Malaysians deserve more from the MACC – Leslie Lau

(The Malaysian Insider) KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 – Is this the best the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) can do?

That is the obvious question ordinary Malaysians will be asking after they read about the MACC's latest announcement that they will charge three people, including an unnamed Umno division vice-head in Perak, for vote-buying during the party's divisional elections last November.

The vice-head will be charged for offering a RM300 bribe while the other two, described as agents, are accused of offering a RM200 bribe.

Anyone familiar with the way Umno elections are being conducted will shake their head with incredulity.

The MACC, established with much fanfare late last year, was supposed to be the government's new weapon, given extra muscle to combat graft, which even senior Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders have acknowledged has become endemic to the country's political parties and among the civil service.

Tales abound of how thousands of ringgit change hands in the run-up to Umno elections.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad famously coined the euphemism "money politics" to describe the vote-buying which reached lofty heights during his tenure as Umno president.

More recently, the feisty former PM has been unrelenting in his suggestions that vote-buying continues to be rampant in the party he resigned from last year.

There are tales of how candidates for senior posts in Umno have to build up a war chest amounting to millions of ringgit to have any chance of winning an election.

The war against corruption, whether in political parties or in the civil service, is key to the reforms the country needs.

Fair or not, the public perceives Umno, BN and the civil service to be rife with corruption.

And Malaysians expect the MACC to really flex its muscles to catch the culprits.

Yes, the Umno vice-head and the two agents deserve to be prosecuted if they are indeed guilty.

But the MACC needs to work harder to catch the serial offenders, or to at least arrest those who are offering some serious money.

Then only will the public start having some faith again that something is seriously being done to fight graft.

The fight against corruption is doomed to failure if no significant offenders are brought to book.

Leslie Lau is Consultant Editor with The Malaysian Insider