Go after the givers too

IT IS disheartening to read about the assessment by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) that some 46% of its arrests on corruption involved civil servants, including those in top posts. It is certainly a case of one bad apple bringing a bad name to the whole barrel as most civil servants are conscientious and hardworking. This brings us to the point that must be raised again.

While not defending wrongdoing, what more corruption in all forms, I am conscious that such bad practices do not happen in a vacuum. It takes more than one person to commit a corrupt act. The other party can be from the public sector of course but in all likelihood they are not. Invariably the partner in crime is a client from the non-public sector who wants a favour from the "bad apple".

Take for example the recent case of some personnel in the police anti-narcotics division who are allegedly on the take. Chances are the sources of corruption are from outside the police force, specifically drug pushers and godfathers who act as very generous "givers". This is no longer news as it is an open secret to almost everyone except maybe the police force itself until lately when its officers "stumbled" upon the scandal. It is also well known that many of the "givers" are "untouchables". They seem to be well connected, thus leaving the "takers" more vulnerable to the authorities. They may have also received "protection" from the anti-narcotics division as this case seems to indicate.

Logically speaking the arrests of the personnel in the division should lead to more arrests of pushers and kingpins. But to date this has been few and far between.

So we must now insist that in each case where a "taker" is charged the arrest of the "giver" should quickly follow suit. Only then will we see that the corrupt are not just confined to the public services but also the "givers" from outside in corresponding numbers. In other words, we get closer to the real picture on the ground as the full and balanced story on corruption begins to unfold.

For as long as the "givers" are walking free the war against corruption will not be won just like how we have lost the war on drugs over the last 50 years. It is not good enough to seize millions worth of hard drugs smuggled or produced for "distribution" to potential users if those associated with sources are not arrested or worse given "protection" and patronage. Here is where many begin to empathise with the strategy taken by the president of the Philippines in his courageous war to free his country of its drug scourge. It makes perfect sense to bring down the enemy before the enemy gets to you or the country's citizens in this case.

In short, it is time to see more of the "givers" – indeed the "promoters" – of corruption be brought to justice instead of just the "victims" as it has been over the many months. The notable example was when the Sultan of Johor blew the whistle in a "Tan Sri-buying" case. We need more of such courageous revelations.

The take-home message is: unless the sources and ecosystem of corrupt money are wiped out, the vulnerability of those exposed to corruption will not be safeguarded. Learning from the long drawn out war on drugs, mere arrests or even hanging of those convicted of serious drug offences will not solve the issue of "bad apples". In reality, there are still plenty of black sheep outside the civil service. We must quickly "cull" their corrupt ways too before Malaysians can regain their dignity in the eyes of the world.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that "another world is possible". Comments: letters@thesundaily.com