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Mahathir & Umno - What is Root Of Evil?
By Kim Quek

25/4/2001 5:28 am Wed

[Mahathir bercadang menyekat ahli Umno yang kaya dari memegang jawatan penting atau mereka yang berjawatan itu diberi kontrak kerajaan. Ini diharap dapat membersihkan imej Umno. Cadangan ini bermakna MEMANG UJUD gejala sedemikian tetapi dibiarkan sahaja kerana tentunya ada apa-apa.

Cadangan ini tidak akan mampu membersihkan Umno kerana masalah korupsi bukannya di pucuk tetapi di akarnya. Jika sistem itu diubah barulah akan segar tubuh yang kotor dan berpenyakit itu seperti yang dilakukan di Hongkong atau Singapura di mana korupsi diperangi sehebat-hebatnya tanpa mengira batas ataupun sempadan - bukannya dengan menangis memujuk macam anak kecil-kecilan kerana itu hanya membuat si penyangak semua tersenyum kegirangan.

Malangnya Mahathir tidak faham walaupun beliau seorang doktor yang belajar perihal penyakit dan kuman. Biasanya doktor sebegini adalah pesakit yang sudah tiada harapan.... - Editor]



The Prime Minister and President of UMNO Mahathir Mohamad seems poised to take the devil head on in his bid to rid UMNO of its scourge - money politics and rampant corruption.

In a speech opening UMNO delegates meeting in his own home division of Kubang Pasu in Kedah, Mahathir made the stunning proposal that very rich members would be barred from contesting party posts and branch and division chiefs would no longer be given government contracts.

To buttress his proposal, Mahathir revealed that from the feedback he received from a wide spectrum of society in his recent nationwide tour, there was a consensus that the entire UMNO hierarchy was corrupted and self-seeking, and had forsaken their duty to race, religion and country. In short, UMNO had lost the support of the people.

By adopting the above measures to cleanse UMNO of its corrupt image, Mahathir expressed confidence that UMNO could again attract people to join the party and regain people's support, without which, Mahathir did not think UMNO could win in the next General Election.

Though the people of this Country have known for quite sometime that UMNO has been drowning in a sea of corruption, Mahathir's public cognizance of this fact nevertheless carries great historical significance.

For the first time, a Prime Minister of this Country admits tacitly that there has been wide spread favouritism in the award of government contracts to UMNO leaders; and this conduct is in breach of our corruption laws. Though Mahathir has not expressly said so, the inference of impropriority is inescapable. If the award of all these government contracts to UMNO leaders is above board, why should these activities have sullied UMNO's image, and why should UMNO have thought it necessary to curtail this practice in order to save the Party from disrepute? And wouldn't the deprivation of government contracts to such UMNO leaders be deemed violation of their constitutional rights, if in fact they have all along been winning government contracts through fair and transparent tenders? And isníŽt Mahathir's proposal (to stop giving contracts to party leaders) tantamount to saying that it is the UMNO leadership, and not the civil service, that decides on the award of government contracts, confirming undue political interference in administrative procedure, which constitute corrupt practices under our laws?

The admission of these widespread corrupt practices brings into focus another important failure of our Government - our Anti-Corruption Agency is a total flop, as it has never brought a single case of such corrupt practice to book.

Another negative inference we can draw from Mahathir's statements is that his thinking is devoid of moral principles. Note that Mahathir's motivation to stop the corrupt practice is not because he thought such a practice is wrong, but because he considers it a good strategic move to attract new talents and to win the next election. Whereas a good prime minister would have ordered a stop to this corrupt practice in the first instant when it is discovered, simply because such a practice is morally wrong, and legally in breach of our laws.

The next big question is: will Mahathir succeed in exorcizing UMNO of corruption, assuming his proposal is fully implemented?

The answer is an emphatic no! Simply because Dr. Mahathir's medicine treats only the symptoms but not the cause. For a start, what is there to stop the UMNO leadership from continuing granting illegal government favours to its agents, nominees and favourite sons, as long as their names do not appear on the list of party branch and division leaders? And what is there to prevent UMNO leaders and government employees from taking bribes from the general public, whose names surely are not in UMNO's exclusion list?

It is obvious that the root of the evil is in the system, not in the people receiving contracts. Unless a system of clean and transparent tenders is institutionalized to replace the present cesspool of corruption and favouritism in the award of government contracts and privatization projects, rampant corruption and cronyism will continue to be the order of the day.

To take our deliberation a step further, even if a healthy system of tenders is in place, will corruption be successfully tackled then? The answer is no again. This time it is due to the lack of an independent and effective machine to fight corruption. Our Anti-Corruption Agency, which is answerable only to the Prime Minister, is generally seen more as a showpiece to catch small fries and a feared tool to torment political adversary and to prevent potential political rebellions among the rank and file of the ruling hierarchy from taking place, rather than a respected institution to combat corruption. Its numerous and endless failure to act against high profile scandals of irrefutable corruption and abuse of power has so disgusted and numbed the general public that not even the least ignorant of observers could have any illusion of its efficacy.

It has been shown that a truly independent and efficient anti-corruption body is the answer to the corruption plague. An eminent example is Hong Kong. Through the establishment of an independent corruption fighting agency answerable not to the Hong Kong Governor but to the ministry in U.K. in the seventies, Hong Kong has succeed in transforming itself from one of the most corrupted society into the top rank of the cleanest governments in the world. Hong Kong's corruption free administration has been recognized as one of the most important factors that made its miraculous economic growth possible. The same can be said of another economic miracle, this time at our doorstep: Singapore. No body would challenge the statement that Singapore could not have achieved the miraculous transformation from an economically desolate island state to one of the world's richest and most admired country in such a short period, without at the same time keeping the island state squeaky clean from the taint of corruption. Just for the sake of provoking of our mind, if Singapore has been as corrupted as Malaysia, do you think Singapore could have achieved half as much as it has achieved?

In Malaysia, we too have a good formula to raise ourselves from the mire of corruption. And that is to remake our ACA into a genuinely independent body answerable not to the Prime Minister but to Parliament, appointed not by the Executive but by a commission free of political domination, and empowered to prosecute the highest in the land without undue political interference.

The real issue facing Mahathir and UMNO is: Does UMNO have the political will to turn a new leaf from its corrupted past? Or is UMNO so ingrained with corruption that such a thought is mere wishful thinking?

Or, to bring us nearer to home truth, is Mahathir's latest proposal just another sandiwara?

-Kim Quek-