FIGHTING corruption is one of the biggest, if not top priority, of Malaysia’s new government and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has boldly admitted that corrupt Malays do not care for race, religion, or country.
Defiantly, he says those who take bribes know it is wrong, but only care about satisfying their greed.
In one of his toughest no-punches-pulled posts, titled ‘Memperasuahan Orang Melayu (Corruption of the Malays)’, he let fly that the practice of corruption had become a norm among the majority Malays especially under the rule of “cash is king”, a very clear swipe at his deposed predecessor Najib Abdul Razak.
“Conflict with the law, and even sinning in terms of religion is not taken into account,” says Tun Mahathir, who has already served as prime minister between 1981 and 2003, in his blog post. “The priority is getting something to fulfill their greed.
“It is certain that any nationalism, and effect on race and country, is not more important than the desires of those who take bribes.”
He added that those who received bribes were willing to do anything.
TOUGH BLOG POSTING
His blog posting comes as several high-profile figures including former premier Najib Abdul Razak, his wife Rosmah Mansor, and several others from Najib’s administration are currently facing scores of corruption charges.
Tun Mahathir is now seriously of advocating for a cashless Malaysia, taking a leaf from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Journalist Razali Rahim from Kuala Lumpur says, via a text message, to me: “The level of corruption had reached unprecedented levels. The country is rotting and we don’t see an end to it as we don’t trust Najib. Hopefully, Mahathir can stop Malaysia from being a laughing stock.”
But corruption wasn’t just a problem during Najib’s time – it was also a massive issue when Tun Mahathir was leader of Malaysia for more than two decades. And according to many of his critics, he was the one that helped institutionalise it.
Tun Mahathir acknowledged his mistakes of the past that “corruption is found everywhere”. He added: “I admit there is some corruption in my staff – not me. During my time, we don’t have corruption on this scale, [it has been] described by the US as the biggest fraud and money laundering they have ever seen.”
Whatever the case may be, he’s clearly concerned by the reputational damage Malaysia suffered amid the 1MDB scandal.
Perhaps one way to minimise the corruption headache is to push for a cashless society where it makes it harder for bribery to take place. He explained that cashless transactions entail data trails that can enable authorities to observe and detect the suspicious movement of money.
“Each expenditure will be recorded in the system, thereby allowing us to know if there have been any attempts (to bribe),” Tun Mahathir noted that widespread corruption was an indirect contributor to rising costs.
“When corruption becomes rampant, all works become more costly since there is a need to pay certain parties in order to obtain approval.”
During the recent Asean Summit in Singapore last month, the thought of a cashless Malaysia was foremost on his mind after discussions with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi’s administration has taken various measures to deter cash-facilitated crime and corruption as well as counterfeiting, including banning the use of large-denomination banknotes.
Enough is enough.
As Tun Mahathir said in a recent BBC interview: “Today people laugh at Malaysia. They say, ‘what has happened to your country?’”
Somewhere, someone has to pull the biggest brakes on bribes and Tun Mahathir is adamant to minimise the majority Malays who had believed in the past era of “cash is king” under the deposed predecessor Najib.