ENSURING integrity and fighting corruption have been among the greatest challenges of all times to humanity. Religions have addressed the issues, as have governments of all shapes, sizes and structures.
Sadly, it continues to be an unremitting scourge globally. It is a deep malaise that, like a malignant cancer, continues to grow and destroy, while sometimes appearing in unexpected and even in quasi-legal ways with the complicity of the very institutions established for ensuring justice and good governance.
Malaysia’s journey in meeting these challenges continues to be a struggle. One of the most significant publications in this field done in Malaysia appeared first as The Sociology of Corruption in 1968. This globally classic intellectual work on corruption was published in Malaysia by one of its outstanding public intellectuals, Datuk Professor Dr Syed Hussein Alatas. The book was subsequently and extensively updated, and the 1991 edition was titled Corruption: Its Nature, Causes and Functions. It was reprinted in 2005 and the distinguished Malaysian prince who launched it warned us that “Corruption may become an industry.”
The late Dr Syed Hussein’s book has one of the best descriptions of the scourge of corruption. His nine-point characteristics of corruption have not been better stated:
a. A betrayal of trust.
b. Deception of a public body, private institution or society at large.
c. Subordination of common interests by specific interests.
d. Secrecy of execution except in situations which allow powerful individuals or those under their protection to dispense with it.
e. Involvement of more than one person or party.
f. The presence of mutual obligations and benefits, in pecuniary or other forms.
g. The focusing of action on those who want definite decisions and those who can influence them.
h. The attempt to camouflage the corrupt act by some form of lawful justification.
i. The expression of a contradictory dual function by those committing the act.
The monumental struggle to address the scourge continues to be challenging and recent episodes have only been disturbing. We need to have faith and courage, and the following enunciations from our spiritual traditions are deep reminders and should manifest our conscience.
The Law of Moses says, “You must not distort justice, you must not show partiality and you must not accept bribes for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.”
The law of Manu from the Hindu tradition says, “Men who are appointed by the King to protect his subjects generally become hypocrites who take the property of others, and he must protect those subjects from them.”
Buddha states that “Unjust officials are the thieves of people’s happiness, they defraud both ruler and people and are the cause of the nation’s troubles.”
The Koran reminds us “(do not) give bribery to the rulers” and Prophet Mohamed elaborated: “Allah curses the giver of bribes and the receiver of bribes and the person who paves the way for both parties.”
In Christianity, John the Baptist reminded his followers: “Do not extort money from anyone.”
For those who think no one will ever know of their illegal or unethical acts, I would suggest a visit to the “Four Knows Hall” of the Yeoh Kongsi in George Town, Penang. There is a pithy saying there that reminds us of our conscience:
“Don’t say nobody knows.
The Heavens know,
The Earth knows,
You know and I know.”
History has taught us one thing, and that one thing above all has made a difference – leadership means “political will” at the top and “popular will” from the bottom. It is leadership at all levels – people who are prepared to stand up against injustice and dishonesty at the community level, in Government and corporate board rooms. We need that more than ever now! Anwar Fazal The STAR Home News Letters 15 August 2015