Today marks the annual International Anti-Corruption Day1 — designated as such by the United Nations General Assembly following its adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (“UNCAC”) — so as to raise awareness of the costs and detrimental effects of corruption, as well as the role of the UNCAC in combating and preventing it.
Malaysia became a signatory to the UNCAC on 9 December 2003.2 However, just a few weeks ago, Malaysia scored a mere 45% and received a D rating in the Government Defence Integrity Index for 2020 released by Transparency International Malaysia.3 This indicates a weak institutional resilience to graft overall. Malaysia also dropped six places on the Corruption Perception Index last year.4 Hence, on this important anniversary, the Malaysian Bar renews its call for a new paradigm of open, transparent, and accountable governance, and to eradicate corruption and affirm the rule of law.
Corruption affects all walks of society and is a scourge that threatens the practice of our democratic values. Corruption impedes economic development as it diverts funds from state budgets that should be dedicated to the benefit of the people. It undermines the fairness of critical institutions and most importantly, it distorts policymaking meant for the needs of the many for the benefit of a few.
To combat corruption on a national level, the Malaysian Bar calls on the Government to strengthen its current anti-corruption laws, adopt effective policies that enhance good governance and accountability, as well as provide avenues for training and capacity-building on anti-corruption standards. While these are no silver bullets, they would set Malaysia on the right path to keep rampant corruption in check, possibly eradicate corruption, and uphold its commitments under the UNCAC.
In conjunction with the above, the need for transparent and independent enforcement agencies is of equal importance. Since its inception, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (“MACC”) has played a pivotal role as the country’s anti-corruption watchdog. The agency, however, is not without its flaws and needs strengthening to address today’s challenges. To uphold its impartiality, the MACC should be placed beyond the influence of the Executive, both administratively and financially. With that said, the Malaysian Bar once more calls for the implementation of the proposals put forth in the 2015 Joint Memorandum to the MACC5 for the creation of a constitutionally mandated Independent Anti-Corruption Commission (“IACC”), and to ensure the independence and security of tenure of the commissioners serving the IACC.
The Malaysian Bar echoes the words of Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General, in saying that “corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law … distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish”.6
Therefore, on this International Anti-Corruption Day, the Malaysian Bar pledges that it will not cease in its advocacy to eliminate all forms of corruption — from all layers of society, whether private or public — to build a better, cleaner, and fairer nation.
A G KALIDAS
9 December 2021
1 International Anti-Corruption Day, 9 December, United Nations.
2 Strengthening the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), Transparency International Malaysia, 2013.
3 “Malaysia gets low D rating for corruption in defence sector”, Free Malaysia Today, 16 November 2021.
4 “Malaysia drops six places in TI corruption index”, The Star, 29 January 2021.
5 “Joint Press Release | Comprehensive Reform to the MACC Needed to Strengthen the Fight Against Corruption in Malaysia”, Malaysian Bar, 31 July 2015.
6 Secretary-General Lauds Adoption by General Assembly of United Nations Convention against Corruption, Press Release, United Nations, 31 October 2003.