MACC’s biggest anti-corruption “haul” in nation’s history unlikely to save Malaysia from continuing to slip down in TI CPI unless Malaysia is prepared to purge the newly acquired infamy of being an “global kleptocracy” as a result of 1MDB scandal

Congratulations are in order to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for the “biggest corruption bust ever” in the nation’s history with the success of its “Op Water” with the seizure of RM114million from the top two officials of the Sabah Water Department, including RM53.7mil in cold hard cash that took more than 30 officers 15 hours to count and frozen RM60 million in bank accounts, seized 19.3 kg of gold jewellery worth about RM3.64 million, some 97 designer ladies handbags worth RM500,000, nine luxury vehicles and some 127 land titles.

This is the biggest seizure involving civil servants as the most the anti-corruption agency had confiscated in the past was RM10 million.

While Malaysians are agog at the scale and magnitude of the ill-gotten gains seized by the MACC in Sabah, there is no real surprise and no elation among Malaysians that MACC’s Op Water marked its coming of age as a fully independent and professional anti-corruption agency able to combat the scourge of corruption in Malaysia without fear or favour, whether against ikan bilis or the sharks.

In fact, MACC’s Op Water had deepened public skepticism and cynicism about the battle against corruption in Malaysia, as Malaysians are convinced that if there is a full-fledged and no-holds-barred anti-corruption war in Malaysia, Op Water seizure would pale into insignificance in scale and magnitude with regard to the ill-gotten gains involved, as they would not just be in tens or hundreds of millions of ringgit, but in tens or a hundred times in billions and tens of billions of ringgit!

I fully agree with former MACC advisory panel member, Tan Sri Robert Phang, who want the MACC to probe the higher ups involved, as the two high-ranking civil servants in the Sabah Water Department could be frontmen for certain politicians, as it is difficult to believe that the duo had by themselves managed to amass the millions of ringgit seized from them.

Phang said: “They are only ordinary officers. Therefore, one is inclined to think these two officers are the frontmen of the politicians, because nobody would give such a big amount to these ordinary officers.

“Normally only politicians or for the matter, ministers of that level, will have the possibility and authority to approve any form of application within the state.”

While MACC is to be commended for the biggest anti-corruption haul in the nation’s history, nobody believes that it would save Malaysia from continuing to slip down in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index unless the government is prepared to combat the newly acquired infamy of being an “global kleptocracy” as a result of the colossal 1MDB financial scandal.

What the spectacle would be like if MACC is allowed free and untrammeled hand to seize all the varieties of assets involved in the RM55 billion 1MDB scandal which had catapulted Malaysia into a “global kleptocracy”, putting our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the same exclusive circle with Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe?

In the past year, Malaysia had topped the global charts as among the most corrupt nations in the world like the third place in international website,’s ranking of the world’s “worst corruption scandal in 2015” at the end of last year, TIME magazine’s second ranking of “global corruption” in March and the Economist’s second placing in its second index of crony capitalism in May.

In July, Malaysia formally joined the exclusive club of “global kleptocracy” when the US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed civil actions under the US Kleptocracy Assets Recovery Initiative for the forfeiture of US$1 billion of assets in the United States, United Kingdom and Switzerland from over US$3 billion international conspiracy of embezzlement, misappropriation and money-laundering of 1MDB funds – the colossal nature of the ill-gotten gains in the 1MDB scandal had put the MACC seizure in Sabah to shame.

Malaysia was ranked 50th among 175 countries in 2014 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) but dropped to 54th among 168 countries in 2015 with a CPI score of 50/100.

Malaysia’s ranking in the TI CPI 2015 could have been lower, as five countries, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Puerto Rico and St Vincent – which had been ranked higher than Malaysia – were excluded due to technical reasons like not meeting three minimum secondary sources for research.

At the rate the UMNO/BN government is abandoning its National Transformation Programme objectives to fight corruption and uphold the principles of accountability, integrity and good governance, Najib is notching up a great shame and infamy for Malaysia when we are overtaken by China and even Indonesia in both TI CPI ranking and score within a decade.

The Najib government had been boasting about its target for Malaysia to be in the top 30 countries in the TI CPI by 2020, but this is nothing but a pipe-dream.

Studying the TI CPI ranking and score for the 177 countries and the 21-year series of TI CPI from 1995-2015, there is no reason or ground for anyone to believe that the target of Malaysia being ranked in the top 30 of TI CPI in 2020 is a realistic or achievable one.

In fact, within a decade, Malaysia faces the risk of being overtaken by China and even Indonesia in both TI CPI ranking and score, when in the first TI CPI in 1995, Malaysia was ranked No. 23 out of 41 countries with a score of 5.28 out of 10, while China and Indonesia were ranked as the last two bottom countries with CPI score of 2.16 and 1.94 out of 10 respectively (i.e. hovering in the lowest 90 percentile of the CPI score).

However, in the last 21 years, Malaysia achieved the dubious distinction as one of the few countries which had been downgraded both in TI CPI ranking and score, but had lost out to countries which had lower CPI ranking and score in 1995 and is also now at risk of being overtaken by countries including China and Indonesia which had been at the bottom of TI CPI in 1995.

For instance, Malaysia ranked No. 23 with CPI score of 5.28/10 in 1995, was ahead of Taiwan (Rank 25 Score 5.08), Spain (R 26 Sc 4.35), South Korea (R 27 Score 4.29) and Hungary (R 28 Score 4.12) but in the 2015 TI CPI have lost out to Taiwan (R 30 Score 62), Spain (R 36 Score 58), South Korea (R 37 Score 56) and Hungary (R 50 Sc 51).

Unlike Malaysia, which has achieved a lower percentile score in the past 21 years, i.e. 5.28/10 in 1995 to 50/100 in 2015, all other countries in Asia have improved on their percentile score in the past 21 years from 1995 to 2015, eg. Thailand from 2.79/10 to 38/100; India from 2.78/10 to 38/100; Philippines from 2.77/10 to 35/100; Pakistan from 2.25/10 to 30/100; China from 2.16/10 to 37/100 and Indonesia from 1.94/10 to 36/100.

What should concern all Malaysians and the MACC is that from these trends, Malaysia runs the risk of being overtaken by both Indonesia and China within a decade in the annual TI CPI both in ranking and score unless Malaysia quickly bucks up and show its seriousness on the anti-corruption front.

MACC’s “biggest anti-corruption bust” in Sabah is not enough to start the reversal of the trend of Malaysia being overtaken by other countries particularly in Asia unless the government is prepared to grapple with the problem of the 1MDB global scandal which had catapulted Malaysia into a “global kleptocracy”.

UMNO information chief Annuar Musa had likened the 1MDB financial scandal to problem with “one single branch or fruit” as contrast to the UMNO “tree”, asking “Why should we discuss about one branch or fruit? We are concerned if the tree (UMNO) is dying?”

Does MACC agree that Annuar is gravely mistaken, for the 1MDB crime, which catapulted Malaysia into a “global kleptocracy”, is not problem with one branch or one fruit but the problem of the UMNO tree trunk which is rotten to the core and there is no alternative to chopping down the whole tree unless UMNO is capable of purging and cleansing Malaysia of the international infamy of being a “global kleptocracy” over the 1MDB scandal?

Let me again ask the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the entire Cabinet whether they are prepared to make as the first item of business when Parliament reconvenes on Oct. 17 the purging and cleansing of Malaysia of the infamy of Malaysia’s new international epithet of a “global kleptocracy”?

Are the UMNO/Barisan Nasional MPs prepared to show the world that they are patriots and are prepared to unite with patriotic Pakatan Rakyat MPs to take a common stand to purge and cleanse Malaysia of the infamy of the epithet of a “global kleptocracy”?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah