UMNO Disciplinary Board.
Chairman of UMNO Disciplinary Board Tengku Ahmad Rithaudeen Tengku Ismail stressed that “The punishment must commensurate with the crime” when asked by reporters on Monday on the six-year suspension of UMNO membership meted out to Isa.
Can we have a system whereby a person is regarded as not even fit to be an ordinary party member for six years because of money-politics and corruption and must relinquish all UMNO party posts, but is still regarded as suitable to continue as Federal Territories Minister and be held out internationally as one of the nation’s top leaders even for a single day?
There is only one honourable option under the circumstances for all parties concerned as well as for the government and the nation – i.e. for Isa to immediately relinquish all his positions in Government, including Federal Territories Minister (whether by himself resigning or be removed by the Prime Minister), with the clear understanding that he could be re-appointed back to the Cabinet if he succeeds subsequently in overturning his conviction by the UMNO Disciplinary Board for the grave offences of money politics and political corruption.
Abdullah should act decisively on this matter to establish a proper precedent and lay out the “best practices” to deal with all future cases in similar circumstances, whether involving Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Chief Ministers, Mentris Besar or State Exco Members.
The greatest disappointment of the Isa episode is the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA). Although the ACA director-general Datuk Seri Zulkipli Mat Noor said on Sunday that the agency has the jurisdiction to investigate cases involving political corruption without a complaint being lodged, the ACA had been exposed as “a toothless tiger” even after UMNO leaders have openly admitted that money politics and corruption in the UMNO party elections last September was the worst case in six decades of UMNO history.
Last week, former Deputy Prime Minister and UMNO Deputy President, Tun Ghafar Baba, went public and lamented that money politics in UMNO elections for a Supreme Council position was not merely RM1,000 or RM2,000, RM1 million or RM2 million, but ranged from RM10 million to RM50 million! (Sin Chew 19.6.05). Ghafar did not mention the stakes involved in UMNO Vice President elections, leaving it to everyone’s imagination when for Supreme Council posts alone, RM10 million to RM50 million could be spent by a candidate to buy votes to secure election.
Unless the ACA can bestir from its slumber and swing into action to produce results in arrests, prosecutions and convictions in court over the worst case of money politics and political corruption in six decades of UMNO history, Zulkipli has become a liability to ACA and Abdullah’s campaign of zero tolerance for corruption among political leaders and public officers and he should be replaced with a new ACA director-general fully committed to spearhead an all-out war against corruption in the country.