Mahathir’s fear that “corruption might be getting to a point of no return” the most significant and worrisome statement on the gulf between rhetoric and reality of anti-corruption campaign in the past 19 months of Abdullah premiership
Media Statement (2)by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Thursday): The fear expressed by former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad that “corruption might be getting to a point of no return” is the most significant and worrisome statement on the gulf between the rhetoric and reality of the anti-corruption campaign in the past 19 months of the premiership of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Presenting the keynote address on “Social Re-engineering” for a 10-part series of discourses at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya yesterday, Dr. Mahathir warned that corruption was becoming a culture in Malaysia with more and more people no longer trying to hide the fact that they are corrupt.
Voicing his fear that corruption might one day become institutionalised, Dr Mahathir said the Government and political parties must be more serious in tackling the problem.
Dr Mahathir said political parties in the Government had to
act without fear or favour against anyone involved in corruption, including
"even the most prominent officials or persons".
The former Prime Minister said corruption was almost at the
"above the table" level, with a significant number being involved.
The message from Dr. Mahathir is sombre and bleak – that
corruption in Malaysia in the past 19 months is even worse than during his
22-year premiership ending in October 2003, confirmed by the worsening of
Malaysia’s falling another two places to 39th ranking in
Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2005 as compared to
37th ranking in 2003.
If more evidence is needed about the worsening corruption in Malaysia in the past 19 months, two further reminders should suffice:
Although any national opinion poll will show a sharp increase in disappointment with Abdullah among Malaysians and a great drop in the Prime Minister’s popularity ratings as compared to his first six months in office which led to the unprecedented Barisan Nasional general election victory in March 2004 winning over 91 per cent of parliamentary seats, Malaysians still believe that the Prime Minister is personally clean and well-meaning with good intentions.
However, if the former Prime Minister’s warning that corruption in the past 19 months is worse than the previous 22 years and that corruption in the country is “getting to a point of no return” cannot have the effect of a final wake-up call for Abdullah to stop just talking and start acting in the anti-corruption campaign, then there appears to be no hope in the immediate future that Malaysia can turn the tide in the battle against corruption.
Corruption cannot be waged by speeches alone without action. Islam Hadhari alone is also not adequate, as reflected by Dr. Mahathir’s comment: “If we have better values, this will not happen”.
Abdullah must now act, not only against the 18 “big fishes” who have enjoyed impunity so far, but initiate meaningful and effective institutional reforms to create a new culture of zero tolerance for corruption in the Malaysian political and public life with the national objective for Malaysia to join the ranks among the world’s least corrupt nations.
* Lim Kit Siang,
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman