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Abdullah has within 48 hours undermined his own Umno presidential speech about steadfastness to fight corruption with his appointment of former Selangor Mentri Besar of RM2.4 million cash suitcase notoriety as Senator, before his next appointment as Cabinet Minister
(Parliament, Friday) : One of the media reports today of the Umno general assembly debates was headlined “Little talk on graft fight”.
It said that Umno delegates “barely gave the subject a passing mention” despite the call by Umno President, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to Umno delegates on Wednesday to support him in combating corruption when he highlighted the fight as one of the 12 pillars that would spur the country’s move to a developed nation status.
Abdullah is right that up to now, Umno Ministers, leaders and delegates have not shown any enthusiasm or support for the fight against corruption, whether in Umno, Parliament or the State Assemblies, especially when corruption and money politics in Umno is the root cause of the rampant corruption in Malaysia causing the country’s ranking in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2006 to plunge to an unprecedented low of 44th position, a 21-place fall in the past 12 years when Malaysia was ranked No. 23 in the first TI CPI in 1995.
However, Abdullah cannot put the whole blame on Umno Ministers, leaders and delegates for not giving him unstinting support as they clearly do not have confidence in his seriousness and commitment about an all-out war against corruption as illustrated by the anti-corruption fight going backwards instead of making new headway in the past three years of his premiership.
Abdullah has in fact provided new evidence about his own ambivalence on the issue of integrity despite his public pronouncements, as he had undermined his own Umno presidential speech about his steadfastness to fight corruption within 48 hours with the former Selangor Mentri Besar of RM2.4 million cash suitcase notoriety, Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib being sworn in as Senator.
In the past two days, UMNO Ministers and MPs were too busy to attend Parliamentary proceedings because of the on-going Umno General Assembly, resulting in the Dewan Rakyat being adjourned half-an-hour earlier yesterday for lack of quorum of the requisite 26 MPs – despite Barisan Nasional enjoying command of 91% parliamentary seats.
This morning however, the Umno General Assembly did not prevent a large crowd of Umno supporters of Muhammad Taib from turning up in Parliament for the ceremony to swear in the former Selangor Mentri Besar as Senator, which is generally regarded as paving his entry into the Abdullah Cabinet.
How can Abdullah’s reconcile his claim in his Umno Presidential Address that he would not let up in the fight against corruption and money politics when he could appoint to high office someone who had not properly accounted for his extraordinary weath which came to public light after his caper of RM2.4 million suitcase of cash at the Brisbane International Airport in December 1996 – for which he had to resign as Selangor Mentri Besar.
Although Muhammad was acquitted in Brisbane in mid-1997 on two charges of falsely declaring the money he took into Australia in December 1996 and failing to declare more than A$1.2 million when he left the country, he had failed to give a satisfactory explanation and accountability for the RM25.4 million worth of various expenditures and properties which had been reported in the foreign press in the months after his Brisbane caper came to light, namely:
When Muhamad Taib resigned as Selangor Mentri Besar in April 1997, he said he wanted to set an example of the "new culture of accountability" as in Japan and South Korea where government and political leaders resign their various posts if involved in scandals of corruption, gross negligence or incompetence.
If Abdullah’s commitment to improve integrity and fight corruption means new and higher standards of accountability and integrity for all new appointees to public offices, Muhammad Taib should be required to give satisfactory accountabilit6y for his extraordinary wealth grossly disproportionate to his known sources of income which had been outstanding for the past decade.
Otherwise, Abdullah has only himself to blame for the ballooning shadow cast on his reform pledge and agenda to wipe out corruption and money politics in the country.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman