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  • Writer's pictureYB Wong Chen

Corruption: A Rumination

Good morning. I want to talk about the subject matter of corruption this morning. Corruption is the single most important issue facing Malaysia and has been a topic of many of our Monday Night Chats.

While I was in Jakarta last week, I learned of the story about the Samsung heir being sentenced to 5 years jail for corrupting the S.Korean President. And during my conference in Jakarta, the common woe told by MPs from Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines was of corruption and abuses of power. Then last Saturday, I was part of a group of judges for the KPUM finals, where the topic was on the MACC and Whistleblower Act.

What is the state of corruption in Malaysia? Has the level of corruption increased or decreased? Is corruption so widespread that it encompasses both sides, the federal government and also the Opposition governments?

Common people and the chattering professionals talk about “one side steals millions and the other side steals billions”. There is a lot of despair and disillusionment out there. What future is there for real change, if the next PM may just be another shade of the same, what one of friends describe as “UMNO light”.

Well, I just came back from Indonesia and had the chance to speak to Indonesian policy advisors to Jokowi as well as Indonesian MPs. They tell a story of gradual but fundamental change, and it is a story of hope and a call for patience.

The Indonesian experience in combatting corruption has many valuable lessons for us. Indonesian culture is similar to that of the Malay culture here, therefore there is a belief that change must be gradual to make room for consensus building. On the other hand, the Singapore culture is also similar to the Malaysian Chinese culture here, there is therefore an expectation that with stern leadership we can quickly achieve a corrupt free society.

The key point is whoever comes to power, there must be a commitment to carry out 3 key policy reforms. Policy 1: Establish press freedom, let the press shame and name corrupt politicians without fear or favour. Policy 2: Empower MACC to be completely professional and independent, accountable only to Parliament. Policy 3: Pay your MPs reasonably well so that you eliminate the need to be corrupt.

The 1998 Indonesian Reformasi planted these policy reform seeds and it then took close to 10 to 15 years before the anti corruption system became fully functional. Today, everyone in Indonesia, including the ruling politicians, fears the KPK (the Indon MACC).

It is my belief that the two big cultural and policy influences of Indonesia and Singapore, will see Malaysia achieving significant anti corruption results faster than Indonesia, that is within 5 to 10 years.

So if you are part of the despairing public on the state of corruption in both federal and opposition politics, don’t give up! Demand your MPs to do better and monitor them carefully. Scrutinise their asset declaration forms. Note if they are living beyond their means; the cars they drive and the watches they wear always invariably gives them away!

Lastly, voting UMNO BN will bring zero prospects of any change. Despite the existence of bad apples, voting Opposition will at least guarantee the planting of the seeds of anti-corruption reforms. We then have to wait 5 to 10 years for full results. The Indonesian experience tells a positive story of hope moderated by patience.

That’s it for my long Monday morning chat (stay tuned for tonight’s Monday Night Chat video), I wish all a very productive week ahead.

Am attaching our latest P104 family photo of current and past staff, volunteers and interns. Our P104 family has grown to about 70 plus now from 4 years ago!


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