IN the ongoing war against corruption, we tend to distinguish between major and minor cases, even though the principle elements are the same.
We get excited over the cases where big names and big sums of money are involved because that is an indication that the graft busters are really going after the big fish.
Smaller cases, the so-called ikan bilis, rarely excite us because we think they are too commonplace and not worth the time and resources spent to nail them.
Two cases reported last week exemplify this scenario.
The first case, which hit the front page of this newspaper, was about chartered arbitrator Yusof Holmes Abdullah being charged with soliciting RM6mil from a businessman in George Town.
Entrepreneur Datuk Siaw Teck Hwa was charged with abetting Holmes. Both pleaded not guilty.
It is reportedly the first corruption case involving an arbitrator and the arbitration community is reeling from shock that one of its practitioners has been charged with such a serious offence.
Further inside the newspaper, there was a report about a Malaysian lecturer being sacked by his university after he had pleaded guilty to corruption charges in a magistrate’s court in Perth.
Foong Tuck Cheong admitted to taking bribes of A$1,500 (RM4,340) and A$3,000 (RM8,680) to raise his students’ marks.
The RM6mil in the first case and the small sums in the second are poles apart, but the fundamental reasons for the giving and the taking remain the same – to manipulate the outcome of a decision.
And that is why the war against corruption must be fought on all fronts.
Whether it is about a student giving a bribe to hike up his marks or a businessman giving a bribe to influence a positive account in an arbitration dispute, we must be firm that such acts of corruption, big or small, will not be tolerated.
We can do our part by not condoning even the smallest infractions, be it a small sum of kopi duit to escape a traffic offence or a couple of hundred ringgit to guarantee a pass in the driving test.
Often, the adults who commit such offences do it in the presence of their children, and so the vicious circle continues.
Let us bear in mind that values are caught, not taught, and the signals we send out hold the key to how seriously we view corruption.
If the right values are passed on, then the war against corruption can be won.
The STAR Online Focus 30 June 2013