IT is one of the most enlightening speeches I have heard in recent years — put forth with utmost sincerity. It is, after all, a painful subject to talk about and coming from him, makes it even harder. Perhaps only someone of his stature can speak about it without fear or favour.
His Royal Highness Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, the sultan of Perak, is undoubtedly one of the finest minds in the country today. His impeccable academic credentials coupled with his intellect has placed him on a different league among the intellectual giants. He speaks with conviction and purpose, never shying away form tough subjects — be it the position of the Malays, the role of monarchy or the Constitution.
It was, therefore, a fitting occasion for Sultan Nazrin to deliver a royal address in conjunction with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) 47th anniversary on Wednesday.
The royal speech was entitled “Corruption: Scenario and Challenges”. He was frank and open, yet conciliatory. He was critical, yet cautious. He knew his statements could easily be misconstrued, yet he audaciously meandered through the maze of examples from history — abroad and at home — with style and finesse.
It was awfully painful to hear how entrenched corruption is in human history. It was even more frustrating to hear the good guys battling corruption were not always rewarded nor the bad ones incarcerated. It was proven that corruption is something “acceptable”, that whistle-blowers were punished and the corrupt ones not only survived, but were hailed as heroes.
Sultan Nazrin narrated stories from the first humans to the present, weaving it effortlessly to remind us about the challenges of fighting the scourge.
Drawing his examples from history and supported by words from the Quran and Hadith, he gave us wise insights on the culture of corruption from the old days till now. It was evidently clear that the first vice known to men is being resurrected with aplomb and new sophistication in today’s world. Corruption takes more than a political will to address it.
Corruption undermines democracy and violates human rights, no two ways about it. He reminded the audience how corruption affected the lives of billions on earth. Between 2001 and 2010, he quoted a figure of at least RM19.2 trillion that was misappropriated in poor nations.
The victims are the hardcore poor. Every year, between RM108 billion and RM204 billion worth of taxes are not collected because of corruption in developing countries. Imagine what can be done with the money.
According to studies he quoted, every RM3.2 billion of leaks in the system resulted in the death of 3.6 million people. That money can be wisely spent on healthcare and infrastructure. In short, corruption kills, too.
Corruption is blind. It is endemic to both advanced, developing or poor countries. And corruption knows no creed or colour. Everyone is vulnerable. He pointed out to the fact that history has shown how leaders succumbed to corruption, some of them started as idealists. Power corrupts and corruption begets more power to corrupt.
There is decadence in the air. Failing to address that will result in a society that cannot differentiate the good from the bad. To stress his point, he quoted from a famous Hadith by Abu Hurairah, that the Prophet was worried that in years to come, his umat can’t explain the sources of their income — either halal or haram.
He believes that parliamentary acts or laws alone can’t fight corruption. During the time of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, there were simply too many laws for the purpose — nine parliamentary acts and more than 19 agencies.
Laws are toothless when they are merely created for cosmetic reasons. Corruption thrives on conspicuous income disparity among people and the eco-systems allowing it, and the mindset that nurtures the belief that corruption is “all right”.
On the home front, Sultan Nazrin did not mince his words when he said that this nation must not be in a state of denial in regard to corruption. Corruption, in whatever form, must be addressed. This is not about a case being afflicted by a sore throat that could be easily be diagnosed — it a serious social ill that demands nothing less than intensive care at the highest order.
It needs a comprehensive and holistic approach to rid it from the illness. No one is above the law and strict punitive measures must be considered, so too are preventive measures to strengthen integrity. Good value systems must be reaffirmed.
It is surely food for thought for MACC while reflecting on its achievements and misadventures for the last 47 years.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @Johan_Jaaffar JOHAN JAAFFAR - NST Columnist 4 OCTOBER 2014 @ 8:11 AM