I MUST applaud our Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V who expressed serious concern over the occurrence of fraud and corruption in his royal address when opening the fifth session of the 13th Parliament this week.
His Majesty said that although only a handful were involved in such activities, it had eroded the people’s trust in the Government.
He is not the only royalty to express such concerns. Last December, the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, also expressed his concern over corruption and criminal breach of trust by those in power in this country.
They have said what civil society has been complaining about all these years. Unfortunately, things are not getting better.
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) revealed that 548 civil servants had been detained for corruption as of February this year. It also said 54% of those arrested for graft between 2014 and 2016 were under the age of 40.
MACC deputy chief commissioner said younger civil servants were more susceptible to corruption to meet their lifestyle demands.
“We have cases where junior government officers and clerks can afford to buy the latest iPhone models and drive expensive cars. Their flashy lifestyle does not match their measly pay as young officers and administrative assistants under the government pay scale,” he said.
No wonder a survey by Transparency International (TI) found that Malaysians and Vietnamese viewed their respective countries as having the most severe corruption problem.
The survey, from July 15, 2015 to January this year, obtained feedback from more than 20,000 citizens in 16 Asia-Pacific countries.
The questions posed included whether citizens believed the level of corruption had changed, how the government was fighting graft, how corrupt the police were and whether people felt empowered to fight corruption.
According to the survey, Malaysia and Vietnam performed the worst, with not a single positive rating to the questions.
“In these countries, the governments were rated poorly in their fight against corruption, people saw widespread corruption among the police, and many thought that corruption is on the rise. Fifty-nine percent of Malaysians think that the corruption level has increased,” TI said in its report.
Such statistics are really embarrassing and have brought Malaysia into disrepute.
Ordinary people are faced with rising costs of living and reduction of their purchasing power while high public officials indulge in luxurious lifestyles.
Meanwhile, the Agong went on to advise: “The people must also give support by not being involved as the ones who offer bribery.
All too often whistleblowers are prosecuted for raising issues of corruption and financial impropriety while MPs are gagged from debating such matters in Parliament.
Additionally, civil society leaders have been arrested for raising concerns about corrupt politicians and treated like criminals while powerful leaders seem to get away scot-free.
I hope that with such public pronouncements against corruption by none other than our supreme Agong, other Rulers will also come forward to declare war on corruption.
Their voices are needed because corruption is so blatant and extensive now that the country’s financial standing is adversely affected and the ordinary people just feel resentful and helpless.
I acknowledge that corruption is two-way traffic. If there are no givers, they will be no takers. But what happens if you don’t give – things seem to move ever more slowly or not at all.
Of course, corruption exists in every country but at least, some countries are seen to be taking action against it. China has launched a huge crackdown on corrupt public officials, executing some of them.
Former presidents in Taiwan and the Philippines were not spared. An Australian minister resigned for incurring government expenses on a helicopter flight. Iceland’s prime minister had to resign after the leaked Panama Papers revealed that his family held funds in offshore shell companies.
Sultan Nazrin warned that in the end, all corrupt governments fall. I hope Malaysians will not have to witness the collapse of our once respected institutions, economy and social fabric before that happens.
According to TI, bribery is not a small crime. It takes food off the table, it prevents education, it impedes proper healthcare and ultimately it can kill.
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