We must walk the talk

WHENEVER a country's anti-corruption efforts are discussed, a crucial point made is that there must be political will to fight the scourge. The success or failure in fighting corruption inevitably boils down to the presence or absence of strong political will. In his research on the anti-corruption measures adopted in 10 Asian countries, Jon Quah concludes that "curbing corruption in Asian countries is not an impossible dream if there is political will".

What then is "political will"? The definitions I googled include the following:
» Demonstrated credible intent of political actors (elected or appointed leaders, civil society watchdogs, stakeholder groups, etc) to attack perceived causes or effects ... at a systematic level
» Commitment of actors to undertake actions to achieve a set of objectives and to sustain the costs of those actions over time
» Reform space: intersection of ability, authority, and acceptance
» Willingness as evidenced by commitment and inclusiveness
» Sustained commitment of politicians and administrators to invest political resources to achieve specific objectives
» Concerted use of political power for the good of the nation and its people.

To summarise, political will is best seen as the commitment made by the government of the day and the relevant parties to pursue a cause (of action) to its desired conclusions.

In Asia, the two countries that rank highest in having successfully minimised, if not eradicated, corruption are Hong Kong and Singapore. By empowering their independent anti-corruption agency to adopt effective corruption control and implement the anti-corruption laws, Asia's two richest city states in terms of GDP per capita have cleaned their once corruption-ridden societies.

By appointing honest and incorrupt individuals to public office, the most important catalyst for change – an incorruptible political leadership – is in place to exert the political will and impartially enforce effective anti-corruption measures without fear or favour.

Among the more effective anti-corruption reforms that can be adopted is the two-pronged approach which integrates political will and the people's will. By combining the top-down efforts of the government and their agencies and the bottom-up initiatives by civil society and citizen movements, anti-corruption measures can be successfully implemented in the critical sectors such as the police, health and education services which have a direct bearing on people's lives.

As the public outcry against corruption gets louder and as the people bray for more big fish to be caught, they themselves must admit that they are part of the corruption entrapment. It is the people who are both the givers and takers whether they are in the public or private sector. They are the small fish and the medium-size ones that feed into the mouths of the sharks. This is the ecosystem of corruption so ultimately, the people's will is as important as the political will.

As the International Anti-Corruption Day (Dec 9) draws near, the prime minister and his cabinet must ingeniously device the ZERO TOLERANCE PLAN FOR CORRUPTION. Key to this is instilling in Malaysians not just the fear of being caught for giving or taking bribes but more importantly, the belief that it is morally wrong. As the United Nations declares:

"International Anti-Corruption Day is a time for political leaders, governments, legal bodies and lobby groups to work together against corruption work by promoting the day and the issues that surround this event."

The time has come for the prime minister and his cabinet to stand together to sign the Anti-Corruption Declaration and in one voice pledge their commitment to wage a war against corruption. It is for them to lead the way and to walk the talk, hand in hand with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

However, as we know, political pronouncements alone are not enough. One can say a thousand times that one is against corruption and other abuses of power. One can reiterate that the government and their enforcement agencies are going all out to fight crime and corruption. If the proper measures are not put in place, the battles continue as the movers and shakers of corruption restrategise to beat the law and extract the most awesome war spoils to distribute among themselves.

Ideally, the end result of the war against corruption is the complete eradication of this debilitating disease of society. For, like a malignant cancer which destroys the body's healthy cells and eventually causes death, corruption gnaws at the organs of society until its very heart festers with pus and poison. And without proper treatment and administration of the right drugs, the cancer cells will multiply and invade the body systems causing them to crumble.

We the government and the people of Malaysia must declare that we do not want our beloved nation to go down to the rats who spread disease and vermin. We ourselves must not be the despicable rats of society.

The writer keenly follows developments in politics, culture and education. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com