DEC 4 — While most Malaysians would be happy to see the back of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan, his departure will not be the panacea for the many ills of the national anti-graft body.
Ahmad Said was previously the director-general of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) which turned into the MACC last Jan 1, keeping its staff while wielding more powers to fight graft that has been pervasive and pushed Malaysia down the ladder in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.
Next Jan 1, Ahmad Said will be on five months leave before his official retirement, closing a controversial chapter of his career and the disastrous start to MACC, which was touted as a key pillar of reforms initiated by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi after the historic electoral losses in Election 2008.
But his voluntary resignation won’t change the nature of MACC.
The anti-graft body’s problems and bias appear to be institutionalised from years of being just an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department and now still a commission under the Executive rather than reporting to the Parliament.
One just hast to look at the manner the MACC has given ruling party politicians like Datuk Seri Khir Toyo and Khairy Jamaluddin a free ride despite the Umno disciplinary board warning them about ‘money politics’, the party’s euphemism for corruption. Khir’s Balinese-styled mansion in Shah Alam remains fodder in the grapevine but not a case in their files.
The Teoh Beng Hock inquest has also revealed how the MACC treats its witnesses until it was slapped with a court ruling that restricted it to interviewing witnesses to only during office hours. The commission might sulk and pout or sarcastically claim the fight against corruption is hampered but Teoh’s death is a marker to over-eager interrogation.
And its venture to trap errant politicians in the Perak case is still unfolding in the court case against two former PKR executive councillors. One would think the MACC would fight graft, not tempt or lure officials and politicians to commit the offence.
The years under the executive have made the formerly ACA and currently MACC officials arrogant and belligerent in their tasks that they have no regard for the law or what they define as corruption. In this quest, their dragnet has only netted the small fries, not the big fish that continue to infest Malaysia.
Ahmad Said’s replacement, his deputy Datuk Abu Kassim Mohamed, is a career officer and is not expected to make the MACC a dynamic and respected anti-graft body that runs without fear or favour.
That task lies with the Prime Minister. And if Datuk Seri Najib Razak wants to win the next general elections convincingly on his “1 Malaysia. People First. Performance Now” concept, he will have to ensure the MACC is not a paper tiger or the Umno’s cats paw as described by veteran opposition leader Lim Kit Siang.
Najib will have to change MACC for the better, not just its bosses.
Or else his concept will be a joke, like “Bersih, Cekap, Amanah” slogan of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and “Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang” slogan Abdullah had used. Ahmad Said and the MACC are proof that these slogans never translated to anything concrete. And hope is dim it will get any better.