Apa aku peduli?

When it comes to dealing with corruption, the Najib administration drags its feet, which reflects badly on all the promises it made to clean up the country.

Mariam Mokhtar, FMT

In China, the punishment for corrupt officials is simple – their final moments are in a stadium where they receive a bullet, paid for by their families, at the back of the neck.

In Malaysia, the administration pussyfoots when it comes to dealing with corruption. Cases which involve public servants, religious officials and members of the ruling coalition become objects of our derision.

Last March, imam Hoslan Hussein was jailed for one year for being disrespectful to the judiciary. In a moment borne of frustration and angst, he threw his shoes at three judges who refused to listen to his testimony.

As cleric of the mosque, he had stumbled across alleged cases of corruption and abuse of power involving mosque committee officials and Umno. Several attempts to draw public attention to the corruption ended with him being jailed instead.

His incarceration is not without reason. With the imam safely behind bars, the issues he raised will be quietly forgotten, brushed under the carpet, and those involved can cover up their tracks. Our attention is diverted by a man’s apparent insolence.

When will the Muslim congregation realise that some of the mosque committees need greater scrutiny? Of greater importance, is who will undertake that task?

The allegations of mosques collaborating with the ruling coalition are serious and warrant investigation. How many mosques are there in Malaysia – 200, 2000 or 20,000?

If we multiply the amounts of money Hoslan alleges is being squandered, then the final tally is several millions of ringgits. Mosque donations are being used to line the pockets of a few officials.

Publicity stunt

Hoslan made several allegations about the mosque where he was the imam rawatib:

  • Bank deposits differed from the amount of public donations to the mosque;
  • Mosque officials overcharged for their services to the mosque;
  • Goods that were supplied to the mosque were inferior to those that had been paid for;
  • Documents had been destroyed to cover up the misdeeds; and
  • Accounts were not audited.

The treatment of Hoslan differs from that meted out to former Selangor menteri besar Dr Khir Toyo who was prosecuted for land fraud in late 2010.

After a lengthy trial, which lasted a year, he was finally sentenced to one year’s jail and his property confiscated. Following a request by Khir’s lawyer, his punishment was postponed until his appeal is heard.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak rubbished claims by the opposition that the prosecution against Khir in 2010, was a mere publicity stunt to convince the electorate that he was getting tough with errant public servants.

Najib told The Star, “We are not using the prosecution as a gimmick. How is it a sandiwara (sideshow) if he (Khir) has been charged?

“This is what happens when a corruption case is turned into a political issue. They [the opposition] want to slam the government by making it look as though we are not serious [in fighting corruption], we are covering up or we are conducting selective prosecution.”

It is very difficult to reconcile Najib’s words with his actions. In 2007, when he was still the deputy prime minister, he told us that the government was serious about fighting corruption. Soon after becoming prime minister in 2009, he outlined the National Key Result Areas (NKRAs), to improve the international perception of corruption in Malaysia.

Political games

In July 2009, he appointed various ministers to oversee the implementation of the NKRAs and the minister whose portfolio it was to fight corruption was Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz. In a recent case involving Nazri’s son and luxury imported cars, it is like asking the poacher to guard the trout stream.

In August 2009, Najib stated that the government had confidence in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and that the MACC should not be dragged into political games. A few months later, Najib said that the formulation of the Whistleblowers Act would afford a degree of protection to informers, who wished to expose corruption.

Many people will question Najib’s sincerity in protecting whistleblowers, especially after one high- profile person, Rafizi Ramli, was recently apprehended for his exposé of corruption involving ministers in Najib’s Cabinet.

Two years after assuming office, Najib announced in September 2010 that corrupt people should be prevented from escaping to safe havens: “The denial of a safe haven for the corrupt and their proceeds of crime is vital in any strategy to combat corruption.

“Studies reveal that they tend to hide themselves or their ill-gotten gains in foreign jurisdiction” (sic.)

Najib’s speech was delivered by his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin at the closing of the seminar on corruption in the Asia-Pacific region, organised by the Asian Development Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

If only Najib’s efforts to combat corruption were as good as his rhetoric.

In January 2011, the Washington-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) claimed that from 2000 to 2008, illicit financial outflows from Malaysia had tripled to a staggering RM208 billion (US$68.2 billion).