Eliminating corruption in Malaysia — M. Santhananaban

APRIL 1 — Our new government which assumed office from the second week of May 2018 is, to me at least, the greatest epochal event since August 31 1957. What I appreciate most about this government is the atmosphere of openness, transparency and greater accountability that has been ushered in. This momentum has to be sustained.

Yet this government is hobbled most threateningly by friendly fire, infighting and the invidious individualism of some of its prominent senior party apparatchiks. Some discipline and decorum is absolutely essential in the ruling coalition’s component parties to build rather than whittle and waste away the impressive gains of May 9, 2018.

The analyses and evaluation of this government’s performance is perhaps the greatest preoccupation of Malaysians today.

Needless to say most people are disappointed as at least two recent by-elections results have shown. There were, of course, other unsavoury reasons for the losses.

The greatest culpability of the government is the failure to secure a fast but full and fair trial for the former prime minister and getting a quick conclusion of the matter. Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s seemingly unfettered freedom grates most of us as there seems to be so little done when so much that borders on treason has allegedly been committed.

And a yet more serious issue is the undue prominence given to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) work. The MACC does not represent Malaysia — all, complete and the cosmos. It had had a long slumber prior to GE14 and having been awakened it seems to be seeking and slaying everything in its path. It is unduly focused on the relatively small percentage of the workforce employed by the government and on some high-profile politicians.

Corruption and inflation-causing activity is more prevalent in the private sector and non-governmental sector. The building and construction, banking, commercial, cooperatives, private education, legal, news and media, medical and health, securities, transport, and telecommunications sectors are particularly prone to this scourge.

A little-known fact about the current government is that appointments to important positions are being held up due partly to the inability of the MACC to provide clearance for the persons nominated. It was injudicious to have referred some of these fixed tenure appointments to the MACC in the first place.

This does seem to be a sham procedure as I believe not one of those in the political leadership was cleared before they were appointed.

Was this procedure not necessary because they had won in the elections. Or were they cleared in an unusually short time?

The MACC has also been negligent in not being forceful in formulating and recommending legislation that would penalise people with unexplained wealth and assets. They should look to Hong Kong and India for pointers. The size of the informal economy in the country has also to be assessed.

If some of the pending appointments are not filled in a timely manner the delivery of vital services needed by the nation will be adversely affected.

The situation with corruption in Malaysia is that it is deeply embedded in the system. To work towards zero tolerance it requires much time, new laws, better enforcement and an efficient prosecutorial and court system. In other words, a whole new cast of actors is needed.

When all that information of Najib’s alleged inappropriate conduct was available throughout the world nothing could be done by the people of the country.

In South Korea the moment it became evident that their president Park Guen-hye was incompetent and lacked integrity, the Korean people organised orderly mass rallies and an impeachment process began that saw her exiting the presidential office almost a full year before her tenure was up. Of course, our laws are different.

Outrage at corruption in most other democracies is a lot more unambiguous, sometimes violent and vicious. We seem to be a lot more contained and controlled society in respect to corruption. We have to be educated, imbibed and trained to treat corruption as anti-national. Some acts of corruption verge on treason that could threaten development plans and national security.

Bureaucratic reasons are no longer applicable in explaining the delay and inaction on many issues of public importance.

The government must get on with the business of governing and not be bogged down by procedure. It is unrealistic to have improved governance in this situation.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.