The Malaysian Insider’s Malaysian of the Year:MACC

December 31, 2009

MACC is Malaysian Insider’s  Malaysian of the Year 2009

Today marks the first year of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) which started with promise and is now dismissed as another political tool to earn it being named The Malaysian Insider‘s Malaysian of the Year for 2009.

At a time when politics continue to dominate the national discourse, one institution — the MACC — has stood out as an unfortunate symbol of all that is wrong in the country, unkept promises.

Indeed, the idea for a Malaysian of the Year should inspire a search or a look-back at a personality or institution that we should aspire or look up to.

But there are times in history — such as in 1938 when Time Magazine controversially chose Adolf Hitler as its Man of the Year — when negatives, such as tyranny in the case of the German leader or failure in the case of the MACC, merit the award of the accolade.

From the ashes of the impotent Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) which made few headlines during its existence, the MACC was born on January 1, 2009.

The cynical among the public expressed little hope that the new institution could achieve much more than its maligned predecessor. The more optimistic ones among us would give the MACC a chance to prove itself.

After all, it had been invested with more powers by the departing administration of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to deal with the one scourge — corruption — which has grown to a level that it has become part of the country’s fabric.

But few would have anticipated the depths the MACC would sink to. As an independent law enforcement agency, the MACC is supposed to wield its powers without fear or favour.

But the unsavoury means and the fervour it chose to investigate the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat (PR) government that ultimately led to the mysterious death of Teoh Beng Hock could only be matched by how it appeared to look the other way when it came to some Barisan Nasional (BN) personalities.

This is not to say that the MACC must only probe BN and ignore any corrupt practices by PR government officials. Nor is it the point that the MACC must arrest and charge members of both political coalitions to show its even-handedness as it did recently when it brought to court a host of minor BN and PR politicians.

In all of these cases and more the MACC has failed to win over the public to believe that the administration is serious about tackling graft.

Soon after Teoh, the DAP aide, was found dead, Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon, a member of the MACC advisory panel was quoted as saying: “We must get the support and confidence of the public to combat corruption. In Hong Kong I believe that 97 per cent of the population has confidence in the IACC. The same cannot be said of the ACA and now the MACC.”

A glaring example of why the MACC has not received the backing of the public is the investigations into the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal. Newspaper reports that something was amiss in the massive government project surfaced as long ago as 2007.

The ACA then conducted an investigation, but nothing happened. It was only after the exposure caused by the public mudslinging in MCA that the MACC finally decided to spring into action.

But so far after more than two years of investigations, a parliamentary probe and task force reports by major auditing firms, the MACC has only managed to charge in court a few little-known individuals while leaving the “big fishes” untouched.

At least that is the public perception of what the MACC has done so far. A recent poll conducted by the independent Merdeka Center found that 74 per cent of those surveyed were dissatisfied with the government’s handling of corruption and abuse of power issues.

The poll also found that a majority of Malaysians thought the MACC was biased. Crucially, the MACC has just not risen to the task of tackling corruption, from vote-buying in Umno to graft in public institutions.

A year on, the tougher anti-graft body has been a monumental failure, and that is why The Malaysian Insider is naming it the Malaysian of the Year. Looking forward, we hope to, however, award this accolade once again a year from today, for the right reasons.

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