On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Dump the toothless image


It was launched last week with much pomp by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. In fact, for some, there was too much fanfare.

But the excitement of the MACC is understandable as the event was a historic occasion.

However, the real work of the MACC would be judged by the public, which would scrutinise its performance, credibility and integrity.

The MACC has a serious image problem at the moment. For a large section of Malaysians, it is perceived as an operating tool of the Government, which is selective in its prosecution of offenders.

It is seen as a toothless tiger, slow in taking action and unprofessional in its investigations.

Malaysians expect the MACC to bring in high-profile sharks and fat cats, not just the ikan bilis.

Malaysians have the right to ask how some politicians, police officers and government officials, with their supposedly limited salaries, can afford to keep up with their high living. Certainly, with their stable of cars and their extravagant lifestyles, it is sufficient for the MACC to make queries.

The various statements on the alleged abuses of power involving the Selangor Mentri Besar over the distribution of cows and maintenance of cars have certainly not endeared the MACC to the public.

In short, the MACC needs to be more cautious with the statements it releases and off-the-cuff comments made by its officials to the media.

But Malaysians must give the MACC a chance. We all want to make the MACC work. Surely, the commission doesn’t want to be the “Malaysian Agency on Cows and Cars”.

I am sure the MACC officers are well aware of the importance of public perception and they certainly would want to improve their image.

For a start, they need to recruit more investigators and at least 5,000 vacancies would be filled to boost its capability to fight corruption more effectively, more efficiently and in a more transparent way.

This would not happen overnight. The new recruits need to be motivated and they must believe in what they are doing. More important, their bosses must not let them down.

Obviously, Malaysians expect the body to step up their investigations and would certainly like to see more results.

But the MACC must be commended for the setting up of the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board and the various committees, such as the Corruption Consultation and Prevention Panel and the Operation Review Panel.

The involvement of the public in the operation of the MACC is an unprecedented step.

Personalities such as Tan Sri Ramon Navarat­nam of Transparency International Malaysia and lawyer Chooi Mun Sau are highly respected figures who speak out against corruption without fear or favour.

The members of these panels are mostly non-politicians, except for three Barisan Nasional MPs, three Pakatan Rakyat MPs and a Senator from Sabah.

The MACC’s role model should be Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corrup­tion (ICAC).

Education would play a crucial role in fighting graft. The ICAC, for example, has enlisted film makers to instil the message that the corrupt must be punished.

In places of worship, schools, government departments and the private sector, the same message must be driven across.

Corruption must not be allowed to become entrenched, and there are worrying indications that it may become an acceptable culture.

Let’s help make the MACC work, and make it work for the sake of Malaysia.