Mr Prime Minister, the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) really needs your help.
He just launched a campaign to make corruption the nation’s number one enemy. It is an Anti-Corruption Revolution Movement (Gerah). Gerah will see MACC personnel go down to the ground on the first Monday of every month to meet the people in the fight against corruption and abuse of power.
Separately, gerah is an ancient Hebrew unit of weight and currency, equivalent to one-twentieth of a shekel i.e. the smallest piece of money.
But MACC’s Gerah will deploy 2,000 personnel nationwide to meet with some 20,000 people each month. It is supposed to change the thinking, attitude and opinions of society towards corruption and abuse of power, and against those involved in the crime.
“Our goal is to create a society that abhors corruption and power abuse, as well as the perpetrators. This is not a political revolution. We want our society to have the courage to stand together with MACC in preventing and combating corruption in Malaysia,” the chief commissioner said.
For him to effectively meet the desired objectives of the campaign, there are certain things that need to be done that are beyond his control.
Most importantly, MACC should be independent and have its own prosecutorial powers like in Hong Kong and Indonesia. Some may disagree based on check and balance arguments where functions of investigating, prosecuting and trying and sentencing should be kept distinct. However, there will be check and balance since trying and sentencing is separated.
Since a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on corruption has proposed the idea twice but it has been rejected, Malaysia must show its political will to seriously combat this menace.
Further, the appointment of the MACC chief commissioner must be decided independently ie by the Parliament.
Next, the Whistleblower Protection Act (2010) which Paul Low described as “inadequate” has to be improved. “The biggest problem with the whistleblowing process is who you can trust. If you cannot trust the person or the organisation, you’re not going to whistleblow. So the issue of a trust deficit is there”, said Low.
It has been more than a year since he said that and not much has been reported. The whistleblowing statistics itself do not show encouraging response and Malaysians are still hesitant or afraid to come forward.
Next, there was supposed to be an amendment in the MACC Act to include a corporate liability clause and has been outstanding for a few years. It would make companies responsible if their employees were caught for corruption. Supposedly to be tabled in the March 2017 parliamentary sitting, it is not known whether it was passed.
Ensuring a level playing field
The impending GE14 would necessitate the thirty-two (32) recommendations made by the National Consultative Committee on Political Funding in 2016 to be embraced by all political players. It will ensure a level playing field in a transparent and accountable environment. Thereafter, institutional reforms have to be carried out to strengthen the respective bodies that govern the political system.
Taiwan, South Korea and Indonesia are more advanced since they have laws on political funding.
Another area where MACC can implement include employing psychometric assessment. They are tests for honesty and integrity.
I am of the view that if the above are strictly implemented and adhered to, there is no need to send 2,000 personnel running around the country and would inevitably save time and costs. It will not be easy for an MACC officer to run around to meet an average of 10 people in a single day.
Apart from the above, there is a need for a change of attitude and culture among society at large especially political leaders. Corruption should be categorised as a menace and even ‘najis’, like drugs.
The government can assist by disseminating information through the media and come up with programmes that demonstrate the negative effects of corruption on the country as a whole and towards future generations. The virtues of honesty, integrity and sincerity should be drummed up for Malaysians to be an advanced society.
PAS could come up with another private member’s bill to tackle this menace.
We should also be mindful of murder cases purportedly related to corruption. These men of integrity (which is sadly lacking among some Malaysians) had to pay a heavy price. Showing grave concern, in a Facebook posting, the prime minister said he “strongly condemns the outrageous murder” of Kevin Morais and called for the police to take swift action. The attorney-general wanted to see justice and accountability in this case.
Mr Prime Minister, the Putrajaya Declaration and resolutions adopted at the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC), pledging to stop the rapid spread of corruption should not be forgotten, too.
Malaysians also look forward for members of Parliament to sign MACC’s integrity pledge.
It is encouraging to note that barely 24 hours gone after the Gerah launch, two Datuks and an immigration officer have been hauled up.
The journey is long and arduous but with the necessary political will and full support from all Malaysians, this uphill task will not be formidable and backbreaking.
We can be MACC’s friend and family and dare to say no to corruption and power abuse, but we need to see some realistic results.
Hopefully, MACC’s Gerah is not after the ancient Hebrew smallest piece of money only but to look for bigger ones that have negative impact on the reputation of the country and future generations.
What say you...