PETALING JAYA: Last year, Malaysia ranked 53rd out of 177 countries compared with 54 out of 176 in 2012 in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).
Although the country crept up one slot, it was reported that Malaysia remained in the average range, showing that the fight against corruption is still inadequate.
Among Asean countries, Malaysia trails Singapore in pole position and Brunei at second. Singapore ranked 7th out of the 177 countries.
Former Chief Justice of Malaysia Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad put the situation in Malaysia succinctly when he said: “Yet there seems to be another new aspect to the practice of corruption. Asking for and receiving bribes is no longer something that is done quietly by individuals. It appears to have become an accepted norm and to be shared by all.”
Abdul Hamid, delivering his keynote address in a forum titled “Givers and Takers: The Integrity-Corruption Continuum” on Feb 15, went a step further, giving a religious twist to the practice of corruption.
“We may call it ‘religious money laundering’, ‘cleansing of haram money’ (as Islamic banks do) or ‘Islamisation of corruption’, something that Islam never approves of! I am referring to the sponsoring of ‘majlis buka puasa’ at expensive hotels or maybe even umrah trips. To me, that is corruption of religion,” Abdul Hamid said.
PAS research centre executive director Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad told theantdaily the defining criterion of corrupt practice should be whether that action was meant to influence an outcome of a decision-making process.
“There is a saying by the Prophet (Hadith) where one of his companions in the Treasury asked him if he is entitled to take a gift from someone. The Prophet said, ‘Would you be receiving that gift if you are not in the position you are in? Do you think that if you are someone sitting at home and not assuming this public office that you will get this gift?”
“And the companion answered “no”. The Prophet said: “That is corruption.”
Dzulkefly said if all civil servants subscribed to these Islamic values, corrupt practices and leakages would be stamped out, and the wastages outlined in the annual Auditor-General’s Report would be eradicated or at least minimised.
On whether the lavish “buka-puasa” events at five-star hotels were against Islam, Dzulkefly said: “It would depend on whether that action is meant to influence an outcome of a decision making process.”
“For example, a private pharmaceutical company sponsors a ‘buka puasa’ in a five-star hotel and invites Health Ministry officials. Unless the two are totally unrelated, which will look very strange, there is a perception of corruption as this company could be bidding for contracts later from the same ministry,” he said.
Sisters in Islam executive director Ratna Osman concurred with Dzulkefly, saying corruption in any form or amount is still corruption and a crime, what more under the cloak of religion.
“Islam stresses honesty and ethical conduct in monetary dealings. Unfortunately this form of bribery is deemed acceptable because it deals with religious acts. For example, sending someone to perform the Haj is still a bribe when it’s done in return for a favour,” she said.
As Abdul Hamid said : “… it is not driven by need but something that has become a norm; you want us to do something for you, you should give us something in return. Or, it could simply be the pleasure of getting a free meal, an off-shoot of the ‘belanja’ culture which, in turn, is the off-shoot of the kenduri culture, which has now been entrenched as national events on mega scales by both the government and the political parties.”
While the government is telling the rakyat to tighten their belts, for them to hold launches, events, forums and ‘majlis buka puasa’ at five-star hotels smacks of double standards.
Why should the government be splurging taxpayers’ money in such an expensive manner?
Hold the “majlis buka puasa”, launches, events and forums by all means, but why not do it in cheaper avenues such as halls and convention centres?
After all, aren’t the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) and the Putra World Trade Centre, which were used by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit respectively, adequate?
Abdul Hamid said: “Everyone knows what corruption is but yet choose to commit it. Who does not know that corruption is wrong, bad, unlawful, sinful … But, why do people commit corruption?
“I would say the most important factors are needs and greed. However, in between there are other factors like the attitude of society towards it and opportunity.”
As long as society condones it as an accepted norm and allows corruption to fester, it will never end.
And so long as the authorities do not come down hard on all “givers and takers” and public perception of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is that it only goes after the “flies” leaving the “tigers” free, corruption will grow.