’18’ big fish high profile BN in trouble

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Despite increased budget, powers, manpower and resources than its predecessor, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is a great letdown as it has failed to be even a pale shadow of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) – failing to net a single “big fish” in its three-and-a-half years of operation.

The MACC continues to play politics to serve its political masters in the Barisan Nasional government, as for instance, its recent focus on re-opening old investigations into PKR leaders Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Azmin Ali.

I call on the MACC to re-open investigations why 18 “high profile” cases had escaped corruption charges after the first 100 days of the Abdullah premiership in February 2004 and the hundreds of other “big fishes” who have escaped the dragnet in the past eight years.

In February 2004, Tun Abdullah Badawi had marked his first 100 days as the fourth Prime Minister with two very high-profile corruption arrests – former Perwaja Steel managing director Tan Sri Eric Chia and the then Land and Co-operative Development Minister, Tan Sri Kasitah Gaddam.

Eric Chia was arrested and charged on February 10, 2004 and Kasitah on February 12, 2004. On February 13, 2004, the then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim announced in Jelebu on behalf of the Abdullah administration that at least another 18 high-profile corruption cases were with various authorities awaiting further action.

It was immediately reported at the time that several Cabinet Ministers sent word to Abdullah to “go slow” in the campaign against “high-profile” corruption.

In the event, both Eric Chia and Kasitah won acquittals in their corruption charges, but the “another 18 high-profile corruption cases” who were about to be arrested and charged with corruption just disappeared into thin air.

What happened to these 18 “high-profile” corruption cases, as the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) director-general at the time, Datuk Zulkipli Mat Noor had confirmed in May that the ACA had submitted the results of its investigations into the 18 “high profile cases” to the Attorney-General for prosecution based on ACA findings.

If MACC and the various MACC supervisory committees like the MACC operations evaluation panel are serious about fighting corruption, especially “grand corruption” involving high-profile personalities whether in politics or government, they should give priority to re-open investigations why 18 “high-profile” cases had escaped corruption charges after the first 100 days of the Abdullah premiership and the hundreds of other “ big fishes” who have escaped the dragnet in past eight years.

Recently, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and the head of the government’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) Datuk Seri Idris Jala admitted that it was toughest to battle public perception of corruption in the country.

Idris cannot be more wrong. It is not a question of perception but a fact – that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s campaign to eradicate corruption is one of his biggest failures, particularly the campaign to fight “grand corruption” involving high-profile personalities in politics and government.

There has not been a single “high profile” corruption arrest since the formation of the MACC in January 2009, although there had been many “high-profile” victims of MACC like the tragic cases of Teoh Beng Hock and Ahmad Sarbaini. Beng Hock’s third death anniversary will be in a month’s time.

This is why Malaysia is losing out in the battle against corruption, not only when compared to the two previous Prime Ministers Tun Abdullah and Tun Mahathir in the past 17 years as reflected by Malaysia’s worst Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranking of No. 60 and lowest-ever CPI score of 4.3 for the year 2011, but also when compared to anti-corruption efforts in other countries in Asia and the region, whether China, Indonesia or even the Philippines.

*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor