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My worst fears confirmed –
Abdullah does not read letters sent to him which disappear into the “black
hole” of the PM’s Office
(Parliament, Friday) : My worst fears have been confirmed – the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi does not read letters sent to him or get a briefing on them and these letters disappear into the “black hole” of the Prime Minister’s Department.
When Abdullah was asked yesterday about a Japan Times report which allegedly implicated Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Taib Mahmud in a 1.1 billion yen (RM32 million) timber export kickbacks, he said no formal reports had been presented to him.
However, he said, he had asked the ACA to investigate the matter.
This is most shocking indeed as it was exactly a week ago that I had sent him an urgent letter to draw his attention to the Japan Times report asking him to personally reply in Parliament on Monday in the winding-up on the Royal Address debate in view of the recent snowballing of serious corruption allegations against high-profile leaders in his administration.
If the Prime Minister does not read and is not bothered to get briefed about an urgent letter from the Parliamentary Opposition Leader on serious corruption allegations against high-profile leaders in his administration appearing in the international media, gravely undermining Malaysia’s image and international competitiveness, who will expect the Prime Minister to have time for anyone who send him letters, petitions or appeals as their hope of last resort for justice?
In my urgent letter to the Prime Minister dated 6th April 2007, which was faxed to the Prime Minister’s Office which confirmed receipt when my office immediately checked with it, I had described the Japan Times report as “the latest instance of more and more adverse international reports about corruption in Malaysia, such as the adverse rankings given to the country by the corruption surveys of the Transparency International and the Political and Economic Risks Consultancy (PERC)” which warranted immediate action by Abdullah to salvage his reform agenda and pledge, in particular to make ant-corruption campaign the top priority of his administration.
According to the Japan Times report, quoting sources, nine Japanese shipping companies which transport lumber from Sarawak had allegedly failed to report some 1.1 billion yen of income in total during a period of up to seven years through last March. It was alleged the money constituted kickbacks to Sarawak officials via a Hong Kong agent connected to Taib and his family.
I even mentioned my urgent letter to the Prime Minister in Parliament on Monday during the winding-up debate by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz, where I had also asked why the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) had not conducted investigations into the billionaire astronomical wealth of Taib Mahmud in his quarter-century as Sarawak Chief Minister.
How can Abdullah say one week after my urgent letter to him that no formal report had been presented to him.
The Star report carried a very significant paragraph pregnant with implications, viz:
“Acting ACA director-general Datuk Ahmad Said Hamdan, who was also at the press conference, when met by reporters later, said that the ACA would look into the matter.”
This paragraph says many things – that the ACA is just a “paper tiger” with no independence, freedom or power of investigation into matters involving “high profile” personalities in the Abdullah administration, whether at national or state level – which is why the ACA could not move although the Japanese media had splashed the Sarawak “32 million kickback” scandal for more than a fortnight.
Furthermore, although Abdullah has said publicly that “It is up to the ACA to handle it”, the ACA big bosses know that this is a statement meant more for P.R. and not to be taken seriously, which explains the very reluctant, unenthusiastic and even lifeless response of the Acting ACA chief that “the ACA would look into the matter”.
The media reported Abdullah as mounting “an impassioned defence of his record on battling corruption, saying he was ramping up efforts to battle the scourge” in his speech at the launching ceremony of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Academy (MACA) yesterday.
It was however a very weak and tepid defence, lacking the three Cs of conviction, commitment and credibility.
When Abdullah said that “Malaysia is making strides and not stagnating in its fight against corruption”, Malaysians will generally agree – as the problem is not one of stagnation but regression by big strides as illustrated by the seven-place plunge in Malaysia’s Transparency International Corruption Perception Index from No. 37 in 2003 to No. 44 in 2006, with all indications that Malaysia is heading further south towards No. 50th position on the occasion of the nation’s 50th Independence Anniversary.
Abdullah’s assertion that “the experience of some countries has shown that stern action against corruption and the accompanying media focus is often accompanied by worsening rather than improving perception of the situation” is eyebrow-rising as it invites two questions – firstly, what are these countries he is referring two and secondly, what are these “stern action against corruption and the accompanying media focus” he is referring to, when the 18 high-profile “big fish” could be allowed to escape scot-free into the “South China Sea” and remain immune from arrest and prosecution in the past 41 months?
In his speech yesterday, Abdullah called on “everyone to work with him in the fight against graft”, but it is sadly obvious that not a single Cabinet Minister, Barisan Nasional leader or MP has come forward to work with him to fight corruption, to the extent that Abdullah had abandoned his call for “zero tolerance for corruption” when he first became Prime Minister.
Abdullah is right when he said the biggest enemy of the anti-corruption agenda was “public cynicism and apathy” – except he should be frank to admit that he was the author of such public cynicism and apathy in single-handedly turning the high hopes and euphoria that he had generated when he became the fifth Prime Minister into ashes. It was because of the public high hopes and euphoria that he will lead the country in an all-out war against corruption which was the reason for Barisan Nasional winning an unprecedented 91% sweep of the parliamentary seats in the 2004 general election!
It is no use opening the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Academy, establishing the Institute of Integrity of Malaysia or proclaiming the National Integrity Plan when the Prime Minister has very little credibility left, whether national or international, about his commitment to “walk the talk” the agenda against corruption.
Let Abdullah come to Parliament next week to convince MPs and the nation that he has not abandoned his anti-corruption agenda and commitment.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman