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Speech (5) by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on 2010 Budget on Thursday, 29th October 2009: 

Malaysia’s losing battle for international competitiveness

What is the credibility of Najib talking about a total innovation of the Malaysian economy and nation when Malaysia is facing a losing battle in international competitiveness because of continuing loss of confidence in key national institutions whether judiciary, the civil service, the police, the MACC or the Election Commission?

This is the reason for the two recent adverse global rankings for Malaysia, falling three places from 21st to 24th ranking in the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) 2009-2010 and a drop of two places in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2010: Reforming Through Difficult Times from 21st to 23rd placing.

The first seven months’ of Najib’s premiership have not seen any restoration of public confidence in the key national institutions but the reverse whether in the strategic areas to fight corruption and ensure integrity; keep crime low to protect the safety of citizens, tourists and investors; or to uphold the administration of justice.

This is why Najib’s budget presentation last Friday ended so disastrously, when he tried to capitalise on the Umno/BN by-election victory in Bagan Pinang as testimony of a national transformation to greater heights.

Najib’s last two sentences in his speech were virtually drowned in the shouts by Pakatan Rakyat MPs with their spontaneous chant of “Rasuah” – which was a dubious parliamentary record in the past five decades, not only for a maiden budget speech but also for any budget presentation by former Finance Ministers.

Najib had earlier failed to make any impression on MPs when he devoted two cursory paragraphs of his budget speech to “Combatting Corruption”, but which did not evince any political will on his part to break the back of the problem of rampant corruption in Malaysia.

What Najib has to show for the battle against corruption in his first seven months as Prime Minister is quite a dismal record, reinforced by the Umno/BN nomination of a tainted candidate for money politics and corruption as a candidate in the Bagan Pinang by-election – and the Umno/BN victory in Bagan Pinang is a major setback in the battle against corruption.

Is Malaysia heading for the worst Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranking and score in 15 years, when the TI CPI 2009 is released next month?

As pointed out by Transparency International Malaysia last month during the launch of the country report of the TI Global Corruption Report (GCR) 2009, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and other “reforms” introduced by the government have so far been ineffective in fighting corruption.

These measures have not produced the desired results and so the public perception of corruption remains unchanged.

Malaysians are fed up with the status quo and the unbearable effects of corruption in the country. The Global Corruption Barometer 2009 surveyed released in May showed that 70 per cent of Malaysians believe that the government is ineffective in fighting corruption.

In contrast, although Indonesia has a far worse position in the corruption perception index than Malaysia, 76% of its people believe their government is effective in fighting corruption.

The public perception position for Malaysia is likely to be even worse than the Global Corruption Barometer 2009 survey in May after two further developments:

  • the mysterious death of DAP political aide Teoh Beng Hock on July 16, who went to the 14th floor MACC headquarters as a healthy, vigorous, idealistic young man to give his co-operation as a witness but ended up as a corpse on the 5th floor of the building; and

  • the MACC role as Umno catspaw to declare war on Pakatan Rakyat instead of declaring war on corruption, going all out to harass Pakatan Rakyat over alleged constituency allocation improprieties involving RM2,400 (even costing a human life) while being totally blind to corruption and abuses of power against Barisan Nasional leaders running into tens or hundreds of millions or even billions of ringgit!

For quite some time, there had been increasing complaints that the MACC had become a law unto itself, violating the basic constitutional and human rights of witnesses and suspects interrogated by MACC officers.

Even the police are afraid of the MACC because of the powers the MACC officers hold over the police in corruption investigations.

This is unacceptable and intolerable. I call on the Prime Minister to make public the number of reports which had been lodged against MACC (previously ACA) officers for abuse of power and use of physical force in interrogations in the past three years. Furthermore, what percentage of these reports against MACC (or ACA) officers for physical violence and torture during interrogation had been investigated.

The first step to restore public confidence in the MACC is to bring the MACC and all its officers within the ambit of the law as no democratic country can allow an institution to become a monster or a Frankenstein with no regard whatsoever to the rudiments of the rule of law and the most fundamental notion of human rights, as there should not be another Teoh Beng Hock murder.

In this connection, I call on the authorities concerned to fully co-operate with Teoh Beng Hock’s family who wants to get to the bottom of Teoh’s death and is asking for exhumation of Teoh’s remains for a second autopsy by renowned Thai pathologist Dr. Porntip Rojanasunand after her inquest testimony of Teoh’s death as 80% probability of homicide and 20% suicide.

Other instances why there has been a deepening crisis of confidence in the institutional independence, efficiency and professionalism in the past seven months greatly undermining Malaysia’s international competitiveness despite Najib’s “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now” include:

1. Renewal of Tan Sri Musa Hassan as IGP – the ridiculous parliamentary answer by the Deputy Home Minister, Abu Seman Yusup that Musa’s term was extended for a year because of his “excellent performance”.

In the past seven months, the Police and MACC were neck to neck as to which key national institution has lower public confidence and esteem.

Last month, when the MACC Deputy Chief Commissioner Datuk Abu Kassim Mohammad was the special guest of the Star online live chat, there was an online opinion poll which produced the following result at the end of the hour-long programme:

i. How would rate the MACC's performance so far in fighting corruption?

Good - 3%
Fair - 0%
Poor - 98%

ii. Should MACC only 'interview' suspects during office hours?

Yes - 79%
No - 6%
Depends on the situation - 15%

iii. How would rate the MACC's handling of Teoh Beng Hock's case?

Good - 0%
Fair - 4%
Poor - 96%

iv.Should it be made compulsory for lawyers to be present, ...

Yes - 83%
No - 6%
Depends on the situation - 11%

For the police, in the last week of July, the Home Ministry website carried an opinion poll whether the people felt safe, with the following results:

  • 97% or 9,729 out of 10,060 respondents felt unsafe because of the high crime rate, with only 1% or 89 respondents felt safe and 2% or 242 respondents in the “uncertain” category.

  • 95% or 8,883 out of 9,319 respondents felt that the safety of the people was not guaranteed as compared to 3% or 248 respondents who felt it was still guaranteed, with 2% or 188 respondents in the “uncertain” category.

  • 94% or 8,743 out of 9,261 respondents felt that government had not done its best to ensure that the safety of the people was at the best level with 2% or 185 respondents felt that the government had done its best, and 4% or 333 persons “uncertain”?

Never before had the re-appointment of an IGP attracted greater opposition from all sectors of society, whether MPs in the form of a Parliamentary Roundtable or civil societies, especially on two grounds:

  • Failure of Musa in Key Performance Indicators (KPI) as IGP in the past three years, in all the three core police functions to keep crime low, eradicate corruption and protect human rights. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that under Musa, Malaysians are even more unsafe from street crimes now than when he became IGP in September 5, 2006.

  • The re-appointment of Musa for another term of IGP cast an adverse aspersion on all the senior police officers, as if there is not a single one out of the eight top police officers occupying key police positions below the post of IGP who are qualified or competent enough to become the new IGP to provide a new police leadership and culture to roll back the tide of crime in the past five years.

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



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