Power Corrupts

Press Release from IIM
The Malaysian Institute of Integrity supports the MACC’s call to screen election candidates

Power corrupts, they say; or as the longer version goes, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Upon mentioning the word corruption more often than not our mind will wander towards our visual cortex playing visions of Barisan Nasional, the police, and on the lesser side the local authorities.  Like it or not, the management of people’s perception towards the integrity of Barisan Nasional leaders continues to play a huge role especially in the cyber world and will have an impact in the 13th General Election.  While Prime Minister Najib continues to win the rakyat‘s hearts and minds through his policy of openness, there is that little devil playing in the back of our mind asking if Najib would have the political will to remove certain people after the next general election he inherited from his predecessor who had stepped down mid-term.  Let us hope that high-profile cases affecting Barisan Nasional’s integrity such as Shahrizat Jalil’s and Khir Toyo’s will reflect a continuous effort by the Najib administration to strengthen its integrity.

Fighting corruption in Malaysia is not a new thing.  In fact, Malaysia became the first developing nation to have an anti-corruption law when the Anti-Corruption Act was passed in 1961. This was supported by the Emergency Ordinance (Essential Powers) No.22, 1970, and then replaced by the Anti-Corruption Agency Act in 1982.  As part of a continual process to make better the fight against corruption, the Anti-Corruption Act 1997  was passed among others covering more types of corrupt acts, adding more powers to the prosecution and to the Anti Corruption Agency.  To further show its seriousness in fighting corruption, the Government had also tabled (and passed by Parliament) the Witness Protection Act 2009, Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission Act 2009, and the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010.

One may ask how effective have these Acts been, especially in the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 with regards to the NFC case?  As we know, an employee of a bank here in Malaysia had divulged transaction information of an account belonging to the NFCorp to PKR’s Rafizi Ramli (who by chance is an accountant), who in turn made public the findings and demanded an investigation into the NFCorp.  While we thank the two individuals for their concern into the misuse of public funds granted to the NFCorp to assist its real purpose, the bank employee had committed an offence under Section 97(1) of the Banking and Financial Institutions Act, 1989 for revealing details of a customer’s account, while Rafizi, whether foolishly or knowingly given that he is a certified accountant, had committed an offence under Section 97(3) of the same Act for disclosing information in contravention of subsection (1).  Anywhere you go to, including Switzerland, you will never be able to get information pertaining to the banks’ customers’ account(s) unless compelled by law.

Aren’t Rafizi and the bank employee protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act then?  No, they are not.  All disclosure of improper conduct should be reported to any enforcement agency “Provided such disclosure is not specifically prohibited by any written law” (Section 6(1)).  What the bank employer should have done was to lodge a report with the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) and let due process take place.  It makes no sense to report a purported wrongdoing to the press, or on the Web, or in ceramahs, unless you are not interested in seeing justice being done, but rather throw it to the court of public opinion for political mileage.

Being able to govern the country is at its core all about power and influence.  Elected politicians use their power to get things done.  In an ideal world, we can hope to see this power used to benefit others, meaning voters.  That would be in the form of socialised power.  The other form of power would be called personalised power.  This is used for personal gains.    An elected politician can still use this power to benefit others, and at the same time make personal gains.  After all, none of us have seen a poor former US President.  We have, in our times, seen poor Prime Ministers (such as Tun Razak), but that would be a rare exception.

We have also seen the rearing of ugly heads when it comes to the Opposition-held states; the sand-mining scandal in Selangor, mushrooming of seedy health centers in Selangor, sale of Bayan Mutiara, allocating humongous projects in Kedah without open-tender being called, the contract to supply of tailor-made costumes to the Perak government being given to members of a state assemblyman’s family, and of course, the case Teoh Beng Hock died for.  If you ask a layman like me, I see no benefit whatsoever that could be gained by Barisan Nasional coming from Teoh Beng Hock’s death, but those whose information the late Teoh Beng Hock was privy to, definitely benefited from his eternal silence.  Only fools would think otherwise.

So, my fellow rakyat, voters, the answer is NO, REPLACING X WITH Y DOES NOT CHANGE ANYTHING.  There are positive and negative sides of power.  On the former, power makes leaders more assertive, confident and certain of their decisions.  They must use the power to get the job done.  On the latter, the more power a leader possess, the more they focus on their egocentric desires and as their power increases, they will gradually cease to see the perspective of others.  What we want, as the rakyat, are leaders with integrity, and it does not matter which side of the political fence they are on.

Recently, the Malaysian Institute of Integrity had issued a press statement supporting the move by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission offering to vet potential candidates for the GE13.  Datuk Dr Mohd Tap Salleh, President of IIM, said that “this proactive step would help party leadership to nominate candidates with integrity.”

IIM in this statement said that this process will ensure the degree of confidence towards the election and democratic systems will increase, and this will in turn interest the public to participate in the elections process and choose leaders.  “This country needs political leadership with high integrity.  With respect to that, leaders need to have in them pristine values such as trust, responsible, accountable, truthful, transparent, honest, and sincere, in order to serve the nation and its people,” Datuk Dr Mohd Tap added.

And I, as a layman, cannot agree more.  I hope that the Government, political leaders,  and the Elections Commission will take this offer seriously.  Elected politicians must always remember that they have the mandate from the rakyat to administer this government and the constituency they represent to ensure it is done efficiently and the interest of the rakyat protected at all cost, not for their political nor personal gains.