Mr. Speaker, Sir, this Motion seeks leave of the House to allow me to introduce a Private Member’s Bill to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1961 to provide more effective legislative measures to combat and check the mounting scale of corruption in high public positions. Corruption is rampant in Malaysia and is growing, particularly among higher officials and politicians, including legislators and top Government leaders. Many political regimes have crumbled because of the prevalence of corruption and lack of integrity of public officials, politicians and administrators, and the consequent spread of unlawful practices among businessmen and the general public. Examples some easily to mind, for instance, the Kuomintang regime of China, the political regimes of Pakistan, Burma, Indonesia, and most recently, Bangladesh.
Unless Malaysia can purge corruption from public life, we are in fact aiding and abetting the success of the jungle and urban guerrillas, for we are giving them an issue on which to win public support and sympathy.
Although there has been considerable publicity of late about the N.B.I.’s various campaigns, such as the campaign to get public servants to take oaths against corruption and even more recently, the surprise checks on Government Officers, the N.B.I. has failed to make any impact on the problem of corruption. This is because the N.B.I. has not dared to come to grips with one of the fundamental causes of the spreading corruption in Malaysia – corruption in high public positions. The people see the political high-ups openly flaunting their unaccounted wealth, and only the small fries get caught and punished. This is why the ostentatious efforts to prevent corruption and assertions that the corrupt are being dealt with as they deserve only to seem to spread synicism, as they see the high-up enjoying immunity.
Ministers, Menteri-menteri Besar and Legislators are not above suspicion, and if those in positions of authority are not above suspicion, who can blame the small man for committing similar offences? This kind of thing is infectious and ordinary people tend to copy the conduct of those at the top.
This is why I say that in Malaysia there us a widespread popular belief about the corruptibility of politicians and administrators and even widespread popular belief that known offenders in high positions can continue their corrupt practices with little risk of punishment, and this widespread popular belief is a social fact which we in Parliament must take cognizance of because it is something which goes towards determining whether public confidence in the public services is heightened or undermined.
A good illustration is the case of the Selangor Menteri Besar, Datuk Harun bin Idris, who was alleged to have improperly granted logging permits of some 1,000 acres to relatives and to have accumulated a vast personal fortune during his tenure of office.
My former parliamentary colleague, Saudara Loh Jee Mee, the then Member if Parliament for Batang Padang, asked in this House on 29th April, 1974 what action the N.B.I. had taken with regard to allegation about the $60 million property which had been amassed by Datuk Harun bin Idris and the $1.4 million house which he had allegedly built for himself, the Prime Minister said in reply and I quote from the Hansard:
“(a) Biro Siasatan Negara memang sedar “tentang sepucuk surat terbuka yang telah disebarkan kepada orang ramai yang menuduh Menteri Besar Selangor telah mendapat harta sebanyak $60 juta. Surat itu adalah surat tentang yang tidak bertandatangan. Sebagai satu Badan yang bertindak dengan bebas, Biro Siasatan Negara sememangnya membuat penyiasatan terhadap tuduhan itu.
(b) Sebagaimana yang saya katakan tadi, Biro Siasatan Negara ialah satu Badan yang bertindak dengan bebas, maka tentulah ia menyiasat maklumat-maklumat yang telah diperolehi berkenaan dengan sesiapapun.”
When Saudara Loh Jee Mee asked for progress report on the matter at the next meeting on 24th July, 1974, the Prime Minister said investigations by the N.B.I. into the $60 million corruption allegation against Datuk Harum were still going on, as “Siasatan kes-kes rasuah adalah sangat rumit dan memakan masa yang agak panjang.”
Although it is evident that Datuk Harun has amassed property and pecuniary resources disproportionate to his known sources of income as a Menteri Besar, no action has been taken to-date although the matter has been in the hands of the N.B.I. for nearly two years.
Recently, a letter was sent to the Director of N.B.I. listing a detail about the shares worth $2.3 million owned by a Deputy Minister and $300,000 of landed property owned by a similar Deputy Minister. Has the N.B.I. initiated any investigations into this matter?
In his speech to Johore heads and Senior officers of the Federal and State Government Departments in Johore Bahru on 21st August, 1975, where he made the proposal about oath-taking by public servants against corruption, the N.B.I. Director, Tan Sri Ibrahim Salleh said that all information, even those received anonymously, would be carefully sifted and acted on immediately. He said all information which would lead to the exposure of corruption would be investigated vigorously and appropriate steps taken to deal with such cases.
Cynicism about the N.B.I.’s effectiveness as the anti-corruption agency stems from the failure of the N.B.I. to match its words with deeds and actions. For instance, does the N.B.I. really act on all tips?
Instances of politicians who have amassed a great deal of wealth while in public office were mentioned in this House when we debated the establishment of the N.B.I. on 17th July, 1973.
One Opposition Member spoke of a case not long ago, of a person who was an editor of a small newspaper, who became a millionaire after he became the Chief Minister of a State and he was able to invest about $1.5 million in a newspaper in Singapore. Another Opposition Member spoke of a Chief Minister who had an insurance policy for $5 million and who pays $200,000 a year in premiums. Did the N.B.I. as an independent and vigilant anti-corruption agency, act on this information provided to investigate into both these cases? The answer is clearly in the negative.
Recently, Barisan National leaders in Sabah openly accused each other of corrupt practices. However, Tun Mustapha, when challenged to hold a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the corrupt practices of his Government, countered it with the demand that such an inquiry should broaden its scope to cover the whole of Malaysia, and the matter was quietly dropped. But did the N.B.I. as a vigilant anti-corruption agency, pounce on the opportunity, acting on all tips and information, initiate investigative proceedings to find out about depth and enormity of corruption in high political positions in Sabah, to trace the sources of the vast wealth an pecuniary resources of the multi-millionaire politicians headed by Tun Mustapha completely disproportionate to their average known legal sources of income?
In Malacca some time ago, anti-corruption officers publicly announced that they were finalizing investigations to arrest a “big fish”, and the “big fish”, whose identity everyone knew, was subsequently allowed to escape into the Straits of Malacca.
The recent NBI emphasis on catching the small fish or Sang Kancil demanding a few dollars bribe would appear to mark the NBI’s surrender to the “big fish”.
Corruption includes all forms of “improper or selfish exercise of power and influence to a public office or to the special position one occupies in public life”. Its incidence infests the whole Government network and bureaucracy, largely because of the example of corruption set by higher officials.
Menteri-menteri Besar, State Executive Councillors, political leaders and even top Government officials alienate land to themselves, which is clearly an improper and corrupt practice. In Malacca, for instance, a Malacca State Executive Councillor acquired 27,000 square feet of precious land for 25 cents a square foot, which would be worth about 20 times its purchase value. This case was openly reported in Malacca State Assembly proceedings and the person is Datuk Tan Cheng Swee.
When the P.P.P. joined the Coalition, the fruits of Government were also accorded to P.P.P. leaders. Thus, in 1973, the D.A.P. exposed in the Perak State Assembly of the alienation of 1,000 acres of soil palm land in the Mukim of Hutan Melintang, worth some $100,000 to P.P.P. State Assemblyman in Teluk Anson.
Top Government and public officials have under their control hundreds of millions of dollars and exercise vast discretionary powers in granting permits, licences, which breed golden opportunities for self-enrichment and elevation into the ranks of millionaires, for public servants who lack public integrity.
This is why the people see with disgust top Government and political leaders in possession of several palatial mansions in Jalan Duta, Damansara Heights, Ukay Heights and a string of other multi-million dollar property to their names or names of their children or next-of-kin, although these fortunes are completely disproportionate to their monthly incomes.
No campaign to purify public life and enforce public integrity can hope to succeed so long as possessions of large amounts of unaccounted money and property by high political and Government officials are permitted. They will make nonsense of the brave words of the Honourable Deputy Prime Minister to the Joint Meeting of the UMNO Youth and Wanita UMNO on June 20th this year when he condemned corruption as “deviations in the country’s development” which left unchecked would “sap the fibre of the nation and bring about decadence”.
The Honourable Deputy Prime Minister had pledged that the government would expose these corrupt practices “irrespective of who are involved – be they mouse-deer or dragon”. It is completely in this spirit of wanting to expose and root out corrupt practice “tanpa mengira siapa melakukannya – si kancil atau naga” that I am asking leave to propose my batch of amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1961.
The laws and procedures must be changed so that punitive actions against corrupt officials can be pursued speedily and effectively.
The amendments I intend to propose are drafted with the following consideration in mind:
(1) Corruption must be sternly stamped out as it undermines social discipline, retard development efforts, and lay the seeds for national disintegration by, for instance, fanning the flames of jungle and urban guerrilla warfare.
(2) Corruption among minor officials cannot be combated if it is not first stamped out at higher levels.
(3) A full purge must be conducted in the whole Government and public services to check misconduct in the Government and to restore the declining public confidence in public office, so that those guilty of conspicuous spending, unexplained wealth, in-competence and involved in graft and corruption can be speedily brought to court without one year delay or two years or indefinite delays.
(4) Minister, Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Secretaries, Menteri-menteri Besar, State Executive Councillors, Members of Parliament, State Assembly-men and top public servants must be above suspicion that they are corruptible and are immune from punishment for corrupt practices.
I am, therefore, proposing that where a public officer, including a Minister, a Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Secretary, Menteri-Menteri Besar, State Executive Councillors, Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen, or a top public servant, has pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his known sources of income, for example, monthly salary allowance, then he shall be deemed to have acquired or received the disproportionate property or money by corrupt means and shall be guilty of an offence, unless he can establish his innocence or integrity.
A person who is guilty of such an offence is liable to a jail sentence of seven years or a $10,000 fine, or both, and forfeiture of his ill-gotten gains or their value.
Such amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act will arm the N.B.I. with adequate powers to combat high-level corruption and deny it an opportunity to hide behind a string of excuses to explain its failure to act against the “big fishes” who have unaccounted wealth or property and conspicuously exhibit them with impunity.
These powers are necessary for corrupt politicians and public servants are very adept in dispersing their ill-gotten gains in diverse ways. The N.B.I. is not only shorthanded, but has inadequate powers to fight corruption and malpractices by people in authority, and this is why position and high office has become a refuge for corruption and crime.
I know that the N.B.I. has powers to get Members of Parliament, State Assemblymen or civil servants to declare their assets even if these were in the names of their wives, children, representatives or trustees, but the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1961 does not make possession of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to one’s known sources of income an offence by itself.
Clause 17 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1961 merely provides that evidence of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to one’s known source of income may be considered as corroborative testimony only where a person is charged with a corruption offence, as, for instance in Clause 3 where he is charged with a charged with the offence of “corruptly solicit or receive or agree to receive for himself or for any other person any gratification as an inducement to or reward for, or otherwise on account of any person doing or forbearing to do anything in respect of any matter or transaction whatsoever actual or proposed or likely to take place.”
These new powers are necessary, especially to fight corporate corruption carried out by American, Western and Japanese multi-national companies and local ones to suborn the integrity of public officials and politicians to allow them to exploit the Malaysian Public.
In June this year, the American aircraft company, Northrop Corporation admitted that it had employed influential individuals abroad to assist Northrop in winning multi-million dollar contracts in exchange for a share of lucrative commissions which also run into millions. Malaysia had the dishonour of being mentioned as one of the countries where such underhand Northrop Transaction took place. I wonder whether the N.B.I. had conducted any investigations to find out who are the Malaysians who received commissions or bribes to help in the award of contracts to Northrop if any contracts were awarded.
No wonder, in an issue on corruption in South-East Asia, the Far Eastern Economic Review of November 12, 1973 had this to say about Malaysia:
“Malaysia has more tolerant political atmosphere and there is somewhat more hanky-panky as a result. Compared with the other ASEAN countries, the problem of corruption is less talked about in Malaysia – probably there is slightly more of it today as a result.”
I quote further
“As elsewhere, minor offenders are more likely to be caught and punished than the ‘big fish’.”
The proposed new powers would permit a complete house-cleaning of the entire Government and public services and purge them of the unfit and corrupt. A South-East Asian Country recently sacked 2,000 Government officials, including six Cabinet Members, for corruption and malpractices. I say:”Let us do the same”.
These amended powers can restore public confidence in the public services, for the people want to see offenders punished, regardless of whether they are high-up or low-down. The present double standards where the higher officials can retire gracefully – like some Menteri-Menteri Besar before and recently, I understand, some top Army officers – whereas those in the lower downs are punished and persecuted, I think, should stop.
(Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Kota Melaka and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, when moving a motion in Parliament on Oct. 27 1975 to ask leave of the House to move a private member’s bill to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act 1961 to combat corruption in high political places)