THE Malaysian Anti-Corruption Academy deserves our congratulations for hosting the forum “Eradicating grand corruption: How successful have we been?” on Nov 26.
The academy shows that it encourages more open debate on this important and debilitating issue, especially when the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) from Berlin, is expected to be released today.
It is striking that top academics at the forum were generally of the view that we have not been successful in eradicating “grand corruption” or big corruption, as opposed to small-time corruption.
Indeed the forum confirmed the general public perception that the MACC had done well to create awareness of the evils of corruption and the dire consequences to our future.
But unfortunately, the MACC has been mainly successful in catching “small fish”, while most “big fish” like the sharks continue to swim freely.
The panel recognised that corruption is sinful. But what have we done in our religious institutions and places of worship to preach the dire message that corruption is indeed sinful?
How much have the religious institutions and leaders done to harness our religious resources to combat corruption more effectively?
With the impending 13th general election, what have we all achieved to stamp out political corruption or what is loosely called money politics?
How serious can we all be about fighting corruption, if we allow political corruption to dominate and undermine the electoral process?
Sadly, most Malaysians accept and feel that “Corruption has become a Malaysian way of life” as it has deeply permeated all levels of society.
Therefore it was not surprising that Dr Syed Farid Alatas, a Malay-sian Professor in the National University of Singapore, felt confident enough, to label Malaysia as a kleptocracy. Is Malaysia really a kleptocracy?
If Malaysia is not as yet kleptocratic, then from all indications, we will be moving fast in that direction to acquire that dubious status, if we do not act more deliberately to prevent and stamp out money politics or electoral corruption, which is the “mother of all corruption”.
Prof Edmund Terence Gomez is right in criticising the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) for little analysis on “major scandals” in its report on “Combatting Corruption: Understanding Anti -Corruption Initiatives in Malaysia”.
The trouble is that, although there is more open discussion today, there is still this fear or reluctance to be more candid in our criticism of policy abuses and bad and unfair implementation of public policies.
Bad governance is widely prevalent as evidenced in our daily lives when we face inefficiencies of all kinds. Inflation is pervasive, public services have been deteriorating, with persistent poverty, widening income disparities, terrible traffic jams, rising racial and religious intolerance, the decline of national unity and a sense of unfairness and poor well-being.
Datuk Akhbar Satar of Transparency International Malaysia pointed out the grand corruption had yet to be addressed adequately in Malaysia.
This is because the MACC does not have enough forensic capabilities to go after the cunning big time and highly placed corrupt crooks and big fish!
All this begs the question: Why is the MACC not employing enough competent resources to fight grand corruption?
If it’s the lack of political will, the people will find this explanation unacceptable.
If it’s a lack of priority to provide adequate funding, then more resources should be provided to step up the campaign to get the big fish. Otherwise, we will surely accelerate the pace of decline, to a Malaysian kleptocracy.
Hence, we must act expeditiously and with greater determination and political will, to avoid becoming a kleptocracy, as a matter of top priority.
I believe we can realise the need to show greater priority and political will to combat corruption more expeditiously, in our national interest .
Let’s see what the new Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI), will tell us, about our success or otherwise, in eradicating grand corruption – and follow up with tougher action to improve the CPI, even before the general election.
TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM Chairman, Asli Center of Public Policy The STAR Online Home News Opinion Wednesday, 5 December 2012