The Culture of Corruption: Can we trust our Government?

July 30, 2009

The Culture of Corruption

by G. Krishnan (

One Malaysia Prime Minister

One Malaysia Prime Minister

“No stone will be left unturned in finding out the real cause of death and, if there is any foul play, action will definitely be taken.” So says the Prime Minister to Teoh Beng Hock’s family.

Of course the above statement should come as a reassurance not just to Beng Hock’s family members but to all Malaysians. And the operative term here is “should”. That is the part that troubles me and is something that I find rather difficult to get over. Ideally, we should have confidence in Najib’s reassurance; we should take solace in the fact that the truth will be revealed; we should have faith that if there has been any criminal wrong-doing which led to or contributed to Beng Hock’s death, that justice would be served; we should have no hesitation about such an eventuality.

Just as we should be able to trust the fact that our government agencies designed to serve and protect the public are in fact themselves not infested with corruption. We should be confident that those who head these agencies are not themselves compromised and simply obedient political instruments of their political masters. We should be able to have faith that our corrupted political culture has not just tainted – but in fact is sharply reflected and entrenched in the working of government agencies such as the MACC and the police force.

Let me suggest the following: Any arm of the government – you name it – is only as good as the political culture practiced in that society. A society whose political culture is riddled with corruption, nepotism and cronyism will find that is various government institutions are but a mirror image of that reality.

And only when there is a genuine, serious political commitment in the leadership to weed out such a culture – rather than to even just tolerate it, let alone contribute to it – will there be a realistic chance for cleansing such agencies. Decades ago, Singapore was in a similar boat as us with respect to having rampant corruption. But something definitive happened – the leadership there made a serious commitment to stamp-out the culture of corruption. A systematic and sustained effort was made to pull this off. Today, when one thinks of countries in Asia where corruption is rampant, Singapore is not one that typically comes to mind.

Ask yourself this: Can we say the same about Malaysia? I think we all know the answer to that question. Indeed, Transparency International ranks Singapore – along with Denmark, New Zealand, and Sweden as the top five countries in the world with the lowest level of corruption. Singapore did not get there by just plain talk about good governance, producing slogans year after year plastered all around the media and our billboards. Its leadership did something about it – and not just talked about good governance and all that other nice stuff that amounted to empty promises.

There is nothing magical about implementing changes and reform. Even incompetent leadership, with even a minimal desire and determination to do so, can produce some, albeit limited, results. And we’ve had decades of UMNO dominance that has essentially given us more of the same.

As long as there is no political will to change the culture of corruption, it will shape how our government works. And so long as those who govern benefit from – and at the very least are not harmed by this culture of corruption – there is no incentive for them to change it. Well, unless of course if they are committed to a higher calling to create a better society.

Yes, we should expect that “no stone be left unturned” in uncovering the truth about Teoh’s death, and about Gunasegaran’s and Kugan’s deaths, and about the deaths of numerous others under mysterious circumstances while under the custody of the authorities.

This is what we should expect from our elected representatives. Maybe then we stand a chance to get leaders with a political will to change our culture of corruption.

15 thoughts on “The Culture of Corruption: Can we trust our Government?

  1. “Maybe then we stand a chance to get leaders with a political will to change our culture of corruption”—Krishnan.

    It cannot be “maybe”; it “must be” if we are to change this culture of corruption. We must make it happen. Choose leaders who have the political will to fight corruption. Malaysians too must have the collective will to say enough of wasteful public expenditure and demand good governance. Scandals like PKFZ and others must be a thing of the past. Parliament must demand high standards of accountability from government ministers and public officials. Those who violate public trust must be severely punished.—Din Merican

  2. “Those who violate public trust must be severely punished.—Din Merican

    Yes, those found guilty of criminal breach of trust must also be caned in public, with their pants down, tied to a pole spread eagled and with their buns exposed. If you want to be an Islamic state then this is what you will have to do.

    Najib would do well to practise now within the privacy of his office. Cik Mah Chot can help him. If Cik Mah Chot is also guilty then she should be made to expose her buns to public scrutiny.

  3. The sad truth about bribery is that every single person is a habitual offender without even realising it. Parents bribe their kids countless of times. It is very much our way of life.

  4. As long as TBH is in MACC’s custody, they are responsible for everything that happenned. They cannot deny it. Appropriate action must be taken. The right thing for the Rakyat to do is to vote BN out in the 13GE. So, to those who are eligible please register and use your power.

  5. ” Ideally we should have confidence in Najib’s reassurance; we should take solace ….. “. G. KRISHNAN.

    mr krishnan , this man gave away almost rm500 million ringgit as commission to his good friend and confident mr. razak baginda for two submarines. most malaysians agree that it was too much . what do you think mr. krishnan ? so now mr krishnan , how do you expect us malaysians to feel reassured by what najib told mr. teoh’s family?

    i remember some years ago dr. mahathir , while he was prime minister , launched this slogan ” KEPIMPINAN MELALUI TELADAN “. in english it means ” LEADERSHIP BY EXAMPLE “. so need i say more mr. krishnan?

    in a similar vein , i can’t understand singapore and more so their MINISTER MENTOR MR LEE KUAN YEW. i bring this up because you mentioned singapore in your article above. what i can’t understand is this – that lee kuan yew lead by example and wiped out corruption in singapore , but yet he praised very very highly corrupt leaders like the late SUHARTO in indonesia and many of the malaysian leaders whom he visited recently . do u know why lee kuan yew does or did this mr krishnan?

  6. Bean

    Che Mah Cot’s buns are to flabby to any ones liking.Unless of cause you can turn back the clock or get a stunt-double to do the expose-zea. Other than her wig the rest of her including
    ‘Her bottoms are expired merchandise’

  7. The Australian Govt raised salaries of Airport enforcement personnel to counter bribery and it worked.
    They were legally ‘bribe’ to not accept personal bribes.

  8. Peach Ann,

    Lee Kuan Yew is a living Jekyl and Hyde. Mahathir thinks he is heaven sent , a modern day prophet for the Malays. AND Anwar is a repented rogue out to redeem himself from past crimes committed against the people of Malaysia. So pick your choice!
    Danildaud, Anwar a rogue? I can’t agree with you. Anwar may be hard to read, but take it from me, he is a very dedicated, articulate and change oriented intellectual and a natural politician, always cool under pressure. He is threatening to those who have benefited from the present money centered politics. Far from being a rogue (if he was, he would not have survived), he is a wakil rakyat and serves his constituency of Permatang Pauh with a lot of care and attention.—Din Merican

  9. An authoritarian’s mind recognizes the ‘spirit’ of ‘authoritarianism’ in others.
    That is why LKY, behaves that way. See what he does to his detractors? Yes, he may be ‘incorruptable’ but that’s because his IQ and EQ are high. Nobody dares to ask about his S.Q. as what our dys-esteemed education minister trying to impose on our younger generation! With a negative spiritual quotient of our gomen – is it a wonder why, corruption is ok amongst the aforesaid undergrads?

  10. “Che Mah Cot’s buns are to flabby to any ones liking.Unless of cause you can turn back the clock or get a stunt-double to do the expose-zea. Other than her wig the rest of her including
    ‘Her bottoms are expired merchandise’” Danildaud

    My apologies. I haven’t seen her in person for forty years. Forty years ago, her buns were firm. What I know about Cik Mah Chot’s buns today are from Shrek and Tok Cik.

  11. Anwar a rogue?
    – Din Merican

    Anyone who is or have had associated himself/herself with UMNO-BN
    deserves the title , I think DSAI will agree with me on this!

    Nonetheless , Anwar a rogue in a literall sense? Nay , just a figure of speech ,Abg Din! Just a figure of speech.

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