Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pak Lah, can you spell CONFLICT OF INTEREST?

3 years ago, we, the people, the rakyat, Malaysians, voted in the Barisan National which you lead with an overwhelming majority. A majority the size of which has never been seen by any other Malaysian Prime Minister in history.

One of the main promises of your campaign was that your govt would take a zero tolerance of corruption, wipe it out and eradicate money politics. Under your watch, Malaysia will be transformed into a corruption-free, transparent paradise. You didn't mention exactly how you'd accomplish that monumental task, but nor did we, the public, ask the simple question if you were prepared to get rid of the most corrupted bunch of all, the politicians, party power-brokers, corporate money-spinners and the little napoleons of govt bureaucracy, agencies & local govt.

Malaysians are a gullible lot, you know. We've bought magic stones from conmen because we believed it had the power to help us win the lottery. We've had sex with the neighbourhood bomoh (witch doctor) 52 times because we thought that will help exorcise evil spirits. And we voted in your govt with the largest majority in history because we thought that will give you the support and the courage, to overcome the fierce opposition that you will surely face, when you purge the govt and civil service of corruption.

Damn.., were we wrong.

3 years on, Malaysians all over the country right now are feeling the soreness of just having had sex with the bomoh... 52 times... and no lubrication. The worst thing is, the evil spirits are still there.

And they seem more evil than ever before. Recently we had old "Close-One-Eye" Jasin MP, and now the ongoing Happy Balls Zakaria saga . With regards to Happy Balls, the govt seems content for him to simply give up his MPK councillorship, stop work on his palace and seal off his satay restaurant.

  • Why is there no action regarding the heavily discounted purchase of state land?
  • Why is there no review and investigation of local govt or state procedures when alientating (selling) land?
  • Why is there no disclosure of who else has purchased state land? At what price? Are they also councillors and party strongmen?
  • Why is there no investigation into who else in the govt has not paid their quit rent, or obtained the necessary licenses or obtained approval to build mansions and palaces on cheap state land?
  • What are you going to do about such incidents in other states and municipal councils in other towns?

SURELY... surely Happy Balls Zakaria Mat Deros cannot be the only politician or bureaucrat in the whole country who is guilty of such trangressions?

Is there any reason why the investigation is not extended beyond a single individual?

Isn't a govt-wide, national-scale corruption investigation exactly what your election campaign 3 years ago promised? If so, then why are you chasing after individuals, sacrificial poster boys really and ignoring the deeper, more prevalant corruption that pervades the entire system?

We were promised a thorough national cleanup - not a highly sensationalised case, here & there, every once in a while, when the public smells a cat that's let out of the bag.

In The Sun's interview with Transparency International (TI) regional director for Asia Pacific, Pascal Fabie and its project manager Lisa Prevenslik-Takeda who were in Kuala Lumpur recently, the reasons for the prevalence of corruption were discussed.

"...for countries like Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, the legal system is solid in terms of anti-corruption work but it is in the enforcement that the problem resides, really."

"...talking about institutions to deal with corruption, I think most countries in this region are weak in terms of providing the basic protection and mechanisms for corruption prevention. It means, they are weak in protecting whistle-blowers, weak in reporting of cases, weak in access to information, weak in having judicial mechanisms in place and jurisprudence on cases of corruption."

"Corruption is clandestine in Asia and it is very difficult to get evidence. In some countries which do have a strong legislation and enforcement, oftentimes you don't usually get prosecution because the standard of proof is also very high. So you need a lot of evidence to prove that somebody is corrupt and I think this is a very conservative and traditional approach but it is common throughout the region. And I would guess Malaysia also."
I agree with the ladies from Transparency International. And I would also add that our Malaysian view of corruption is seriously flawed. It attempts to ignore a very important concept: CONFLICT OF INTEREST.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST. The first thing they taught me in Ethics class is 'AVOID conflicts of interest at all costs'. That is a basic and fundamental rule underlying any activity where trust, objectivity and credibility are required. And I'm sure you agree that these qualities are required to run a country well. Sadly, Malaysian politicians have no respect for it.

When politicians and bureaucrats who make decisions on the economy and the law - also own/operate businesses or engage in activities which are affected by these decisions (or have wives, children, siblings, sons in law etc who do) - I'm sure you'll agree the CAPACITY / POSSIBILITY exists for them to make decisions that are biased towards benefiting their own businesses and activities?

Your subordinates will tell you that they are saints, serving the country without fear or favour, reincarnations of Justice Bao, ever ready to behead themselves and members of their own family who dare to break the law. They say they will never favour themselves, their family, friends or cronies over the interests of the nation. They know they can, and they know we know they can, but we should still rest assured that they won't... out of the goodness in their hearts.

One word, sir... Rubbish! If everybody could be trusted to do the right thing all the time, we wouldn't need any laws. We wouldn't have the cronies, Happy Balls, Close-One-Eyes, Oil For Food, Scomis, ECM Libra, AP fiascos, Perwajas, Protons, Class F contractors who farm out govt projects as soon as they get them and thousands other examples of conflicts of interest.

Your good friend, Tun M once said famously that since his children were not in politics, if they didn't do business, how would they put food on the table?

Fair enough. Everyone has the right to eat. Even his kids do. What they don't have is a right to eat, at the expense of the nation! Why can't they get into businesses which do not depend on govt contracts or govt funding? Retail and hotels for instance. Or better yet, bid for jobs overseas.

Is it fair then, to penalise the businesses of family members and friends of politicians?

HELL YES! Of course it is! A political leader that is unquestionably free from conflicts of interest (and therefore, has the undivided trust of the people), is infinitely more valuable than a little inconvenience to his family and friends.

Once you bend the absolute rule of avoiding conflicts of interest, the trust placed in you, your objectivity and credibility can NO LONGER be UNQUESTIONED! And we can't afford that. We need you to be UNQESTIONABLY incorruptible. Remember that. I know you've said that you can handle the conflicts, control the temptation and control yourself... well, that's also what drug addicts, alcoholics and gamblers always say. It's called DENIAL.

If we can tell the world that laws like ISA and the Sedition Act are needed because the rights of certain individuals must not threaten the greater interests of the nation... how is this any different? Shouldn't the individual rights of your children, Tun M's children, Ling Leong Sik's children, the children of all other politicians and bureaucrats... shouldn't their rights to make money be restrained from threatening the interests of our great nation?

Also, don't you think that our politicians have an overly-simplistic view that if they don't make the decisions directly, they don't have a conflict on interest.

Well, lets say that you're the CEO of TNB and you have to decide whether to award a contract to transport coal to Scomi Bhd which is controlled by the PM's son.

Come on, do you really expect TNB's CEO to conscientiously ignore the fact that he's dealing the Prime Minister's son? Can you expect him not to harbour any hope that any favours done for the PM's son might one day be returned, in kind and with interest? Can you truly expect him to bear no fear, that little voice at back of his mind, that to decline the PM's son the contract will jeopardise his future career?

So, let's face it. The problem of corruption based on conflict of interest is very real. It's there in front of you. And it's so pervasive that it's killing Malaysia slowly but surely. Whether you acknowledge it or not.
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Ed said...

Sigh... my nightmare during the last election has come true, when I knew BN was gonna get a big fat majority due to the good sentiments back then. This is why I've always told those around me that we shd only give the ruling party a marginal majority, to keep them on their toes.

And when are we gonna get to vote all the scum bags out of the local councils, or at least get the person I voted for to be responsible for these morons' actions??

Ed said...

Anyone ever noticed that, SOMEHOW, most of the children of ministers are successful and savvy businessmen? Some are even billionaires before they reach 30 yrs of age!

Anonymous said...

Sean, u have said it very well, clear lucid and precise. No one can deny the facts and example tht u quoted. I like the TNB example, it is very true of what u said. Well said my man.