On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

A mere fine is not fine with us

On The Beat

IT always looks good on paper but the difficult part is implementing proposals on improving things in the country. Public expectations are high and no one can blame Malaysians for running out of patience.

The living standards of Malaysians have basically gone down while the cost of living has shot up.

The streets are no longer safe and public confidence in the ability of our police force to protect us is eroding. Only those in denial mode will tell us that corruption has not gone out of control. It is fast in danger of becoming a way of life, very much the Indonesia and Thailand way. Our politicians can argue that it is merely a perception but try telling ordinary Malay­sians that.

When a policeman stops a foreigner by the roadside, no one perceives he is a carrying out a routine crime check. Most of us passing by would assume that he is trying to extort money from the poor foreigner.

Businessmen assume, rightly or wrongly, that palms need to be greased if contracts are to be approved.

And have we seen details of multi-million public contracts being made public? They should be put on the Internet and in newspapers, as in India, because they involve our money.

Some politicians who live beyond their means and openly flout their wealth seem to be untouchable.

Hence, the Government can not only expect plenty of hope but also cynicism from the public on the 1Malaysia Government Transformation Programme (GTP) roadmap.

The two ministers responsible for the GTP, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon and Datuk Seri Idris Jala, have given a commitment that these proposals would be implemented.

“You don’t make a concrete commitment like that to show transparency unless you intend to do it. If you don’t intend to do it or don’t have the political will, it is better that you don’t put something like that in the public domain,” said Jala.

We hope that Jala, a no-nonsense person known for his persistence in achieving targets, would not be disappointed. For that matter, Malay­sians too.

Jala was the man who coined the term “labs” in place of the more mundane words like “workshops” or “seminars” because he wanted ideas to flourish during the six weeks that the participants put together these proposals.

The six National Key Result Areas (NKRAs) are reducing crime, fighting corruption, raising living standards of low income households, strengthening infrastructure in rural areas, improving urban public transport and education.

In the tradition of the townhall concept, a meet-the-people session was held on Friday where the lab leaders and members were able to interact with the people.

The move is certainly a good start because public input is essential. The days of leaders talking down to the public and telling us what is good for us are over. They should do more listening if they still want to stay in office.

A similar event will be held in Sabah and Sarawak in the first week of next month but the Government should consider holding the meet-the-people session in major towns like Penang and Johor Baru too.

Understandably, interest was on the plans to battle corruption, where the lab presentation was extended to three hours.

The general sentiment was that only the ikan bilis (small fry) were caught while the jerung (sharks) were allowed to swim free.

It is also time that a mandatory jail sentence be imposed on graft offenders as these criminals must not assume they can get away by just paying a fine.

There should also be confiscation of assets that have been stolen from the public as that would deter offenders. To be jailed for two years, for example, is almost nothing if a person gets to keep hundreds of millions of ringgit – which he would not be able to accumulate in his lifetime of working.

And why shouldn’t politicians who live beyond their means be investigated without having to wait for official complaints to be lodged?

Politicians must not only be clean but must also be seen to be clean and even smell clean.

The Malaysian Anti Corruption Agency (MACC) should set up MACC stations, similar to police stations, in key areas like government offices and markets.

In Hong Kong, the Independent Com­mission Against Corruption set up such bases to enable the public to walk right in to lodge reports and these stations also serve as a place to educate the people on the ills of corruption.

At the market place, council enforcement officers, regarded as being corrupt by most Malaysians, would think twice if the MACC station is within easy reach for stallholders to complain.

Why shouldn’t the public think that our council enforcement officers are corruptible when they see tables and chairs being put up at parking bays in front of mamak shops? Or are they going to tell us that they do not have enough enforcement officers to act? Come on!

Places of worship should also be used to educate the public. What is the point of being seemingly God-fearing and pious, in mannerism, dressing and habits, if one is blatantly corrupt?

A refreshing start has been made by the Government. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is certainly aware of the need to implement these proposals as the next general election isn’t that far away.

We all want the GTP to succeed because this is the last chance for Malaysia. We are on the downhill roll and we need to get back on track.