A flash in the pan syndrome


By T K Chua

I remember when Abdullah Badawi, our fifth prime minister, first took office. He began tackling corruption with a bang.

A Cabinet minister, a high profile businessman, a federal officer, a state officer and a local authority officer were arrested and charged with corruption. His “work with him and not for him” slogan gained traction and he won 90 per cent of the seats in the 2004 General Election.

It was easy for Malaysians to fall head and shoulders over this posturing and pretension by the authorities then. But, I think, not anymore. There have been too many broken promises. Now, many Malaysians are cynical, regardless of the measures, genuine or otherwise, being undertaken to tackle corruption in the country.

The recent blitz on three high profile individuals by the newly minted Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief seems to suggest the same strategy is being used, i.e. to give an impression that there are serious attempts to wipe out corruption in the public service.

However, a cursory reading of comments on the arrests seem to indicate that most Malaysians are sceptical that something profound has indeed happened.

Why do we need a new MACC chief to help us recognise that corruption is happening in our midst? Surely all these cases did not happen overnight. Surely all the bosses and supervisors can’t be in total oblivion as to what is going on under their noses?

So my question is why the sudden spurt of action to coincide with the appointment of the new MACC chief? Was the old MACC chief useless and ineffective, or were allegations of corruption just made one week ago?

Fighting corruption must be status blind, persistent, tenacious, and relentless. We do not need to wait for a new PM or a new MACC chief. That would be just a flash in the pan – an illusion, a diversion and an impression created to show something is being done when actually nothing much has been done.

No doubt, we need evidence to prove corruption. At the same time, there is a “landscape of corruption” which could be quite easily discerned if we are observant enough. Haphazard developments, obscene wealth, opulent living, poor public service, extreme poverty and marginalisation are all potential indicators of corruption. We just need people with authority to investigate and prove it.

TK Chua is an FMT reader

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