COMMENT | As the biggest kleptocracy in the world, where the scale of corruption in Malaysia goes into tens of billions of ringgit, it is a shock that the MACC actually finds it a shock that the country's anti-corruption ranking has regressed to 62nd place.
Indeed, as DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang has pointed out, between 2009-2018, Malaysia's rankings under Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak have never improved one bit.
Granted that the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is partly based on the responses of businesspeople, what is actually deemed a "perception" is, in fact, a reflection of their experiences, and encounter with endemic practices and their entrenched roles in the system.
Even if these businesspeople prefer to extricate themselves from the insidious practice of averting and avoiding corruption altogether, they may find themselves unable to challenge the status quo.
A broken protection system
There are three reasons. To begin with, the whistleblower protection system is practically broken and beyond redemption under the current regime.
When Pandan MP, the affable Rafizi Ramli, spoke out against corruption in the National Feedlot Corporation, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison, ostensibly for breaching the Banking Financial Information Act (Bafia).
A fellow whistleblower, one Johari Mohamad, also found himself being implicated by the Malaysian courts. While both are now appealing against their sentences, the damage to them has been done. Rafizi, despite his exceptional efforts, for instance, cannot run for office lest he wins his appeal.
The unfair treatment of Rafizi is an example of one of the reasons why Malaysia did so poorly in the CPI.
As noted, Malaysia ranked 62 among 180 countries in the CPI last year, dropping from 55th spot in 2016. That is a drop of seven places in a year!
The index put Malaysia in the same spot as Cuba, with a score of 47 out of 100. In 2016, Malaysia ranked 55 with a score of 49.
But this is also the rub: by consistently scoring below 50, between 2016-2017, Malaysia now belongs to two-thirds of the 180 countries that cannot pull itself up by its bootstraps with regard to corruption.
Contrary to what Najib may have said at the Invest Malaysia Conference in February 2018, Malaysia is in fact reeling...