28 April 2018

Among the myriad of concerns pervading our nation is the issue of large-scale and high profile corruption, which falls under the ambit of the government’s Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

How deadly is corruption towards the health of the nation? Read on.

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RAMA RAMANATHAN

Civil rights activist

Let’s keep the sample size small. Malaysia has land borders with four nations: Let’s look at corruption in each of these countries. We can begin with the 2017 Corruption Perception Index compiled by Transparency International:

So, yes. It’s true. With respect to corruption, there is data which shows Malaysia is much worse than Singapore and Brunei and somewhat better than Thailand and Indonesia.

We have to ask ourselves what we want to choose as benchmark. I think we should seek to be at least in the top ten, i.e. in the company of New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Sweden, Canada, Luxembourg, Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Corruption matters because it is a measure of social justice. A high level of corruption indicates a low level of social justice.

When there is corruption, those who either cannot pay for benefits or choose not to pay for benefits (because they consider it immoral), find themselves locked out of opportunities to thrive in society. Corruption also matters because corruption fosters income and wealth inequality, the most common causes of political instability such as rioting.

“Corruption fosters income and wealth inequality… It deteriorates the well-being of every individual in a society.”

Rama Ramanathan

Corruption is a a matter of grave concern for Christians because at the heart of our discipleship is the call to look out for our neighbours as we do for ourselves (see Mark 12:31).

This is what the UN Convention Against Corruption says about corruption:
“[Corruption is] an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organized crime, terrorism, and other threats to human security to flourish.”

Corruption is a big deal because it deteriorates the well-being of every individual in a society.

“Those who are poor, or marginalised, are worst affected because they are unable to afford those goods and services, the cost of which is pushed beyond their reach.”

Andrew Khoo

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IVY JOSIAH

Women’s rights activist

Yes, there is corruption everywhere but in Malaysia, like in some countries too, there are no effective checks and balances. Our anti-corruption agency is unfortunately seen as not being independent.  As Christians when we see a thief we must stop him from stealing. As Christians we have our faith and trust in God that the common good will prevail.

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REV. DR. HERMAN SHASTRI

Council of Churches Malaysia

Most countries have national constitutions that give expression to the democratic ideals of collective vision of the people. But democracy is always “work-in-progress” because there are new challenges in every generation. Christians, who hold their faith as a moral compass or point of reference in their lives, will join other fellow citizens to aspire for just systems of governance that brings the greatest good to all.

“… the practical implications of corruption can be very severe, even life threatening – especially for the less privileged in society: substandard construction that causes injury and death, underfunded health and education systems that deprive people of adequate provision, brutality against those who try to expose crime.”

Dr. Lee Hwok-Aun

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DR. LEE HWOK-AUN

Development Economist

Corruption breaks the law, flouts biblical principle and corrodes society. It can be an overwhelming issue, so big and entrenched. And there are real dilemmas. Sometimes we think it doesn’t affect us because I don’t pay bribes and our economy is stable, or we rationalize bribery because everyone else is doing it and restraining means loss of business. But we have to stand firm on what’s right and wrong. We teach kids to not cheat, steal, lie or deceive; the same principles must apply to adults. And yes, there may be a price to pay, in terms of foregone opportunity and wealth. The Bible is full of admonition against bribery, deceit and cruelty, lavish with exhortation for rulers and governments to be kind, just and righteous. Also, the practical implications of corruption can be very severe, even life threatening – especially for the less privileged in society: substandard construction that causes injury and death, underfunded health and education systems that deprive people of adequate provision, brutality against those who try to expose crime.

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DATUK DENNIS IGNATIUS

Foreign policy consultant

In my 36 years in the foreign service, I have lived in and travelled to a great many different countries. One of the things that became very evident to me was that the attitude towards corruption was one of the critical factors that made or broke  countries. Where there were strong laws against corruption, where the people themselves were not indifferent to it, the country prospered despite the ups and downs it faced. However, when corruption gained a foothold or when people became indifferent to it, it quickly grew like a cancer destroying the institutions that sustained the nation as well as the very fabric of society that defined it. Corruption works its way into every facet of national life, tainting and tarnishing everything it touches – political power is subverted, justice is pervert, morality is corrupted, good governance is undermined.

Corruption is an insidious moral evil. No citizen, certainly no Christian, can afford to be indifferent to it. It is morally wrong, a perversion, a great evil and we have a duty as both Christians and citizens to oppose it.

“…if we don’t find a way to overcome (corruption), it will destroy us, turn us into an Asian version of Zimbabwe or worse.”

Datuk Dennis Ignatius

The level of corruption we now have in Malaysia – blatant and with utter impunity – is far worse that what I have seen in some of the other countries I lived in or travelled to as a diplomat. Make no mistake: if we don’t find a way to overcome it, it will destroy us, turn us into an Asian version of Zimbabwe or worse.

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ANDREW KHOO

Human rights activist

Corruption is not a victimless crime.  The victims are you and me. The price is not just inefficiency, but increased expense as the corruption payments are priced into the cost of goods and services.

Those who are poor, or marginalised, are worst affected because they are unable to afford those goods and services, the cost of which is pushed beyond their reach.

“… our law and enforcement agencies have been compromised.”

Dr. Helen Ting

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DR. HELEN TING

Political scientist

Over the past few years or so, thanks to the power of social media, more and more cases of serious corruption in Malaysia have come under public scrutiny. These incidences have revealed to us the nature and extent of such practices, and made it plain to us the extent to which our law and enforcement agencies have been compromised. This points to weaknesses in our state institutions in the maintenance of the law and order of our country. It is an issue which is larger than corruption per se, and could have deep implications to the general wellbeing of our society in the long run. Would the situation get better in the future? Only if all citizens, Christians inclusive, take a firm stand and demand measures that could address the various dimensions of the problems.

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REV. FR. CLARENCE DEVADASS

Director of Catholic Research Centre

The “problem” of corruption has existed for a long time… it exists at many levels & in many different ways. It is a problem that happens all over the world. What seems to be more alarming is not only the act of corruption, it is the culture of corruption that pervades our society. What I mean by a culture of corruption is that that corruption is being considered the “norm” for lots of people when things needs to be done. This culture makes it the concern of Christian, especially when we seek to promote the Christian virtues of love, honesty, truthfulness, etc. There was a time when corruption existed in a secret space but now it is done in the open space… this is a worrying culture that the Church has to be concerned with, given that our primary role is to help people form people’s conscience.