On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

When the giving stops, so will the taking

They all laughed at me when I told them the policemen
could be working harder now because they were trying to stop Malaysian
motorists from killing themselves during the festive season.

Wake up and stop being politically correct, they retorted when I said these
policemen could have good intentions and were making sure people reach home
safely to meet loved ones during the balik kampung rush.

In short, they are saying these policemen are corrupt and stopping motorists
who are prepared to bribe them. It is an unfair perception but not far off if
many motorists have the same sentiments as my neighbours.

Unfortunately, perception is often more powerful than reality. My neighbours
are generalising and certainly their accusations are unjust to the majority of
policemen who risk their lives daily to keep our streets safe.

But the fact is that many Malaysians believe that corruption is rife in the
police force and it's the reason why the Home Ministry has the highest number of
complaints from the public.

Other government agencies, particularly the local councils, also have the same
image problem. Something must be seriously wrong when the public perceives that
money must exchange hands before applications are approved or expedited.

Worse, we hear members of the public openly telling their friends and family
members – except the Anti-Corruption Agency – how they bribed enforcement
officers and how they sometimes had to carry two wallets, one to show the
mata-mata they only have a few red notes to spare.

If we deny that these corrupt practices do not exist in our daily lives, then
we are fooling ourselves or being plain hypocritical. We are also not heeding
the call of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to tell the

But Malaysians can rest assured that the new premier is well informed of what
is happening. He has singled out education and corruption as the two most
important issues under his administration – and he needs our support to tackle

No doubt Abdullah will face a lot of obstacles, particularly those cases
involving the politically powerful and influential. He will need time in his
campaign against corruption and excessive expectations. We, too, should be
realistic enough not to expect overnight results.

But change is taking place – and with it comes new hope and fresh ideas.
Besides a new premier, we have a new Inspector-General of Police in Datuk Seri
Bakri Omar, who is regarded as a clean and competent cop.

Bakri's appointment is said to have caused some uneasiness among some quarters
because he does not tolerate corruption and is said to be serious in cleaning
up the force.

The long overdue pay rise for policemen may not necessarily eradicate
corruption, but it will certainly boost their morale and dignity. A comfortable
take-home pay and better perks will help members of the force resist the
temptation of easy money.

Unless we are serious in demanding more transparency from our government
agencies, the cost of doing business in Malaysia
will shoot up because of the need to grease the palms of officials.

Whether it's the purchase of computers for schools, the construction of roads
or any other public projects, Malaysians have a right to demand accountability
because eventually we, as taxpayers, would have to bear the financial

Investors would also stay away from Malaysia
if they perceive that they have to pay their way through to set up factories
here. We would lose out in terms of competitiveness if such perception

Corruption is not merely about arresting the takers. The givers are at fault,
too. It takes two hands to clap. Malaysians should not complain about
corruption if they keep on giving.