PUTRAJAYA: Press freedom and freedom of expression are important elements in the fight against corruption, said Transparency-International President Jose Ugaz (pic).
"Press freedom and freedom of expression are the pillars of democratic societies and journalists must be able to work without fear, said Ugaz.
In his keynote speech at the International Anti-Corruption Conference, Ugaz said that in many countries, the basic rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association are being eroded or taken away.
Ugaz added that it is impossible to fight corruption without those rights.
He said Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman pointed out that integrity and honesty united people in the fight against corruption.
Ugaz said that political corruption was the most insidious form of corruption.
"Most insidious of all is political corruption. The twisting and distorting of the law by governments plagued by cronyism and by those in thrall to special interests,” he said.
Ugaz also touched on the RM2, 928.09bil (USD700mil) 1MDB scandal, saying that no one can be in Malaysia and be unaware of the corruption allegations.
He acknowledged that Malaysia has taken steps to fight corruption.
"The government has taken many measures and initiatives to tackle corruption," he said.
Ugaz however added that Transparency-International wants to see more progress, but said that cannot happen while there are unanswered questions about the money that made its way into the Prime Minister's personal bank account.
"In recent weeks we have seen the Attorney-General who was critical of the government suddenly replaced, the 1MDB taskforce suspended, investigators at the anti corruption commission arrested or transferred, and a newspaper suspended for reporting on the matter,” said Ugaz.
He added that while promises of reform are made, promises were not what Malaysia needed now as promises alone would not restore confidence and trust.
"There are two questions that need to be answered. Who paid the money and why? Where did it go? One man can answer those questions," said Ugaz
He added that if these questions were not answered, only a fully independent investigation could uncover the truth.
"Until that happens, no claim from the government on anti-corruption will be credible," he said.