MP SPEAKS | I am somewhat surprised that DAP has as many as 450 local councillors in the country – apart from the 42 MPs and 119 state assemblypersons.
DAP has come a long way since it was established 53 years ago, and it is important that the present generation of leaders do not ever forget where the party came from and where it wants to go.
DAP arose from ordinary Malaysians regardless of race or religion and our common objective is to help build a just, clean, free, democratic, united and prosperous Malaysia.
Regardless of our race, religion, class or background, we are, first and foremost, Malaysians and our motherland is Malaysia – and none other.
I want to outline two great tasks ahead for the 450 DAP councillors in the building of a New Malaysia. These are to establish a clean and incorruptible culture of service, and to be a force to promote understanding, tolerance, unity and harmony in Malaysia.
One of the greatest achievements of Malaysians on May 9, 2018, was to save the country from hurtling into the trajectory of a sham democracy, a kakistocracy, a failed state, and a global kleptocracy.
Among others, we are now engaged in the great task of transforming Malaysia into a leading nation of integrity. How do we leapfrog to accomplish such a herculean task?
The past eight months have been historic in the annals of anti-corruption, for never in Malaysian history have there been so many 'sharks', both in size and number, being arrested and charged in court with corruption – a former prime minister, a former first lady, former deputy prime minister, former ministers and grandees of the previous government who, during the height of their power, could turn night into day and day into night.
Many Malaysians have complained why the kleptocrats are still free and at large – some pretending to be saviours of the people with daily statements and Facebook posts, when they had betrayed the national interests by making rampant corruption the norm in Malaysia.
This has resulted in Malaysia being the target of the world’s largest kleptocratic litigation by the United States Department of Justice more than two years ago, when it launched its proceedings against the international 1MDB corruption and money-laundering scandal.
But if we are to restore and respect the rule of law, we must put up with such delays as the legal process takes time.
Under the National Integrity Plan initiated by the fifth prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysia aimed to be ranked No 30 by 2008.
Ten years later, we are now ranked No 62 out of 180 countries in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2017, with a score even lower than 23 years ago when the annual series was inaugurated.
But the anti-corruption efforts cannot be confined to hauling, convicting and jailing the 'sharks', as there must be institutional reforms in the system of governance in the country and nationwide educational programmes to implant a new culture of integrity and incorruptibility in public service.
This is why the recent call by the Bersatu vice president Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman for the party to use government resources to hold on to power "by hook or by crook" has caused so much dismay, for it runs against the very grain of the great national effort to save Malaysia from global kleptocracy and kakistocracy.
Malaysians do not want to change one team of Umno-BN kleptocrats with another team of Pakatan Harapan kleptocrats, but to eradicate kleptocracy altogether.
This is why I said that for many in DAP and Pakatan Harapan, we prefer to lose power than to hang on to power by corrupt, undemocratic or other devilish means.
I believed the overwhelming majority of Pakatan Harapan leaders and members do not want to hold on to power “by hook or by crook,” or Harapan would be no different from Najib’s Umno and BN.
Under the old BN, the overwhelming majority would want to hang on to power in this manner – like MCA president Wee Ka Siong and the Umno-BN ministers of the Najib cabinet.
I think we have made great progress in introducing a new culture of integrity in the public service, where the people, through the ballot box, have transformed the “overwhelming majority” of those in power from those wanting to hold on to power “by hook or by crook,” to those who are prepared to lose power to reject this notion.
The recent incident where a man posing as an MP's aide allegedly demanded 30 percent commission from school boards in Muar, was ably handled by Youth and Sports Minister and MP for Muar, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, who asked his office to lodge a police report.
This incident reminds me of what happened in 2006.
This was when Ong Tee Kiat, who was then MCA vice-president and deputy higher education minister, was pilloried by 'half-past six' ministers in the cabinet for speaking out against the misappropriation of public funds meant for Chinese schools.
In in this particular case, it was a shocking 90 percent misuse of funds in the RM30,000 allocation for the repair of SJKC Kung Yu, where only RM3,000 worth of work done for an RM30,000 project.
In keeping with the concept of holding on to power “by hook or by crookm” none of the four MCA ministers at the time stood up to defend Ong against the onslaught by Umno ministers led by the-then education minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who said he would never forgive Ong or forget the incident.
Harapan is very diametrically different from Umno, MCA and BN. When Sin Chew Daily published the shocking expose of the 30 percent diversion of school allocations by the alleged aide of an elected representative, I reacted immediately as a matter of principle.
I said that “the diversion of 30 percent or any percentage of school allocation for any political purpose is sheer corruption and not permitted by Harapan, but belongs to BN era of the past, and must be exposed and rooted out and the individual concerned punished according to the law and sacked if he holds any political office.”
There can be no compromise with such corrupt practices and those who are guilty of such corrupt practices, regardless of which Harapan party they are from, must be prosecuted without any mercy.
I am glad that I was contacted by Syed Saddiq’s parliamentary office to inform me that a police report had been lodged over the Muar kickbacks scandal.
This case illustrates the world of difference between the Harapan and BN on the issue of corruption and abuses of power.
DAP’s stand against kleptocracy, abuse of power and all forms of corruption is principled and uncompromising. The party's leaders are required to put integrity on top of everything else.
For this reason, I recommend that the DAP central executive committee establish a mechanism to monitor all DAP leaders holding public office, especially with regard to integrity and incorruptibility.
As far as the DAP is concerned, the party controls the leaders in government, whether federal or state, and not the other way round of the government controlling the party.
The role of local councillors is critical if Harapan is to succeed in transforming Malaysia from a global kleptocracy into a leading nation of integrity.
On Feb 28, 2017, Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) president, Akhbar Satar, released the findings of the '2017 Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Asia Pacific Region', which surveyed the public's perceptions of corruption and the government’s effectiveness in tackling it.
The GCB results found that 60 percent felt the level of corruption in Malaysia had increased, and only 11 percent said that corruption had decreased a little.
Some 54 percent of Malaysians felt that the management of the economy was the most important matter that the government should address. Most felt that the government was handling the fight against corruption badly as compared.
Over half believed that the government was ineffective in handling the fight against corruption. About 41 percent of Malaysians said that the MACC was not fighting corruption effectively.
The survey shwed that from every occupational sector – police, local government and councillors, tax officials, business executives, government officials, representatives in the legislature, prime minister and his officials, judges and magistrates, and religious leaders – Malaysia is more corrupt than the regional average.
It will be interesting to see what progress we have achieved in ensuring integrity and fighting corruption since May 9, but we must not rest content until we have achieved better status than the regional average.
In particular, for local government and councillors, I challenge the 450 DAP local councillors to prioritise integrity so that we can not only better the regional average of 35 percent, but beat the other countries in the region which are better than the regional average.
Understanding and tolerance
The other national challenge which I want to pose to DAP local councillors is to be a force to promote understanding, tolerance, unity and harmony of the diverse races, religions and cultures in Malaysia.
The clarification by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad that he had never said that the government rejected the recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) in his interview with Sin Chew Daily on Tuesday should be a lesson all round.
The MCA leadership probably regarded the report as manna from heaven, and fired off a blizzard of media statements accusing the DAP and Harapan of reneging on the Harapan pledge of recognising the UEC, when was not the case.
I do not expect the MCA leaders to show any regret for such reckless outbursts, just as they had not shown any contrition for allegedly aiding and abetting Najib Abdul Razak in the 1MDB scandal, but it should be a salutary reminder of the toxic and vicious politics of lies, hate and fear which MCA and Umno politicians are perpetuating.
The Harapan manifesto did not promise to recognise the UEC in 100 days of forming the federal government, but to recognise the UEC during the five-year term of office.
I am optimistic that we will be able to fulfil this pledge when the 15th general election is held – in fact, I do not think we have to wait for five years to recognise the UEC.
But I agree that the sensitivities of all communities should be taken into consideration, especially as Umno and PAS leaders are resorting to desperate, dangerous and toxic politics in their attempt to create racial and religious polarisation and engender instability.
What is shocking is that MCA leaders are egging on the Umno and PAS leaders to resort to toxic politics to arouse fears among the Malays that the recognition of UEC would threaten Malay rights and interests.
This is why we see MCA cooperating with Umno and PAS in the recent by-elections, with the forthcoming Cameron Highlands polls no exception.
Harapan’s greatest challenge is to introduce an all-embracing and inclusive politics in plural Malaysia, where every racial and religious group in the country must learn to respect the sensitivities of other races and religions.
There is a tendency for each racial or religious group to live in their own world, when we must encourage all racial and religious groups to interact, understand and respect each other's sensitivities.
I am confident that the desperate and dangerous politicians who are resorting to the vicious politics are fighting a losing battle, as I have confidence that all Malaysians want the country to succeed and become a top-class nation, where we compete with the rest of the world instead of fighting among ourselves.
LIM KIT SIANG is the MP for Iskandar Puteri.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.