by Jeswan Kaur (12-29-11)
One must beware of ministers who can do nothing without money and those who want to do everything with money– Indira Gandhi.
Corruption has become a way of life for politicians in this country. Under the disguise of defending the rakyat’s well-being, these unscrupulous politicians are in actual fact looking after the welfare of their own kith and kin.
Earlier this month, the Transparency International Malaysia survey revealed that for the third consecutive year, Malaysia recorded a decline in its Corruption Perception Index score, its 4.3 score slightly lower than the 4.4 recorded in 2010 and much lower than the government benchmark of 4.9.
Is it fair to deduce that a lack of political will is the reason corruption in Malaysia is doing “brisk” business? If the recent cases of palm greasing involving politicians who also hold ministerial responsibilities are any indication, then yes, there is no commitment coming from the “powers that be” to weed out corruption from the system.
Nipping the malignant bud of corruption is not something the federal government is interested in. Instead, the government under the Barisan Nasional flagship is doing the reverse.
When Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak “unceremoniously” deported French human rights lawyer William Bourdon five months ago, Suara Rakyat Malaysia or Suaram was convinced that the premier and his government are “inextricably linked” with the Scorpene submarines corruption scandal.
Bourdon was representing Suaram in a high-profile case filed against submarines’ vendor DCN at the Parisian courts. (In 2002, Najib then the defence minister, sanctioned the purchase of the Scorpene submarines amid accusations of gross over-pricing and kickbacks).
“It is the biggest mistake yet by the Malaysian government for it is an affront to diplomacy, to international law and common decency. It was a totally arbitrary act by the Home Ministry and a gross abuse of executive power of the Najib administration,” Suaram director Cynthia Gabriel retorted via a statement on July 27, four days after Bourdon’s deportation.
‘Leadership by example’
Najib has since denied having had a hand in any financial impropriety in the submarines deal. Now, following in his wrong steps is the Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil who is vehemently denying any involvement in the misappropriation of funds allotted to the National Feedlot Centre which is headed by her husband Mohamad Salleh Ismail and the couple’s children.
Details furnished by the opposition party PKR allege that Shahrizat and her family have misused the RM250 million meant for NFC by purchasing a luxury condominium in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur and another one in Singapore, a Mercedez Benz and an all-paid Umrah pilgrimage.
Pressure has been mounting on Shahrizat to quit serving the rakyat but no thanks to the nation’s top two leaders i.e. Najib and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin who are playing “godfathers” to her, the 58-year-old Shahrizat seems unfazed and is capitalising on her 16 years experience as a politician to cover up her tracks.
Najib thought deporting Bourdon would be the end of his worry, but not as far as Suaram is concerned, with this human right group going all out to pin the premier down.
Shahrizat should learn her lesson and own up before she is rejected by the people, “unceremoniously” that is.
Corruption thriving in Malaysia
The NFC scandal has become Shahrizat’s worst political nightmare. On Dec 23, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) raided the NFC office at Mont Kiara. A day earlier, the MACC set up a special team to investigate allegations of corruption involving NFC.
While the NFC scandal remains the hottest topic at present, also having caught the people’s attention was news that aides of Najib and Muhyiddin and a deputy minister were allegedly “bought” by a businessman to obtain contracts from the government and its agencies, as exposed by a blogger, “The Whistleblower711”.
Deputy Finance Minister Awang Adek Hussin, who was implicated, claims that his “conscience is clear” and the money received was not corruption but instead for the benefit of the people of Bachok, where he is the Umno division chief.
Whatever their excuses, Shahrizat, Najib, Awang Adek and Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud best take cognisance of the fate that befell former Selangor menteri besar Dr Khir Toyo who on December 23 was jailed to one year after he was found guilty of obtaining for himself and his wife a valuable property at a consideration Khir knew was insufficient four years ago.
The court also ordered that Khir’s land and bungalow be forfeited. So much for Khir trying to ride on his MBship to amass for himself a fortune. Politicians must at all times remember that you are here to serve the rakyat – “people first and not money” must be your undertaking.
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.