49-Day Countdown to 13GE: Najib has presented me with a dilemma - is the Election Integrity Pledge worth signing when the PM can sign it with such aplomb, contempt and cynicism?

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, has presented me with a dilemma - is the Election Integrity Pledge proposed by Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) worth signing when Najib could sign it with such aplomb, contempt and cynicism after his four-year premiership witnessed corruption in Malaysia plunging to its worst depths in the nation's 56-year history.

In Najib's four years as Prime Minister, Malaysia's Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) plunged to its lowest rankings in the past 18 years, i.e. No. 56 in 2009 and 2010, No. 60 in 2011 and No. 54 in 2012, as compared to Malaysia's No. 23rd ranking in the first TI CPI in 1995, No. 37th placing in 2003 when Tun Dr. Mahathir stepped down as Prime Minister after 22 years of authoritarian and corrupt rule and No. 47 ranking in 2008 after five years of Tun Abdullah's "Mr. Clean" premiership.

It is incontrovertible and undeniable that corruption under Najib's four-year premiership is the worst under any Prime Minister in the nation's 56-year history, as apart from being worse than the Mahathir and Abdullah eras, no one has ever suggested that corruption under the first three Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein were ever more serious than under their successors.

What makes a meaningful signing of the TI-M's Election Integrity Pledge even more questionable is the presence of the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, who had put Malaysia on the international radar of anti-corruption campaigns after the allegations in the ground-breaking and explosive report by the Swiss-based NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) last September which estimated the assets of Taib Mahmud's family at US$21 billion (RM64 billion), with the wealth of Taib himself put at a whopping US$15 billion (RM46 billion) making him Malaysia's richest man outstripping tycoon Robert Kuok who has US$12.5 billion.

Najib not only failed to show any seriousness or commitment in the battle against corruption by setting up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the BMF report to clear Taib's name but even more important to vindicate Malaysia's reputation, he as good as directed the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to leave the BMF report alone by publicly dismissing its allegations of grand corruption against the Sarawak Chief Minister.

If the Sarawak Chief Minister was present at Najib's Election Integrity Pledge signing ceremony yesterday, why was the Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, another Barisan Nasional leader who has put Malaysia on the world radar in international anti-corruption campaigns, absent?

In my speech in Parliament on the 2013 Budget last October, I had spoken about the "test of the trio" as to whether there is real political will in the Najib premiership to combat "Grand Corruption" by VVIPs, and I had named Taib, Musa and the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.

But there is only complete silence from Najib on the "test of the trio" in the battle against "grand corruption" in Malaysia.

What credibility and legitimacy could Najib's signing of the Election Integrity Pledge inspire and generate when the 66th UMNO General Assembly last December was such a dismal failure as far as fighting corruption and ensuring election integrity in the 13th General Elections are concerned?

A month before the 66th UMNO General Assembly, China's outgoing President and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Hu Jintao warned at the 18th CCP Congress that corruption could trigger the collapse of the Party and the fall of the State - a theme which was taken up in the first speech of the new Chinese Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, who denounced the prevalence of corruption and said officials needed to guard against its spread or it would "doom the party and the state".

There was more reason for Najib than Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping to give priority to the grave problem of corruption as in the last two decades, China had been making measurable progress in the battle against corruption while the reverse is the case for Malaysia.

In fact, if the trend of China's improvement in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in the past 18 years (1995-2012) and Malaysia's regression continues unchecked, China will be placed in a better position than Malaysia in the TI CPI in being internationally regarded as being less corrupt in less than five years.

But the 66th UMNO General Assembly only provided further evidence that although Umno and Barisan Nasional have become synonymous with corruption in Malaysia and the four-year Najib premiership, Najib is only good at mouthing anti-corruption slogans but totally lacking the political will and commitment to root out corruption, especially grand corruption involving political and government leaders.

This was why the 66th UMNO General Assembly presented the sad spectacle of the Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman successfully performing the "disappearance" act despite valiant efforts by the media representatives on a look-out for him to respond to demands by Sabah UMNO delegates that Musa explain the scandal of the RM40million "political donation to Sabah UMNO" which involved him and the Sabah timber trader Michael Chia.

There was also the spectable of the the backing out and silence of the Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi coupled with the failure of Najib to respond to the serious allegations of integrity about a RM100 million defence ministry project in 2005 raised by businessman Deepak Jaikishan implicating the Prime Minister's family and which is also related to the high-profile and long-running Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case.

It was at the 66th UMNO General Assembly that some Sabah UMNO delegates told online news portals that although they full support Musa Aman, they were in the dark about the RM40 million "political donation" to Sabah UMNO and they wanted Musa to personally explain the issue.

However, there were also Sabah UMNO delegates who dismissed the controversy on the ground that the RM40 million donation was pittance compared to the millions UMNO dished out during elections - with one Sabah UMNO delegate revealing that in the Putatan constituency in his home state, UMNO would have to spend up to RM6 million during the polls.

With 26 parliamentary constituencies in Sabah (and Labuan) and at the average of RM6 million per constituency, the total election expenses would exceed RM150 million at the parliamentary level - which would more than doubled when the election expenses in the state assembly constituencies are taken into account.

With UMNO/BN spending at least RM300 million in Sabah, another RM300 million in Sarawak, and similar election expenditures for the 165 Parliamentary seats and 441 State Assembly seats in the eleven states in Peninsular Malaysia, we are looking at the UMNO/BN coalition spending billions of ringgit in the 13GE to retain power and recapture two-thirds parliamentary majority at the federal level, as well as regain the four Pakatan Rakyat states of Penang, Kelantan, Selangor and Kedah and ,maintain its unconstitutional rule in Perak.

With the UMNO/BN set to spend billions of ringgit in the 13GE, what is the use of Najib signing TI-M's Election Integrity Pledge? I will discuss with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Seri Hadi Awang whether under these circumstances, there is any purpose in our signing the TI-M's Election Integrity Pledge.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timur