Let first year of Pakatan Harapan Government be the year of the kleptocrats and the second year be the year of the sharks in the war against corruption

The objective of the new Inspector-General of Police, Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador, to eradicate corruption in the police force is a very tall order and he deserves the support of all right-thinking Malaysians, as the police had been regarded as among the most corrupt of all government departments.

In July 2017, the then Home Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi said that the Royal Malaysian Police was acknowledged as the best in ASEAN, but this international recognition was not the general Malaysian perception. He estimated that only 20% of the public were positive about the police.

Zahid’s claim in 2017 that the RMP was acknowledged as the best in ASEAN was not borne out by the 2017 Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) study released by Transparency International in February 2017, based on a survey of 16 countries in Asia-Pacific.

The 2017 GCB found that the 60% of the respondents from Malaysia felt that the level of corruption in Malaysia had increased, which was higher than the regional average of 40%; 62% felt that the government was handling the fight against corruption in government BADLY, as compared to the regional average of 50%.

Without including Singapore and the Philippines, Malaysia was regarded as the third country where police corruption was highest, even worse than other ASEAN countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Indonesia, viz:

Thailand 78%
Pakistan 76%
Malaysia 57%
Vietnam 55%
India 54%
Cambodia 51%
Myanmar 47%
South Korea 41%
Indonesia 40%
Sri Lanka 31%
Mongolia 28%
Taiwan 18%
Hong Kong 16%
China 12%
Japan 8%
Australia 5%

The 2017 Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) also made the following eight findings:

  • 57% of Malaysians thought Police was involved in corruption;
  • 48% of Malaysians thought Local Government Councillors and Tax Officials were involved in corruption;
  • 46% of Malaysians thought business executives were involved in corruption;
  • 45% of Malaysians thought Government officials were involved in corruption;
  • 41% of Malaysians thought Members of Parliament and State Assembly members were involved in corruption;
  • 41% of Malaysians thought the Prime Minister and the his officials were involved in corruption;
  • 33% of Malaysians thought that Judges and Magistrates were involved in corruption; and
  • 31% of Malaysians thought that Religious Leaders were involved in corruption.

Other findings of the 2017 GCB were:

  • 53% of Malaysians thought the government was ineffective in fighting corruption;
  • 41% of Malaysians felt that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) was doing BADLY.

Although there had not been any corruption study or survey after the May 9, 2018 historic decision, the anti-corruption war in the past year must show greater bite and effectiveness as ensuring that the kleptocrats are not only put on trial, but sent to prison for their kleptocracy and crimes.

Almost a decade ago, before the kleptocrats took over Malaysia, the sharks roamed the land. But while China was catching “tigers” and Indonesia “crocodiles”, the sharks in Malaysia continued to enjoy immunity and impunity until they were replaced by the kleptocrats.

Let the first year of the Pakatan Harapan Government in Putrajaya be the year of the kleptocrats while the second year be the year against sharks in the war against corruption.

The fight against police corruption was one the reasons for the 15-year police opposition against the key Police Royal Commission recommendation for the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

The Police Royal Commission had warned that its recommendations will fail to secure desired results “if the leadership in PDRM does not rise to the challenges and champions change in the service for its own benefit”.

It said: “Effective change management starts from the top. The role of leadership at all levels is absolutely vital in a command organization like PDRM. Leaders are role models. They should be incorruptible and take ownership of programmes to eradicate corruption in PDRM.”

It has taken the Police high command 15 years to assume leadership of effective change management to be role models in the programmes to eradicate corruption in PDRM – as evident by the police change of heart in their support of the IPCMC and the crackdown against corruption in the police force.

Let the Malaysian public give full support to the task to transform the Malaysian police force into one of the cleanest, non-corrupt and incorruptible police forces in the world, which will go a long way to catapult Malaysia into the top bracket of thirty countries in the annual Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index as the leading nations of integrity and end the previous era when the police occupied a top-ranking position among all government departments and agencies for corruption.

In 1997, the police topped the list of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA)’s Top Ten government departments and agencies most prone to corruption.

It was the result of a five-year survey of government agencies and departments investigated for corrupt practices by the ACA, with the police leading the list, followed by local authorities, including district and municipal councils; land offices; education ministry/department; the road transport department; public works department; customs and excise department; forestry department; defense ministry/armed forces and health ministry/department.

The police was again ranked as the most corrupt of all government agencies in a corruption survey conducted jointly by the Malaysian Institute of Management and the Kuala Lumpur Society for Transparency and Integrity in Selayang involving 1,000 residents in 2002.

In the survey, the police were deemed “highly corrupt” by 59.5 per cent of the respondents, while the Road Transport Department came a distant second (19.6 per cent), followed by municipal council (7.3 per cent), land office (5.5 per cent), judicial office (1.1 per cent), health department (0.7 per cent), environment department (0.4 per cent) and fire department (0.3 per cent).

The crackdown against corruption in the police force will have a salutary effect on ensuring integrity in the public service - a vindication of my earlier warning that it is a great mistake to think that the corruption trials of former Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and a few kleptocrats of the former administration signify that Malaysia is firmly on the road to becoming a top nation of integrity.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri