Pakatan Harapan leadership must set the New Malaysia example to show commitment to the objective to transform Malaysia from a global kleptocracy to a leading nation in integrity

The exodus of four Members of Parliament, two Senators and nine State Assembly representatives as well as division heads in Sabah from UMNO on Wednesday created shock waves in the whole country.

Questions raised include whether this is now the season of party defections, this time from UMNO to other political parties.

But the most important question is not about UMNO, but about Pakatan Harapan, whether it has lost its commitment to fight corruption and all forms of abuses of power which has degenerated under the Najib premiership to stratospheric level so much so that Malaysia becomes the laughing stock of the world and is condemned worldwide as a global kleptocracy.

For this reason, the Pakatan Harapan leadership must set the New Malaysia example to show that its commitment to the objective to transform Malaysia from a global kleptocracy to a leading nation in integrity is undiminished seven months after the historic 14th General Election decision on May 9, 2018.

This is why no party in the Pakatan Harapan coalition should do anything which undermines public perception about its commitment, stamina and perseverance to transform Malaysia from a global kleptocracy to a leading nation in integrity, a feat which had not been achieved by any nation in the world.

Recently, Qatar’s third Sheikh Tamin Hamad Al-Thani International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award was held in Malaysia with the Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad as its guest of honour.

This was in total contrast to the three-day 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Putrajaya in September 2015 – when one international speaker after another hauled Malaysia over the coals for the 1MDB scandal.

The Transparency International President Jose Ugaz opened up the 16th IACC attacks on the 1MDB scandal 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.

On the third and last day of the IACC, the 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.

When the annual Transparency International (TI) Corruption Percepton Index (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 first 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.

In fact, 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.

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.

I expect Malaysia to improve both in score and ranking in the the TI CPI 2018 when it is released in a month’s time, but it would not be substantial as only a start has been made in the second half of this year in the anti-corruption efforts after the historic results of the 14th General Elections on May 9.

But I would expect substantial improvements in Malaysia’s ranking and score from the TI CPI 2019 onwards, when the full effects of the anti-corruption programme of the Pakatan Harapan Government take effect.

However, all these gains in anti-corruption efforts would be negated and undermined if the political leadership fails to show commitment to the objective to transform Malaysia from a global kleptocracy to a leading nation in integrity, as would be the case if the exodus of UMNO MPs, SAs and Divisional leaders ends up in their influx into the Pakatan Harapan, despite the fact that they were the ones who must be held responsible for Malaysia becoming a global kleptocracy because of their blind and submissive support for Najib’s kleptocracy and the long-running 1MDB scandal.

Forty years ago on March 21, 1978, I moved a private member’s bill entitled Members of Parliament (Prevention of Defection) Act 1978 to ensure political integrity of Members of Parliament, which would require a Member of Parliament to vacate his seat within 30 days and cause a by-election to be held on his resignation or expulsion from the Party on whose ticket he was originally elected.

I told Parliament that such legislation was important to ensure the political integrity of elected MPs and to prevent political corruption.

I said when introducing the private member’s bill in Parliament:

“Nothing disgusts the Malaysian public more than to see MPs or State Assemblymen elected on one party’s ticket and then betray the Party and the people’s trust by switching parties. This makes them very little different from con-men. Such practices debase politics, and strengthen the general impression that ‘politics is dirty’, when it is the dirty people who get into politics to make politics dirty.

“The defection of MPs or State Assemblymen from parties on whose ticket they got elected is most undesirable and unethical, because they are elected not because of their personal qualities, but because of the Party they represent. Such practices also permit elected politicians to be bought and sold as if they are on the market place.

“If an elected MP resigns or is expelled from the Party on whose ticket he was originally elected, then he should resign his seat and cause a by-election to be held. If the resignation and expulsion is over a matter of political principle which has the support of the people, then the MP or State Assemblyman concerned should have no qualms about getting re-elected.”

I fully stand by the principle behind the private member’s bill which I had introduced in Parliament 40 years ago.

However, there is not only no anti-hopping law in Malaysia, but there is a constitutional provision that if an MP or State Assembly representative resigns for whatever reason, he or she could not stand for re-election – a constitutional amendment which I had opposed in the nineties.

There should be an anti-hopping law in Malaysia, but until there is such a legislation, the political leadership whether in government or the opposition, should set an example of political integrity to ensure that any party defection by an elected representative is not purely for personal or opportunistic reasons, which would raise grave integrity issues.

Are all those MPs, SAs and other political leaders in Sabah who have left UMNO to become independents prepared to publicly seek apology from Malaysians and atone for their support of Najib and the 1MDB scandal in the past few years, and are they prepared to publicly declare that they pledge support to all efforts to transform Malaysia from a global kleptocracy into a leading nation in integrity before they seek to join one of the Pakatan Harapan parties?

The Pakatan Harapan coalition should not allow anyone of the former UMNO political leaders to join anyone of the component parties until and unless they have publicly atoned for their wrongs and failures for giving support to Najib and the 1MDB scandal in the past few years, together with public pledge by them that they now fully endorse the goal of transforming Malaysia from a global kleptocracy into a leading nation in integrity.

Sabah produced three kingpins who propped up Najib and the 1MDB scandal after the “Week of Long Knives” at the end of July 2015 when Najib sacked the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and the Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail, and virtually removed from power or influence all those in the Police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Bank Negara and the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament who might want to get to the bottom of the 1MDB scandal - two of whom were involved the exodus from Sabah UMNO on Wednesday.

The two kingpins were Najib’s two right-hand Ministers, Datuk Salleh Keruak and the 1MDB Speaker, Tan Sri Pandikar Mulia Amin. The third, Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, was not in the exodus although he pontificated that the lack of direction in Umno following the party’s colossal defeat in the May 9 polls was one of the reasons for the exodus of its Sabah lawmakers.

Is Rahman prepared to show “direction” for UMNO by condemning Najib for the 1MDB catastrophe which brought Malaysia the infamy, ignominy and iniquity as a global kleptocracy, especially he had told the world as far back as Sept. 2016 that the “MO1” mentioned in the US Department of Justice’s largest kleptocratic litigation to forfeit US$1.7 billion of 1MDB-linked assets was none other than Najib?

UMNO was rudderless because it had lost the moral compass, and no one even after the colossal defeat suffered by UMNO in the 14th General Election dared to speak up to identify Najib and his 1MDB kleptocracy as the double national catastrophes of the country.

Are Salleh and Pandikar to get away for their support of Najib and the 1MDB scandal, and even more serious, the infamy of Malaysia of being regarded worldwide as a global kleptocracy, just by joining the exodus from UMNO and later joining one of the Pakatan Harapan parties?

I have been in Parliament since 1969, except for a break from 1999-2004, but I was never more ashamed to be MP than in the 13th Parliament from 2013-2018 as the 13th Parliament became the 1MDB Parliament with a 1MDB Speaker.

I was twice suspended for six months from the 13th Parliament for wanting to get to the bottom of the 1MDB scandal, and in the last few days of the 13th Parliament, I was regarded as a “parliamentary ghost” by the 1MDB Speaker for he decided not to “see” my presence in Parliament!

The New Malaysia we want to build in the next 10 to 20 years must be a country which has zero tolerance for corruption. Does Pandikar, Salleh and Abdul Rahman stand up to such a standard?

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri