Media Conference Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Tuesday, 11th November 2008 at 11 am: 

The Malaysian Commission on Anti-Corruption (MCAC) Bill should be tabled for first reading in Parliament without further delay to allow for fullest public feedback and debate before parliamentary vote

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced at the National Integrity Convention in Kuching last Friday that the Cabinet had on the same day approved the Malaysian Commission on Anti-Corruption (MCAC) Bill, which would replace the Anti-Corruption Act and will be “the foundation for the formation of an anti-corruption commission that is effective and subject to independent monitoring through a comprehensive check-and-balance system”.

Abdullah said the MCAC bill will be tabled for first reading in Parliament “as soon as possible”.

However, it would appear that the Prime Minister’s concept of “as soon as possible” is very different from that of the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz who will be responsible for piloting the bill through Parliament.

This is because Nazri was reported in the press the next day as saying that the MCAC Bill would be tabled for first first reading in Parliament by December 11, which is one full month away!

I call on Nazri to speed up and table the MCAC Bill for first reading in Parliament without further delay, possibly this week itself, to allow for fullest public feedback and debate before a parliamentary vote on what has been bruited as Abdullah’s legacy as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia.

However, there is greater skepticism than belief among Malaysians that the MCAC would be the “magic formula” to transform Malaysia from a country in an unchecked plunge in annual international corruption rankings, whether Transparency International (TI) or the Political and Economic Risks Consultancy (PERC) into a country in the forefront of model nations in integrity and anti-corruption.

Can Abdullah achieve in the next five months what he had failed in the past five years - to declare an all-out war on corruption in Malaysians? It will be very difficult to find takers for this belief especially when Abdullah won’t be around when the legislation is enforced!

Recent developments in the past eight months since the March 8 political tsunami have only cast doubt that the MCAC will not end up as a toothless tiger like the Suhakam, which was established with the statutory duties to protect and promote human rights but has proved to be nothing more than a “window-dressing”!

Reasons for the great skepticism that the MCAC would be able to make any difference in combating the worsening corruption in the country include the following:

• Terminal denial complex by all in authority at the failure of Abdullah’s five-year National Integrity Plan to reduce corruption and improve Malaysia’s ranking in Transparency International Corruption Perception Index to at least No. 30 by 2008 – as instead we have plunged further down to No. 47, and still heading south!

• The MCAC Bill is driven by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) which has proven to be totally impotent in fighting the “sharks” in contrast to the “ikan yu” in corruption – with a likely similar outcome of a more glorified MCAC as compared to ACA but with little change in real power equation to be able to take action against the corrupted high-and-mighty in power without “green-light” from the sitting Prime Minister.

• This is why there is the scandal of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) investigating the case of RM100 million money-laundering involving a Sabah politician but which the ACA has studiously avoided investigating, although a police report had been lodged on the same matter!

• The total impotence of ACA despite a thousand complaints of money politics in Umno party electioneering, with Umno disciplinary board chairman Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen openly conceding that “Money politics in Umno has now become too deeply rooted for the party to completely deal with it” which “seems to be getting worse with every party election”.

• The singular lack of commitment on the part of the Prime Minister-designate Datuk Seri Najib Razak to wipe out corruption and what is worse, with him hounded and haunted by serious allegations concerning integrity which he is not prepared to completely dispel through a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

In view of these widespread reservations about whether there is real political commitment and will to fight corruption, it is all the more imperative that the MCAC Bill should be made public to allow for the fullest public discussion and consultation now before it is debated in Parliament next month.

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor