On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

No letting up in war against corruption

He has stressed that the policies of the Barisan Nasional
government would remain, but things that need to be changed would be changed.
Nothing is cast in stone, in his own words.

Last week, he told Malaysians that he was the country's number one servant to
the nation. He did not say he was he was the number one political master and
neither did he say that he was the boss of the Cabinet.

He said he was not seeking personal glory and that the fight against
corruption, which has been the hallmark of his administration, would be the
main areas of priority.

Malaysians, he said, did not want to have a reputation as a corrupt country and
the country had to prove that "we are incorruptible".

Events over the past one week have put the spotlight on the role of the
Anti-Corruption Agency.

Rather unfortunately, it is still regarded by the powerful and influential
merely as a government agency which is answerable to the government. To the
ordinary people, it lacks clout and autonomy.

Those who are being investigated have rightly pointed out that the ACA should
carry out its investigations quickly and that the Attorney-General should also
not drag his feet.

Casting aspersions upon the integrity of a leader can do considerable damage to
the image of the person. The only way to put an end to innuendoes and
insinuations of this sort is either to charge the person in court quickly or
clear his name.

Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz has every reason to be
upset, being the subject of investigations.

It is correct for Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail to clarify that
the ACA found no truth in the claim about the 6,000 taxi permits being issued
to one company. The probe is now centred on the issuance of 1,200 taxi permits
to seven companies.

The ACA, on the other hand, must be commended for its readiness to speak to the
press over the past weeks instead of being shrouded in secrecy.

No doubt the ACA needs confidentiality in carrying out its work, particularly
when it is still gathering evidence, but by adopting a high profile approach,
it would be seen as taking a more pro-active stand.

Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang was also upset with the ACA
for investigating the award of a RM1.5mil timber concession to a company owned
by a 26-year-old woman.

The controversies over the procedures and functions of the ACA are certainly
good reasons for the need to increase public awareness of the fight against this
social cancer.

The time has come for the leadership to seriously consider making the ACA truly
independent by having it answerable to Parliament and not just the

More funds should be allocated to the ACA to enable it to be staffed with professional
people with expertise in various fields and disciplines to deal with corruption
and sophisticated white-collar crime.

It may not happen overnight and it would be unfair to impose such a demand on
the young administration, whose hands are already full. Gradual changes are
also more effective in the long run.

Certainly, it is easy to make an allegation against a certain politician for
corruption but proving it is not easy.

Without the skills of competent accountants, auditors and lawyers, it will be
difficult to comprehend the complexities involved in many business deals tied
up with suspected kickbacks. To expose such wrongdoings effectively, the ACA
needs specialists in its trouble-shooting tasks but that can only be possible
if it is able to recruit such qualified people.

Politicians, who are being investigated by the ACA, end up getting prominent
press coverage because they are public figures.

No one asked them to be politicians, in the first place. After claiming to be
people of high integrity and morals, they must be prepared to face the
mudslinging that comes with the job.

There is no such thing as only positive news coverage as Malaysia
is not a communist country and if we want to have more democratic space, then
the press needs to inform the public effectively about the fight against

Politicians must understand that they have been voted in by the people to serve
the people. It is not a licence to enrich themselves.

They may be Yang Berhormats but they are not above the law. They are also not
above criticism.

Certainly, our Ministers and Members of Parliament are not political masters
although many are politically powerful.

It is time to get over this master-servant mindset because the ultimate boss is
the rakyat, who will decide their future during the elections.