Saturday, 08 October 2011 00:34

BN will lose, destroyed by its own corruption

Written by Moaz Nair, Malaysia Chronicle

Never in the path of our nation's history has corruption been as unbridled as it has been for the past three decades. Corruption has become a scourge that would ultimately ruin the nation and we should thank Barisan National opportunism for this knack and flamboyance.

Interesting media highlights on alleged corruption and abuse of power

To the incumbent regime, it’s always the denial syndrome that would tint their rhetoric whenever the issue of corruption is raised by the public and this would in turn be handily backed and spun by the pro-government media. Nevertheless, let’s recap some of the interesting media highlights in the past years on corruption-related issues in the country.

“Nine Japanese shipping companies that transport lumber from Sarawak, Malaysia, allegedly failed to report some 1.1 billion yen of income in total during a period of up to seven years alleging the money constituted kickbacks to Sarawak officials via a Hong Kong agent.”

Serious allegations of integrity involving a minister in defence contracts such as US$100 million for Sukhoi jets from Russia and US$120 million for submarines from France.”

“A hefty commission in millions of Euros being paid to the submarine broker.”

“Customs officers found about 600 boxes of frozen beef worth about RM80,000 among its cargo. In the export documents, the meat was declared as fruits. ACA officers have questioned a dozen people, including customs officers, forwarding agents, trawler crew members and port officials.”

“Alcohol smugglers are short-changing the government to the tune of about RM800 million in taxes annually and adversely affecting the beer industry in the process. The loss in taxes was due to loopholes in enforcement, specifically in Malaysia's territorial waters, said a Minister. He urged the department to take firm action to rout smuggling activities by upgrading surveillance in areas which were identified as smugglers' routes.”

“The man who is supposed to lead the clean-up, has himself been accused of illicit enrichment by a former underling.”

“The contractor claimed that the government project in the tune of RM500 million was subcontracted to his firm for RM430 million.”

“In a separate case, a minister is accused of taking bribes to set criminal suspects free.”

“A survey this month by PERC, a Hong Kong-based consultancy, shows that corruption is perceived to have worsened in Malaysia.”
“A spendthrift government that will retard economic stimulus, leading to a bankrupt nation.”
“Billions of ringgit is lost in the name of kickbacks or corruption and this is going to make the country go bankrupt.”
“Police constable jailed for accepting bribe.”
“Several high-ranking customs officer detained to be investigated for bribery allegations.”
“Immigration officers detained under ISA.”
“Minister’s alleged involvement in money politics.”
“It was alleged that a prominent lawyer wrote the judgment for a judge.”
“Politicians accused of money politics.”
“UMNO aspirant disqualified because of money politics.”
“Billions of ringgit lost in forex trading.”
“Malaysia: Billions of ringgit lost in corruption annually due to corruption and illegal money transactions.”
“Billions of ringgit was siphoned out of the country through wily money changers.”
“Former chief minister in court accused of corruption.”
“Former minister acquitted of corruption charges.”
“Former Perwaja boss acquitted of corrupt charges against him.”
“Millions of dollars used to build up the image of Malaysian politicians overseas.”
“ Millions of ringgit spent on residential renovations.”
“Millions of ringgit spent on travelling expenses of politicians.”

These were but just a few of the innumerable headlines laid bare by the media that have brought utter disgust to the taxpayers. A former prime minister denied the many allegations that appeared in the media on corruption involving those in power and claimed that only about 15 percent of those reported were genuine.

Be that as it may, the educated electorate are questioning this: When would our politicians learn about competence, transparency and accountability in managing the country’s wealth? The people at large feel that the billions of ringgit lost and secured through kickbacks and bribery for the past 30 years could have brought splendid development to the country.

The money lost could have been used to perk up people’s livelihood such as building schools and providing better health facilities for the people. A prominent accountant attached to an established public firm in the city has this to say: “RM2 ringgit out of every RM10 spent by the government is pure wastage due to lack of transparent standard procedures in the management of taxpayers’ money. Only the Opposition-held states have shown some rigour in conforming to these procedures.”

Business, politics and corruption have become inseparable

Corruption seems to have become a way of life in many sectors – public and private. According to a retired private sector executive, “Business is so corrupt these days and the dye is cast. Business, politics and corruption have become inseparable.” On the other hand, the people’s general perception is that the incumbent government lacks the political will to curb corruption. They have the notion that many high-profile cases have been swept under the carpet as many prominent personalities were allegedly involved and rocking the boat would affect support for the political parties. Some high profile leaders have not been netted by the MACC and charged for abuse of power and for corruption.

This elegant silence on the government’s part is disturbing the voters more. When the people see that corrupt leaders are still hanging on to power, their pure conjecture would be that no green light has been given by those higher up to take action to this effect. The view that there would be a backlash from among party members is a petty excuse and analysis of the real situation on the ground.

For this reason, the incumbent government would face an uphill task in convincing the critics in the next general election. The Cyber war and political campaigns on the ground would see the issue of corruption in the country used to the hilt to win votes. The urban electorate are already well aware of this scourge affecting the nation. The Opposition would contrive to sway the voters’ sentiments by using corruption as the instrumental tool and gizmo to win them over. Analysis has it that this is going to be effective approach by the Opposition to convince the people to vote for a change.

Endemic corruption started in the 80s

Corruption as perceived by the people has gone beyond the hum and haw mores of our society. It is now being strongly rooted in the nation’s culture. Endemic corruption in the country started from the 80s’ onwards. A very senior UMNO politician was once quoted as saying, “Corruption is a form of lubricant. It makes work get done faster.” Of late, the same politician was quoted as saying, ”Never mind if there is a little corruption here and there as long as the people are helped.”

When statements of this nature - immoral and irreligious to God-fearing laypeople - come from a politician the omen is going to be bad for the country. This is tantamount to promoting and breeding the culture of corruption more among politicians and those with authority. Corruption, as every Malaysian is aware of, goes against the religious and moral values of any civilised society. There, no doubt, could be a short-term material gain to corruption, but if this blight goes unbridled would end up becoming a threat to the social fabric of our future generations.

Less the voters forget, the media in the past have highlighted allegations of corruption involving politicians, middle-men, government agencies, enforcement officers and the public in general. There were allegations, among others, that money had been paid to lubricate the process of acquiring government projects, palms were greased to make sure that politicians were elected into office in what is popularly known as money politics, millions of ringgit was spent to secure votes during elections, high commissions were paid in weapon dealings, millions of ringgit was paid to get projects approved by local and foreign businessmen.

The people have also come to perceive that there are the “touchable” and the “untouchable” when it comes to punitive actions against those alleged to be corrupt. These are some of the calamitous social symptoms facing the nation today. From politics to the securing of a driving license it has been touted that corruption is involved. The irony is that the pro-government media have been so earnest in their dutiful sermons on integrity and a corrupt-free society to veil the truth from the people.

Bribe Payers Index

The next general election would see the Opposition campaigning to the hilt on this sensational issue that is scorching the nation. The revulsion and detestation could already be observed in the urban constituencies as the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of the urbanites has risen to 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 among the educated populace. To them the incumbent government has failed to rein in corruption that has cost the nation billions of ringgit annually.

In the Transparency International’s (TI) 2008 Bribe Payers Index (BPI) it was found that corrupt practices in the country has been on the rise. Political parties were singled out as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country with a BPI of 3.6. The police force was indicated as the most corrupt institutions in the country with a BPI of 4. The business communities also were not convinced of the government’s efforts to fight corruption, compared with some other Asia Pacific nations. These are some of the figures noted by TI:

Bribery to high ranking officials to or political parties: Malaysia - 42% of 92 respondents.

Bribery to low level public officials to speed things up: Malaysia - 38% of 94 respondents.

Use of personal and familiar relationships on public contracting: Malaysia - 44% of 93 respondents.

Assessment of government action in the fight against corruption in Malaysia (100 respondents):

Very Ineffective – 27%
Ineffective – 46%
Neither – 9%
Effective – 12%
Very Effective – 6%

Sectors in Malaysia perceived to be affected by corruption (1: not all corrupt, 5: extremely corrupt):

Police – 4
Political Parties – 3.8
Registry and Permit Services – 3.6
Parliament/Legislature – 3.3
Customs – 3.3

Criminals, businessmen and politicians

Corruption has in actuality caused more damaging effects to the society than what meets the eye. It has been alleged that criminals oftentimes collude with prominent businessmen and politicians. This would unquestionably be damaging to the nation’s security. The collusion between criminals and some enforcers would blemish the whole process of law enforcement. Studies on corruption have shown that wealthy and poor countries have attracted criminal gangs and corrupt officials. In some countries criminal organisations have influenced law enforcement and politics. Some countries are now in major chaos as a result of this collusion and it has become almost impossible to put right the problems. Is Malaysia moving towards this direction?

In many countries, the conviction of notorious gangs have led to the break up of mobs and disturbances. Law enforcers and their families have been harassed and some assassinated. Studies on corruption have also shown that organised crime syndicates are able to protect themselves through many devious means – corruption of law-enforcement officers, physical violence against informants, threats against prosecutors, lawyers and judges, use of lawyers to circumvent the legal system and monetary contributions to political candidates. In some countries, mob activities are so gainful that organised crime could afford to keep in its payroll government officials at various levels, including politicians and law enforcers, to influence the legal system in its favour. Is Malaysia moving towards this direction?

Impede the country’s economic growth

In some situations, criminals are also able to establish supportive enforcement officers who pass information to them about investigations and intended raids and by making intentional mistakes in prosecutions – technical errors resulting in cases in courts being thrown out. Corruption of enforcement officers is made easier by the fact that they are modestly paid and subject to temptation and as a consequence crime and bribery would remain unchecked. When enforcement officers are corrupt they would make efforts to ensure that their equals are also corrupt. An honest officer would unfortunately come under harsh pressures from them. Is Malaysia also moving towards this direction?

Why is the increase in smuggling, peddling and abuse of drugs and the number of addicts in the country gone unabated? Why is there a perpetual increase in illegal immigrants in the country? Apparently, these pains in the neck are just impossible to be done away with because of alleged corruption involving some of those with authority in the country. At the rate it is going, each year about 25 000 of the country’s inhabitants would measure off as drug addicts and quietly thaw into the society – an irritant to all peace loving Malaysians. This number almost equals one-third of the number of students graduating from our universities annually. If this trend continues, by the year 2020 instead of achieving developed status the country is expected to graduate with more than 1.5 million drug addicts - a terrifying figure indeed! They would bring about many more other social ills that could undoubtedly impede the country’s economic growth.

Is Malaysia moving towards destruction?

About RM60 million is now spent yearly to rehabilitate the estimated 60 000 drug addicts that we know of, and just imagine how much of the tax payers’ money is going to be spent in 2020 to do the same. The vast number of illegal immigrants – a projection of more than 3 to 4 million by 2020 – who would contribute their shares of nuisance to the society would compound to this menace. The colossal costs for deportations and maintenance of detention centres in the country would again be at the expense of the taxpayers. Could corruption – monetary lure too lucrative and tempting for those with a greedy mind - in the society attribute to some of these social problems? And is Malaysia moving towards destruction?

When politicians have limited accountability and when personal political interests are prioritised, the duty and responsibility of individuals in authority could not be wholly fulfilled. This is wretchedly going to weigh down the country’s progress. Corruption at any level of the society is an amoral activity that would only help encourage indescribable and unlawful activities. Corruption is an unscrupulous action against our moral duty and obligation. It is a symptom of deep problem in society that could cause many conflicts in society and indirectly affects the economy, investments, enforcements, the legal processes and even ethnic divisions – resulting in low civic consciousness among people and thus would ultimately debase the whole society. Surprisingly, with all these effects of corruption on human values we have politicians who still would consider corruption as a lubricant to promote business and help people.

If graft is seen as a normal practice in life, or as a lubricant in our daily chores to get legal or illegal things done speedily, in the long run it is going to devastate the fabric of our relatively peaceful society. The society thus needs better politicians with better thoughts and a morally sturdier frame of mind that could help develop a better Malaysia. We need politicians whose conscience would tell them that corruption in any form is against the edicts of all major religions. If corruption is left to flourish by some self-seeking politicians it would certainly undermine our civil society. Politicians who have the moral courage to say no to corruption are those who would eventually get the nod from the people.

The exemplar of governance in Opposition-held states

The people should vote for a government that could instil the patriotic fervour in the masses to safeguard the country from being blackmailed by criminals and corrupters. Short-term monetary gain people make through crime and corruption should not be condoned and politicians should never be part of these deals.

Critics and auditors have commented that the Opposition-led states are displaying exemplary governance and are very concerned about the importance of having a corrupt-free system of management. These states have thus far shown tremendous economic success and have undeniably convinced the people to stay with them. Numerous reports – local and foreign - have been written on how effective is the management of these states without using corruption as a lubricant to bring in investors. Corruption in these states is nipped in the bud before it continues to flourish to become a major threat to the administration. Profit margins on government projects are set very low as contractors do not have to bribe their way to get those contracts. Contractors do not have to pay bribes to politicians for being given a project or pay for a politician’s wife and children to go on vacation overseas. The notorious “Mr 10% politicians” are not heard of in these Opposition governed states. Only capable contractors are given projects and there is no abuse of these contracts as they are not subcontracted to others for quick profits. The exemplar of governance shown by the states under the Opposition are worth emulating for a better Malaysia.

BN would in all probability lose more votes

The people in general thus are looking forward for a change in government at the national level to ensure that the ill-effects of corruption could be erased from politics, business and the social fabrics of our society. The Opposition would sanguinely hinge on this issue to capture votes in the next general election. The urban electorate are already awaken by this unease when they see corruption rearing its ugly head in our society; the rural electorate would soon be stirred as well. The people’s perception today is that nothing much has been done by the incumbent regime to rein in corrupt practices in the country. Corruption is rife and has become entrenched in the country’s political psyche. For this reason, BN would in all probability lose more votes than they could ever imagine in the next general election.
Malaysia Chronicle