Najib’s kleptocracy main reason why Malaysia trailed far behind Qatar in the annual Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in the past nine years

Nobody is surprised that former Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, has given his full backing to the anti-International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) rally today, as Najib is trying to create history and to be the first global kleptocrat in 1,500 years of Islamic history to be able to make a comeback to the pinnacle of political power - whether again as Prime Minister of Malaysia or as de facto leader of UMNO and the UMNO-PAS axis, overt or covert.

What a world of a difference between the Sheikh Tamin Hamad Al-Thani International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award yesterday and the three-day 16th International Conference (IACC) held in Putrajaya just three years ago.

At the Sheikh Tamin Hamad Al-Thani International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award yesterday, the Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia and Malaysians can only consider themselves developed when they can resist corruption and put a stop to it.

He said Malaysia needed to take corruption seriously if it wanted to join the ranks of developed countries and to be the “tiger of Asia” again. There is no short-cuts to success.

Mahathir said Malaysia was pulling all stops to not only remove the "kleptocracy" tag but also to remind all in Malaysia that corruption is not something to be tolerated.

"It should be treated with disgust and anger,” he said, adding that only by reducing corrupt practices, could the government and nation move forward.

"It is time for Malaysia to join the list of developed and capable countries and let the world know that we are a strong nation that respects democracy and the rule of law,” he said.

Mahathir stressed that Malaysians must ensure efforts to improve governance and introduce anti-corruption initiatives were intended to bring an end to corrupt practices and abuse of power.

What a contrast to the three-day 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Putrajaya in September 2015 – as they were three days of global public relations (PR) disaster for Malaysia.

The three days were a shameful 72-hour torment for the pride, honour and dignity of Malaysia never experienced by Malaysians in nearly six decades of nationhood.

It started with the then Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s last-minute, panicky and ill-advised pull-out from the opening ceremony of the IACC (in fear of hard questions, “personal issues” and “a possible hostile reception”), replaced by the then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Paul Low, who started his speech with the remark: “I am not here to defend the PM. I am here fighting for my job.”

Right from the very beginning of the opening ceremony, Malaysia’s corruption crisis, in particular the “two elephants in the room”, the RM50 billion 1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation” financial scandals, took centre-stage and remained the most obsessive issue throughout the three-day conference, up to the closing ceremony.

Right from the beginning of the 16th IACC, Transparency International President Jose Ugaz opened up with a powerful plea for “honesty and integrity” from the Najib administration, asking Najib pointedly to restore confidence and trust by answering questions about the US$700 million in his personal bank accounts – (1) who paid the money and why; and (2) Where did it go.

This was followed up on the second day by the TI co-founder and erstwhile adviser to Najib on anti-corruption matters, Michael J. Hershman, telling Najib to come clean on the RM2.6 billion donation that he received.

Hershman advised Najib: “Tell the truth about where did the money come from and address the accusation. And if he did something wrong, then asked for forgiveness and face the consequences.”

Hershman said the explanations given so far were not good enough.

He said; “If it came from the Middle East, who did it come from? When did it come and for what purpose? These are very simple questions.”

He added that since Najib had control of the account, he must know where it came from.

“There is no reason for a panel for investigations. Just tell the truth. Get it out in the public,” he added.

On the third and last day of the IACC, the criticisms became an avalanche.

Global Investigative Journalism Network executive director David Kaplan said those attempting to cover up the matter are out of touch with the times and that the government cannot conceal information on the RM2.6 billion deposited into PM Najib’s personal bank accounts in the digital age.

Amnesty International secretary-general Salil Shetty asked if the RM2.6 billion in Najib’s personal bank accounts was “grand corruption”.

Transparency International managing director Cobus De Swardt warned that in the absence of answers and an independent investigation, “suspicion of corruption, mistrust and appearance of being above the law will prevail”.

The Chairman of UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) coalition, Manzoor Hasan, wanted Najib to step down as Prime Minister to allow the investigation into the RM2.6 billion donation he received to proceed without interference.

Malaysia’s travails went on till the very close of IACC with the Transparency International vice president Elena Panfilova reiterating that Najib has to come clean on the RM2.6 billion in his personal bank accounts.

Malaysia was literally hauled over the coals at the 16th IACC in Putrajaya for the corruption crisis in the country as no one in Government could give any satisfactory or acceptable answer – which was understandable when even the then Prime Minister had turned tail from the IACC.

Malaysia would never have been the venue for the Third Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al-Thani International Excellence Award if Malaysia had continued to be a global kleptocracy under Najib’s premiership.

In fact, Najib’s kleptocracy was the main reason why Malaysia trailed far behind Qatar in the annual Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) series.

When the annual TI CPI series was introduced in 1995, Malaysia was ranked No. 23 out of 41 countries or the 6th highest-ranked nation in the Asia-Pacific after New Zealand -1, Singapore – 3, Australia – 7, Hong Kong – 17 and Japan – 20, with a CPI score of 5.28. (10 stands for “highly clean” and 0 for “highly corrupt”).

Qatar was only listed in the TI CPI 2003, when it was ranked No. 32 out of 177 countries and scored 5.6 points, while Malaysia was ranked No. 37 with a score of 5.2 points.

In all the nine years with Najib as Prime Minister of Malaysia from 2009 to 2018, the gap between Malaysia’s ranking and score with Qatar on the annual TI CPI series widened from Qatar being ranked No. 22 and scored 7.0 points in 2009 to No. 29 with 63/100 points in 2017 as compared to Malaysia’s ranking and score of No. 56 with 4.5 points in 2003 to No. 62 with 47/100 points in 2017.

One of the Malaysia’s greatest challenges is to transform Malaysia from a global kleptocracy into a leading nation of integrity, or to be among the first 45 out of 180 countries.

Can Malaysia leap from No. 62 in the TI CPI 2017 to within the top quarter of 45 out of 180 countries in the future TI CPI series?

This must be the challenge of all Malaysians!

How many years will it take Malaysia to better Qatar in the annual TI CPI ranking and score?

In fact, it is worth noting that under Najib’s nine-year premiership, Malaysia was not only more corrupt than under the two previous Prime Ministers Mahathir and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, but had the dubious honour of being the only Asian-Pacific country to slip in both TI CPI ranking and score since the introduction of the TI CPI annual series in 1995.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri