Corruption in Malaysia 'not yet a pandemic'? Really?

APRIL 20 — Recently, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Chief Commissioner Azam Baki declared that corruption in Malaysia is worrying but “not yet a pandemic.” 

When I read this, I was reminded of a joke by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek about an exchange of telegrams between German and Austrian army headquarters in the middle of the First World War. 

The Germans sent the message, "Here, on our part of the front, the situation is serious, but not catastrophic.”

The Austrians replied, "Here, the situation is catastrophic, but not serious."

While Covid-19 may have devastated our country this past year, corruption in Malaysian politics has absolutely ripped our nation apart for decades and, even now, continues to rear its ugly head (not least in a recent "leaked phone call").

“Not yet a pandemic”? Are you kidding me?

A general view of the Perdana Putra building which houses the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya February 25, 2020. — Bernama pic
A general view of the Perdana Putra building which houses the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya February 25, 2020. — Bernama pic

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We have a former prime minister (who was also the finance minister) who very likely ripped off billions from the country. I suspect it hasn’t fully sunk in, especially among Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) supporters, how utterly shameful and despicable his actions were.

These people will also surely brush aside the fact that, for decades, the government has been characterised by corruption.

But a great light appeared in 2018.

That was when we finally broke free of Umno and Barisan Nasional. I’m also reliably informed that numerous Malaysians based overseas even sent money home to support Pakatan Harapan in the heart-felt hope that, finally, some change would occur. 

Why? Because we were all SICK of the "non-pandemic" corruption at the heart of the country.

Millions of us punched our fists into the air with delight when some key people—proven top achievers—were brought into the Cabinet and finally given the reins to our country’s running (especially its finance, infrastructure, science, law courts, etc.) 

But this dream collapsed back into a nightmare.

I don’t know what the precise details and machinations were but everybody knew there was some hanky-panky going on. I, like millions of my countrymen, watched in horror as the dream of finally being a nation the world could be proud of slowly but inevitably fell apart and reverted to the age-old rot of money- and race-based politics.

Unfortunately, the whole world knows that the fall of Pakatan Harapan, to be replaced by the highly inefficient Perikatan Nasional (again, amid a ton of soap opera-like power games between old men), couldn’t have come at a worst time. 

The Covid-19 pandemic could have been dealt with much more effectively if the government, you know, had a bloody clue about what they were trying to do. 

Instead, we have a train-wreck of half-baked decisions which don’t make sense, last-minute instructions affecting millions of businesses, non-compliant VIPs breaking SOPs with impunity and three — now possibly four — waves of infection.

Fast forward and — surprise, surprise — we have a PHONE CALL in which, yet again, it’s shown that ultimately it’s about what a few people want. It’s not about the party, not about so-called ideology or values and it sure as heck isn’t about the country.

Essentially, the politics which matters in Malaysia is about what two or three individuals conspire to get for themselves.

Like most Malaysians, I don’t know how these folks can do it.

It’s not as if you don’t have enough cash to spend on all your bungalows and cars and vacays and weddings and what-not; why can’t you ever put the damn country’s needs on at least as high a priority as your own? 

So, I’m curious, does anyone still genuinely believe that Malaysian corruption is “not yet a pandemic”?

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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