PETALING JAYA: Two analysts have described Tiong King Sing as a political liability for the government following the involvement of the tourism, arts and culture minister in a commotion with immigration officers at KLIA last week.
However, another said Tiong’s actions showed that a minister was willing to take direct action to tackle corruption if the claims he made against some immigration officers were indeed true.
Azmil Tayeb of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) said Tiong needed to be held in check and suggested Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim consider replacing him if he reshuffles his Cabinet.
Azmil told FMT that the incident in KLIA reflected badly on the government as Tiong’s conduct was unbecoming of a minister.
“He should have collected evidence of corruption and reported to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for action to be taken instead of taking matters into his own hands.
“The civil service needs assurance that it is able to carry out its duties without fear or favour. If there is any misconduct, then it should be dealt with in a proper manner, not arbitrarily like in the KLIA incident,” he said.
Akademi Nusantara’s Azmi Hassan agreed with Azmil, saying Tiong’s actions were hasty as it would be tough for the MACC to determine if there really was corruption in that specific incident.
“I’m sure MACC will find it very difficult to determine if corruption had occurred at that particular juncture where Tiong intervened or interfered,” he said.
Expecting Perikatan Nasional (PN) to play up the issue during campaigning for the forthcoming elections in six states, Azmi said the coalition would seek to paint the federal minister as interfering in the civil service’s procedures.
Last Friday, Tiong admitted to being at the centre of a commotion with immigration officers at KLIA, where he attempted to intervene in a case where a Chinese national was allegedly prohibited entry into Malaysia.
Tiong said his visit to the airport had exposed a “culture of corruption by a few officials and the chronic abuse of power”.
Yesterday, a MACC source said the anti-graft agency had recorded the statements of a minister and two Chinese nationals over the incident.
However, James Chin of the University of Tasmania said Tiong’s actions would have “pleasantly surprised” Malaysians, as it depicted a minister willing to take direct action to tackle corruption if the claims he made against some immigration officers were indeed true.
“In terms of the civil service’s relationship (with the minister), I am of the opinion that, by and large, most civil servants want to work for a clean civil service.
“I doubt that the majority of civil servants want to work for a corrupt civil service. So if the government takes more action against corruption in the civil service, I think it will only lead to good things.”
The KLIA incident is not the first time that Tiong has courted controversy.
Last year, the Bintulu MP from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), which was part of the previous administration, had hit out at the then health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah over the ministry’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tiong, who leads the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), had also hit out at US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi last August over her trip to Taiwan.