Participants of the first National Congress on Integrity have endorsed a five-point Pledge Against Corruption, which will be handed to the Prime Minister soon, writes SUHAINI AZNAM.
SEVERAL personal stories including K. Haridas’ were shared at the “Corruption – The Weakest Link”, the first in the National Congress on Integrity series jointly organised by the Graduates Christian Fellowship and the Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute on July 16, 2005 in Kuala Lumpur.
The conference culminated in the collective signing of a five-point Pledge Against Corruption, which the organisers will submit to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was unable to attend and open the Congress himself.
The fifth point was particularly poignant in that it acknowledged human fallibility: “If I should act in a corrupt manner, I will confess my wrongdoing and will make myself accountable to the authorities of my faith and my country.”
”It was a serious commitment,” Dr Goh Chee Leong, one of the organisers, pointed out, and signing it required tremendous moral fibre. “The Bible says that it is better not to make a commitment than to make a pledge and to break your commitment.”
The vast majority who attended the Congress were Christians. Refreshingly, however, at least three of the speakers were Muslim: Backbenchers Club chairman Datuk Shahrir Samad who also heads the Public Accounts Committee, Citizens International director Datuk Anwar Fazal, and Datuk Dr Sulaiman Mahbob, president of the Malaysian Institute of Integrity.
Lawyer Chooi Mun Sou, who had sat on the panel to investigate the Bumiputra Malaysia Finance corruption scandal in the early 1980s, had asked the 350-strong audience-cum-participants not to worry too much about lofty definitions and Malaysia’s efforts to combat corruption at a global level. He wanted them to just “take a little step in our workplace, our homes.”
One participant, who wanted to be known as Ms Leong, of the Vines Church, said she thought the Congress was good in that “it would show those civil servants who wanted to be honest that they were not alone.”
At the subsequent roundtable discussion, C. K. Ho pointed out that “in balancing the rights of the individual versus state rights, there could be an infringement of personal rights, where phones for instance could be tapped.”
“Are we prepared to allow that?” he asked. “I lean more towards the state because it has the responsibility to take care of us.”
Most people were unconcerned about corruption “as long as a man could feed his family and kids,” he added.
To various urgings for an ombudsman, Leong said: “There is a lack of trust about who is going to appoint the watchdog and who is going to check him.”
She was not alone in her scepticism. After years of living with corruption in diverse forms, many have become hardened and cynical. The conference was an appeal to the individual human spirit.