Get to the root cause of corruption


  • Letters
  • Sunday, 17 Jul 2005

CORRUPTION is the bane of society. Imagine our country like a tree. If corruption is allowed to take root, to fester beneath the surface, the tree will eventually become diseased.  

And out of a diseased tree, no good fruit can spring forth. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. It is as simple as that. Whether corruption is practised behind closed doors, under the table or where human eyes do not see, its fruit will eventually become visible. 

As a nation growing up, we must never grow to accept corruption as an acceptable way of life. Addressing the symptoms is akin to a gardener pruning away some of the bad fruits that co-exist with the good ones. Eventually, when he realises that the tree’s roots are the problem, he will have no choice but to cut it down. 

There is no point complaining that an official is corrupt when, for example, we ourselves want to buy ourselves out of the inconvenience of having to take time off to settle a traffic summons. And if our child happens to be in the back seat, what is the message that he is receiving from us? 

The National Congress on Integrity held over the weekend has rightfully identified that corruption is not just about public sector corruption but that it permeates through all strata of life. There are serious corruption issues in the private sector, from the major corporations to the small-time retailer. What is the role of the captains of industry to enhance good corporate behaviour and transparency in their corporations? And what is the role of the employee?  

The cost to the nation is not just about money. When the moral fibre is compromised, everything else is compromised. 

Let us remind ourselves that corruption involves both the giver and the taker. And there is also no distinction between a smaller amount and a bigger amount. Whether it is a giant shark or a small gelama, a corrupt fish is still a corrupt fish. As a civil rights activist once put it, “The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference.” This is the message we have to get through, to ourselves, to our loved ones, to society at large. 

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