And that’s a promise!

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The columnist believes that it is time for the formation of an independent body to probe complaints of graft among personnel of enforcement agencies. — Bernama photo

IT was exactly one year ago this month that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, made this statement, as stated in this heading, to the effect that all enforcement agencies of the government should be subjected to probes of alleged graft among their personnel, by an independent body.

The PM had requested the Attorney General to ‘relook the proposal to set up an independent body to investigate and take action on all complaints, accusations and misconduct involving enforcement agencies’.

A lot of water has since flowed under the bridge. Has this ‘independent authority’ been formed, may we ask?

A body reporting to Parliament only would be good for Malaysia. Evidence has shown that where there is something like ombudsman in a country, e.g. New Zealand, incidences of major bribery cases among law enforcement agencies are rare.

Rarely reported, perhaps, but any small scandal once discovered would hog the front pages of the local newspapers.

The press was the ‘Big Brother Watching You’. For example, not very long ago, a gift of a bottle of wine – not millions of pounds sterling – for a politician of the ruling party, was highlighted all over the NZ press.

It was enough punishment for the wine bibber; he was not recommended as a candidate for re-election by his party. It saw the end of a promising political career.

Personnel of any department or agency entrusted with the power and the authority of investigations over suspicious human behaviour, must be prepared for scrutiny and investigation by an independent body, other than the departmental disciplinary committee.

To be really effective, such an authority must never be allowed to be controlled by the government of the day, to avoid manipulation by irresponsible politicians. It reports directly to Parliament.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is overburdened with investigating cases involving personnel of other agencies, departments and ministries that they have little appetite for ‘finding fault’ with their own colleagues.

In late March 2023, the MACC deputy chief commissioner Datuk Seri Ahmad Khusairi Yahya expressed his concern over the level of corruption involving enforcement personnel at the country’s frontline..

This month, the PM himself lamented that battling corruption was ‘not an easy matter’.

My source in Kuala Lumpur told me that illegal immigrants, students and foreign workers in the country were being blamed for corrupting the enforcement agents.

Certain enforcement officers have discovered a source of extra income in these groups. I must add, however, that the number of black sheep in the enforcement agencies is miniscule, but collectively, they are enough to tarnish the good name of the enforcement agency where they work.

‘Vital organs of government’

It cannot be over-emphasised that these agencies are the most vital institutions of any government run on the democratic precepts of governance.

It is worth repeating here that without the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) for the observation and preservation of law and order in society; without the Royal Customs and Excise Department for the collection of national revenue; without the Immigration Department, for the security of the borders and checks on illegal entry of foreigners; and without the MACC for the eradication of graft in low and high places, a country is paralysed.

Look at Haiti now. There, law and order has collapsed.

Without all these agencies, there would be anarchy: excise duties (taxes) cannot be regularly collected; illegal immigrants enter the country at will; greedy politicians in power dip their paws into the government’s till with impunity.

That country would be regarded as a failed state.

At one stage, our own beloved country Malaysia was on the brink of a failed state. Thanks to the resilience of the system of regular elections and the parliamentary norm of checks and balances, plus the freedom of the press, we avoided the abyss by inches!

But there is no guarantee that a corrupt situation will not rear its ugly head again, judging by the over-dosage of partisan politics and personal vendetta in this country.

‘Waiting and waiting’

This waiting for the formation of an independent authority is a bit too long, in my opinion.

I wish some members of Parliament would find time to ask the Right Honourable Prime Minister a question regarding the formation of this independent enforcement authority.

Early this month, the Prime Minister had said: “If there are special charges against MACC, immigration, police, or customs officers, then there should be an independent body (to investigate) in the form of a commission, I am not sure yet.”

He had lamented that battling corruption was not an easy matter because the problem has become systemic (Malay Mail / Bernama / The Borneo Post, April 22, 2024).

In this particular statement, however, he missed mentioning the proposal to create an independent body to probe graft among personnel of the enforcement agencies.

I wonder why.

On my part, as a columnist, I urge my friends to vote for any federal legislator from Sarawak who would bring this matter to Parliament – gently reminding the PM of his promise.