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Neither new policy initiatives nor any legislative programme for Abdullah to “walk the talk” to begin to deliver his pledges of an efficient, clean, incorruptible, accountable, transparent, just, democratic and progressive administration which is overdue by 40 months
(Dewan Rakyat, Wednesday) : As the third annual policy speech of the Abdullah premiership, the Royal Address is a disappointment as it offered neither new policy initiatives nor any legislative programme for the delivery of the Prime Minister’s pledges of an efficient, clean, incorruptible, accountable, transparent, just, democratic and progressive administration which is overdue by 40 months.
Last week, I had publicly urged the Prime Minister to come personally to Parliament on Question Time yesterday to answer the question asking him “to give a progress report on his reform pledges in the past 40 months, highlighting the reasons for the failures/shortfalls and how he could assure Malaysians disappointed that he had failed to ‘walk the talk’ on his reform agenda”.
This is because of the widespread and deep disappointments among Malaysians at the failure of the Prime Minister to live up to the high hopes of Malaysians to “walk the talk” to honour the pledges of reform agenda he had made when coming into office.
This question was “personal to holder” and could only be answered by the Prime Minister himself, as it concerns the pledges he had made when he became Prime Minister and during the 2004 general election for which he won an unprecedented 91% parliamentary majority. It could not be delegated to another Cabinet Minister, whether the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz or even the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
But this was not to be. Although Abdullah urged Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club (BNBBC) members on Monday to perform "something extraordinary" to bring back the glory days of parliamentarians in line with the country's 50th anniversary celebrations this year, no return of such “glory days” is conceivable firstly, when the Barisan Nasional has a suffocating 91% parliamentary majority and secondly, the Prime Minister stays away from Parliament even on questions directed at him personally.
I believe that the four previous Prime Ministers, from Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein Onn and Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad would not have stayed away from Parliament and delegated away the answer to such a “personal to holder” question.
The Prime Minister’s absence is most telling – for it is as good as an admission that he has very little to show to Parliament and the nation about honouring his reform pledges and agenda in the past 40 months – or he would not have allowed any other Minister to answer the question.
When the Prime Minister absents himself from Parliament on such a specific question, it is an indication that no satisfactory answer is forthcoming. But the answer by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz, is even more disappointing in totally ignoring the specific reform pledges and agenda promised by Abdullah when he became Prime Minister and during the 2004 general election – as if they simply did not exist.
This was why I had protested during my supplementary question that Nazri could not just wish away Abdullah’s reform pledges and agenda as if they do not exist, likening Nazri’s attempt to do akin to that of a political David Copperfield – but which was misunderstood by Nazri and some media as referring to the Prime Minister.
Last week, the Prime Minister emerged from a meeting of the Barisan Nasional Supreme council and announced “Mission 2057” to ensure continued development in all aspects since independence and after Vision 2020 had been achieved. He said "Mission 2057" (Misi 2057) would become the development guideline for another 50 years.
It sounded a rather tall tale that the BN Supreme Council could meet to take the policy decision to formulate Mission 2057, when it is not only dubious that Vision 2020 could be achieved but very clear that Abdullah’s Mission 2004 is heading towards a big flop.
Before Abdullah trots out Mission 2057 about Malaysia in another half-a-century, he should deliver Mission 2004 which he had promised in the 2004 general election to lead an efficient, clean, incorruptible, accountable, transparent, just, democratic and progressive administration which is prepared to hear the truth from the people.
I had hoped that three areas would be top priority in the government’ policy initiatives and legislation programme for the coming year if Abdullah is to redeem his failures in the past 40 months to “walk the talk” of reform agenda and to retain credibility and even legitimacy for his unprecedented 91% parliamentary majority in the March 2004 general election.
Firstly, on the anti-corruption front.
When he became the fifth Prime Minister in November 2003, Abdullah pledged to make anti-corruption the top agenda and proclaimed “zero tolerance for corruption”.
To mark the first three months of his premiership, Abdullah reiterated in an interview with senior editors of major newspapers his priority commitment to change the mindset of Malaysians to match the country’s first-class infrastructure with a first-class mentality, including the eradication of public and private sector corruption.
On his first 100 days as Prime Minister, Abdullah declared in his address to the Cambridge Foundation on 10th February 2004: “My first 100 days was my statement of intent. Now we get to work and walk the talk.”
However, after the unprecedented 91% parliamentary majority victory in the March 2004 general election, Abdullah had forgotten his declaration of “zero tolerance for corruption” or his pledge to make the fight against corruption as the top priority of his administration, as his “statement of intent” of his first 100 days remained mere “statement of intent” for the next 1,136 days till today without any “walk the talk” whatsoever.
Some 40 months after Abdullah’s pledge to “walk the talk” to eradicate corruption, Malaysia is faced with the worst crisis of national integrity in the 40-year history of the Anti-Corruption Agency and 50-year history of the nation, with a spate of corruption scandals in the past two weeks, viz:
Internationally, Malaysia’s anti-corruption perception had been on a downward spiral ever since Abdullah’s takeover as Prime Minister.
Only last week, there was more bad news for Malaysia and Abdullah’s 40-month premiership.
The Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) 2007 corruption table in Asia, which is released every year based on a poll of expatriates working in Asia on their perceptions on corruption, is bad and grim news for all Malaysians concerned about national integrity, good governance and international competitiveness.
In a grading system with zero as the best possible score and 10 as the worst, Malaysia was ranked sixth in Asia with a score of 6.25 by PERC Corruption Asia 2007.
In 1996, Malaysia was ranked No. 4 with a score of 5, a reflection of the relentless deterioration of the corruption problem in the country over the years.
As the PERC annual corruption ranking is one of the polls used by Transparency International (TI) for its annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI), this is very bad news as the PERC 2007 Corruption Table is a forewarning that Malaysia is heading south towards No. 50 placing in TI CPI 2007 on the occasion of Malaysia’s 50th Merdeka anniversary this year.
In the past four years, Malaysia’s ranking on the TI CPI had already dropped seven places from No. 37 in 2003 to No. 44 in 2006 – making nonsense of the National Integrity Plan launched by Abdullah in May 2004 with its objective for Malaysia to achieve at least No. 30 ranking within five years, i.e. by next year 2008!
There are many grim warnings from the 2007 PERC Corruption Table (Asia) that Malaysia is losing out in our international competitiveness because of our failure to enhance our good governance indicators, particularly in the war against corruption.
It will not be long before Malaysia slips further in the Asian and international corruption rankings, as we are also losing out to China and India.
In 1996, China was ranked the No.12 in Asia with a score of 8, but it has now leapt to No. 7, breathing down the neck of Malaysia, with a score of 6.29, only 0.04 marginally less than Malaysia’s score of 6.25. India was ranked No. 8 with a score of 6.86 in 1996, and although it is ranked No. 9, its score has improved to 6.67, or 0.42 behind Malaysia.
If Malaysia does not pull up our bootstraps in the fight against corruption, we will soon be losing out to China and India – and it must be regarded as a national shame and tragedy if in any future international corruption ranking, Malaysia is regarded as so corrupt as even to lose out to China and India!
Parliament must seriously address and debate the worst corruption crisis in the nation’s history, eroding public confidence in the integrity of institutions mandated to fight corruption, like the ACA.
In the past 39 years, the ACA had been regarded as a “paper tiger”, with only power to go after the “ikan bilis” but not after the “ikan yu’s”even in the Abdullah administration as proven by the disappearance of the 18 “big fishes” which had escaped into the “high seas”.
A fundamental line has now been crossed by the ACA, when public doubts and skepticism are no more confined to its effectiveness or impotence to deal with the “high-profile”corrupt despite the worsening corruption problem in the country as reflected by the 21-place drop from No. 23 to No. 44 in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index in the past 12 years from 1995 to 2006.
For the first time in its 40-year history, public doubts and skepticism about the ACA have now extended to its very core purpose, the heart and soul of ACA on its integrity and incorruptibility. – with the ACA Director-General himself alleged to be guilty of corruption.
This has been aggravated by the farce illustrated by the following scenario:
Question One: Who is investigating the serious corruption allegations against the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) Director-General Datuk Seri Zulkipli Mat Noor?
Question Two: Who is investigating the serious corruption allegations against Deputy Internal Security Minister, Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum of the EO “freedom for sale” corruption?
Question Three: Will the ACA on the one hand and the Police and Internal Security Ministry on the other scratch each other’s back and exonerate one another?
Who can give a categorical answer in the negative? In fact, will the majority of Malaysians give “Yes” instead of “No” to the question?
Unless the answer to Question Three is in the categorical negative for all or the overwhelming majority of Malaysians, then Malaysia has a very serious integrity question about the institutions in the country mandated to fight corruption and uphold law and order – the ACA, the Police, the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
If Abdullah is serious about honouring his “zero-tolerance for corruption” pledge, there should at least be three policy initiatives in the Royal Address to give concrete form to his commitment to combat corruption, viz:
But there was none of these government initiatives although the Royal Address did emphasise that “efforts to instill integrity and eliminate corruption and abuse of power must be intensified”. After the unprecedented 91% parliamentary majority in the March 2004 general election and 40 months, the time for “statement of intent” is long past and it is time for action and results.
The ACA did not act independently and professionally when it did a most unusual thing in releasing selectively information to exonerate its director-general by revealing details of Zulkipli’s various declaration of assets in public service – when the serious corruption allegations against Zulkipli was being investigated by the police.
This reminds me of my query to the ACA in July 2005 why it had failed to take action in the case of the former Sabah Chief Minister and Federal Minister for Land and Co-operatives, Datuk Seri Osu Sukam, in its investigations as to how he could have amassed such astronomical wealth as to gamble RM158.7 million, lose RM31.6 million and run up RM7.1 million debts in a London casino a year after political retirement, apart from bigger gambling debts in other casinos as well as in other countries like Australia.
I had pointed out that in Osu Sukam’s 15 years in various public offices from Deputy Works Minister in 1986 to Sabah Chief Minister 1999-2001, Osu would have at least made four declarations of his assets to the Prime Minister.
All these four declaration of assets to the Prime Minister should be the basis on which the ACA should launch a thorough investigation as to whether Osu had corruptly and illegally amassed such astronomical wealth as to enable him to gamble hundreds of millions of ringgit in various casinos in London and Australia a year after his political retirement.
Or are declarations of assets whether by political leaders in government or top government officers so unsatisfactory and defective that they are worthless tools in the battle to promote national integrity and combat corruption? This is why the efficacy of assets declarations by government leaders, whether political or civil servant, should also be a subject of a Royal Commission Inquiry.
Now erosion of public confidence in the integrity of institutions have spread further to include the Parliamentary Select Committee on Integrity, as a result of its majority decision yesterday to cancel the hearings for Zullkipli and Ramli earlier scheduled for tomorrow.
I am barred from parliamentary standing orders from disclosing what transpired at yesterday’s Select Committee meeting, but there is no hiding my deep disappointment and the adverse public reactions to the latest developments. As I said on my blog, I am mulling over whether I should continue to sit on the Parliamentary Select Committee on Integrity.
The second front where I had hoped there new policy initiatives would be announced in the Royal Address is on police reform and in particular to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) with the announcement that the bill for its formation would be taken through all three readings in the current meeting of Parliament in view of the worsening crime index as well as repeated blows to public confidence in the ability of the police to implement the 125 recommendations of the Royal Police Commission to become an efficient, incorruptible, professional world-class police service to combat crime, uphold law and order and respect human rights.
The crime index in the country has worsened from 156,315 cases in 2003 to 226,836 cases in 2006 – a sharp rise of 45.1% in the past three years when the police force had set the target of reducing the crime index by five per cent each year!
In the past three years, violent crime had skyrocketed by 85.8 per cent from 22,790 cases in 2003 to 42,343 cases in 2006, with rape cases registering the highest increase of 65.5 per cent – reaching an average of 6.7 women raped daily in 2006 compared to an average of four women raped daily in 2003. In 2003, an average of 1.5 persons were murdered daily; but in 2006, this has increased to an average of 1.65 persons murdered daily.
I want to remind the Prime Minister of his pledge 40 months ago that one of his top priorities would be to reduce crime to restore to Malaysians their fundamental right to be free from crime and the fear of crime, whether in the streets, public places or the privacy of their homes? Today, Malaysians feel even more unsafe from crime than when he became Prime Minister.
Abdullah had been the Minister in charge of police for the past seven years and it is time he take full personal responsibility for the worsening crime situation in the country by providing personal leadership in the campaign to reduce crime – starting by ending all the procrastinations in the establishment of the IPCMC to create an efficient, incorruptible, professional and world-class Police Service.
The police’s losing war against crime was vividly highlighted last month by the killing of the former top crime buster, former Penang Chief Police Officer, Datuk Albert Mah and the burglary of the house of former CID director Datuk Fauzi Shaari in Shah Alam.
Mah, former Member of Parliament, 82, would have lived a fit and active life for at least another ten years if he had not been mown down last month as the latest victim of an escalating crime wave in the country.
It is tragic that the former top crime-buster should end his life as the latest statistic as a victim of crime.
This was not the way for a former top-crime buster and former CPO to die – making a mockery of his commitment and dedication at the prime of his life to combat crime and make the country safe for all Malaysians.
The clear message of Mah’s tragic and senseless killing is that no one, , whether ordinary Malaysian, VIP or VVIP, is safe in Malaysia anymore, whether in the streets, public places or the privacy of the home. If a former top crime buster and ex-CPO could killed so senselessly in the privacy of his home, who is safe in Malaysia?
The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan, who said Mah was his former boss and mentor, had announced that a task force had been formed to hunt down the five assailants believed to be foreigners. What had the task force achieved?
Malaysians want the killers of Mah to be hunted down and brought to justice. But they also want all the criminals responsible for the 604 cases of murder, 2,435 cases of rape, 68 cases of armed gang robbery, 2,658 cases unarmed gang robbery, 247 cases of armed robbery and 18,446 cases of unarmed robbery last year to be hunted down and brought to justice. Will there be a task force each to solve these grave violent crimes?
The Royal Police Commission in its report in May 2005 said that the Royal Malaysian Police had been unsuccessful in projecting a positive image of itself to the people, describing public confidence in the police as “very low”.
It said: “The qualities many in the public and business see in the PDRM are the antithesis of all that PDRM aspires to be. PDRM is generally viewed as inefficient, uncaring, unable to prevent or check crime and corruption to a significant degree. Concerns regarding infringements and abuse of human rights are extensive, and PDRM is not seen as being transparent or accountable to the public.”
Nothing has changed. If anything, public perception and confidence of the police have reached an all-time low.
The Police Royal Commission called for the highest priority to be given to a campaign against crime until crime levels have reached a point considered no longer alarming. It recommended “as an immediate measure, the PDRM should target a minimum of 20 per cent decrease in the number of crimes committed for each category within 12 months of this Report’s acceptance and implementation” – i.e. by May 2006.
Instead of a 20 per cent decrease in the crime index in the first 12 months of the Royal Police Commission Report, there was a 85.8 per cent increase of violent crime in the past three years, from 22,790 cases in 2003 to 42,343 cases in 2006!
Last August, the former and longest-serving Inspector-General of Police, Tun Hanif Omar who held the top police post for two decades from June 1974 – January 1994, in his Sunday Star column “Point of View” on “Crime and our guality of life”, wrote about what has become commonplace in Malaysia – the prevalent fear about personal safety whether of oneself or one’s loved ones in the streets and public places. He described how he and his family were also afraid of their personal safety in the streets and public places.
Do we need to have another VIP and VVIP death whether in government or police, as a result of being victim of crime, before the police is momentarily stirred into action, only to be quickly forgotten shortly after?
What Malaysians want is a comprehensive plan for an efficient, incorruptible, professional world-class police service committed to reduce crime and make the streets, public places and homes safe again for Malaysians, visitors and investors – as recommended by the Royal Police Commission.
Is the Police and Government prepared to find the political will to ensure that Mah’s death marks the lowest point of police credibility in the battle against crime?
Let Mah not die in vain. Let Mah’s death stir the Prime Minister and the Police out of the inertia of the former and the opposition of the latter to establish the IPCMC as the key proposal to create a world-class police service with the triple objectives of reducing crime, root out corruption and respect human rights in Malaysia.
The RM5.5 million EO “Freedom for Sale” scandal involving the Deputy Internal Security Minister, Datuk Johari Baharom, has brought public credibility of the Police and the Internal Security Minister to a new low.
The public reprimand of Johari by Abdullah, who is also the Internal Security Minister, telling the latter that he should just answer the allegations of bribery without accusing or blaming others has come as another blow to public confidence in the efficiency, effectiveness, professionalism and integrity of the forces with the responsibility to maintain law and order.
Abdullah’s response - “Now that there are allegations, answer the allegations one by one. No need to accuse other people. Just answer all the questions.” – when asked to comment on the ACA investigation into allegations that Johari had received more than RM5mil to release at least three suspects arrested under the Emergency Ordinance raises many questions, including:
Firstly, why has Abdullah taken two long weeks to come out with such a response, which should have been made at most after 24 hours.
Secondly, Abdullah’s unusual comment testifies to the unsatisfactory nature of Johari’s response to the allegations on Internet websites implicating him in a RM5.5 million “freedom for sale” scandal involving Emergency Ordinance (EO) detentions.
There was clearly a finger-pointing exercise between Johari and the police, with Johari loudly proclaiming his innocence while accusing the police of being sloppy, slipshod and using the EO as a “short cut to detain suspects who have insufficient incriminating evidence against them”.
As even the Prime Minister-cum-Internal Security Minister is not satisfied with Johari’s public response, the Deputy Internal Security Minister should present a ministerial statement to Parliament to give a full and satisfactory accounting of his rebuttal of the RM5.5 million “freedom for sale” allegations. It is clearly invidious and untenable for Johari to continue a single day as Deputy Internal Security Minister when the Prime Minister is not satisfied with his public explanation.
The third front where I had hoped would be special mention of new policy initiatives in the Royal Address is in connection with Abdullah’s pledge to lead an open, accountable and transparent administration – in particular a firm government commitment to introduce a Freedom of Information Act to replace the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and the removal of the OSA and declassification of all privatization contracts, whether toll contracts, power and water concessions, to put them in the public domain for the scrutiny of the Malaysian public.
The Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu was recently very incensed and hurt. He appeared on the front page of New Sunday Times (Feb. 25, 2007) with blaring headlines: “’Works Minister, still smarting over being accused of ‘going for blood’, says…’I’m no Dracula’”.
Samy Vellu accused me of calling him a Dracula.
He said: “Lim Kit Siang said I was going for blood. He was indirectly saying I’m a Dracula. Only a Dracula goes for blood. A man and politician of his age and experience should be more cultured when he talks about other people.”
I said he was “bloodthirsty” and I stand by what I said. But I never said he is Dracula. If he is a Dracula, then it is his own self-description!
Let me state in this House that “Dracula” had never entered my mind when in my statement of 3rd February I had demanded to know why Samy Vellu was “suddenly so ‘bloodthirsty’ as to want four Opposition leaders, namely Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and Tian Chua of PKR, Ronnie Liu of DAP and Dr. Hatta Ramli (PAS) jailed for at least a year under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for revealing that the government had guaranteed profits to Litrak in the Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP) concession agreement?”
This is what I said in that statement:
“What have the four done that they must be treated like ‘highway robbers’ and must be made to suffer the most severe form of punitive punishment, of being jailed for at least one year, if they are charged under the OSA and found guilty of unauthorized communication of an official secret?
“Have they done anything akin to sabotage or imperil the national economy, subvert the national security or undermine national stability?
“I do not believe that Samy Vellu, even in his most creative best, would be able to make out a prima facie case that the four Opposition leaders had done any of these terrible things in connection with he publication of the Litrak LDP concession agreement.
“I went back to the news reports as to what was revealed about the Litrak LDP concession – that the LDP concession:
“Are these revelations so earth-shattering as to shake the government, society and nation to their very roots as to require invocation of a draconian and repressive law to jail the four for a minimum term of one year each?
“In fact, astute Malaysians would have guessed the lopsided contents in the concession agreements and privatization contracts, even without sighting them.
“The question is what has made Samy Vellu so ‘bloodthirsty’ that he is behaving as if he has usurped the powers of the Attorney-General or had arrogated to himself the powers of a Super Attorney-General on toll concessions and OSA prosecutions? Why is he demanding his pound of flesh, muttering that ‘they will have to pay the price’?
“Samy Vellu should know that anyone charged and convicted under the OSA would be mandatorily jailed for a minimum of one year, regardless of whether the offence is grave or trivial, or the motive – whether it is to betray the country by selling national defence secrets or in the exercise of the highest form of patriotism to uphold accountability, transparency and integrity and to expose corruption and abuses of power.
“This was because Samy Vellu is one of the few remaining Cabinet Ministers responsible for the most shameful, undemocratic, repressive, draconian and pernicious pieces of legislation in the land - the 1986 amendment to the Official Secrets Act imposing a mandatory minimum one-year jail sentence on conviction, regardless of the gravity of the offence or the noble motivation for the disclosure.”
Samy Vellu had lost out the public argument for his “bloodthirstiness” in wanting the four Opposition “whistleblowers” jailed for at least one year under the OSA while being blissfully unconcerned of similar breaches of the OSA by the concession companies, equity analysts and rating agencies which had freely made use of “official secrets” in the highway concessions to publicly flog their shares, loans and bonds.
Can Samy Vellu justify the most deplorable and retrograde mindset which is only interested in using the OSA against whistleblowers who had acted in the public interest but not against profiteers for personal and private gain?
I welcome Samy Vellu’s recent changeof-heart to fly the standard of a reformer and advocate for government openness, accountability and transparency over his efforts in the Cabinet to declassify the highway concessions.
Let me tell Samy Vellu that he cannot make the transformation from his self-description of “Dracula” to a saint unless he publicly apologises for his earlier “bloodthirstiness” in demanding that the four Opposition leaders be jailed for at least one year for “blowing the whistle” about the lopsided Litrak LDP concession.
This act of remorse and contrition must be followed up by his public advocacy, starting in the Cabinet, that all OSA investigations and proceedings, including against the four Opposition leaders over the toll concessions, should be halted until the OSA is phased out and replaced by a Freedom of Information Act.
But instead of abolishing the cult and infrastructure of secrecy, inimical to the principles of openness, accountability, transparency and good governance espoused by Abdullah, there is the reverse process greater secrecy which must be deplored and halted – as evidenced by the New Straits Times report of March 11, 2007 in the expansion of the ambit of the OSA to cover several documents related to claims by contractors for extra funds for government projects, such as:
However, my hopes that in at least three areas of anti-corruption, police reform and freedom of information there would be new government initiatives in the Royal Address have been proved wrong as there was not a single new government initiative for the new year.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman