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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Sultan Ibrahim's Crusade Against Corruption

 Sultan Ibrahim’s Crusade Against Corruption

M. Bakri Musa


In having the Head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Azam Baki for an audience at Istana Negara, the new Agung, Sultan Ibrahim, signaled his earlier declared mission to combat Malaysia’s top scourge:  corruption. That royal audience was not the usual protocol-driven one as the Agung later gave a press conference with Azam Baki alongside. The Agung also presented a jar of honey to the MACC Chief, with instructions to catch those wily bees who had been sucking up the nation’s nectar.


            Honey is a familiar metaphor in Islam. The Qur’an exhorts us to be like bees, gather nectar (ilm–knowledge) from varied sources and turn it into honey (hikmah–wisdom) to benefit mankind. As a child, the Prophet used to be lowered by a rope down the cliff to gather honey, hence the metaphor. Here, the Agung’s metaphor has the very opposite meaning:  to catch those corrupt bees and flies.


            In his press conference back in December 2023 shortly after being chosen by his peers to be the 17thAgung, Sultan Ibrahim stated that combating corruption would be his top priority. It was significant that he gave that exclusive interview not to a Malaysian media but Singapore’s The Straits Times, and with a seasoned interviewer. He wanted a wide audience. Being close to that Republic’s leaders and seeing what they had achieved made him even more intolerant of corrupt, incompetent Malaysian officials.


            It is worth reminding that Sultan Ibrahim remains the only sultan who did not honor Najib Razak. Sultan Ibrahim has a good nose for corrupt leaders.


            He also earlier suggested that MACC report directly to him and not as presently, the Prime Minister. There is considerable merit to that. However, the needed enabling legislation would take time even if there were to be overwhelming political support. However, by singling out the MACC Chief to be the first top official for a royal audience, the Agung has effectively achieved that same end. 


            Now it is for Azam Baki to rise to the royal challenge. Should there be any political or other interference, he has the palace backing.


            That should prevent a repeat of the fate of one of Azam Baki’s predecessors, Abu Kassim Mohamad (2010-16), as well as former Attorney-General Gani Patail. They were forced into quiet early retirement by that same notorious Najib Razak for being too diligent in their 1MDB investigation. Thus far the pair has remained silent. Understandable, considering the fate of one public prosecutor, Kevin Morais, whose mutilated body was found encased in cement in an oil drum. Now that Najib is safely incarcerated, the pair should go public with their findings. As former public servants, they owe that to the nation.


            Sultan Ibrahim had also made clear that he would not tolerate the circus of parliamentarians lining up at the palace gate, their statutory declarations in hand, to demand a new government. To Sultan Ibrahim, you change government only with elections, either with the statutory ending of Parliament or a formal vote of no confidence.


            Had that principle been adhered to earlier, Malaysia would have been spared the political blight of the hopelessly incompetent Muhyiddin Yassin and Ismail Sabri.


            Azam Baki should now recruit the best forensic accountants and investigators. Hire from abroad if necessary. Appoint seasoned outside lawyers as lead prosecutors in the manner of the late Datuk Gopal Sri Ram. Push for new laws to discourage corrupt officials from parking their loot abroad. Emulate America where citizens have to declare their world-wide assets annually, with their lowest and highest values during the year, and pay taxes on them.


            Recommend a “Confess and Redress” Royal Commission on corruption, modelled after South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on past human rights abuses. Thus for a specified period if you were to voluntarily declare your past corrupt deeds, you would be granted amnesty, and the evidence you volunteered could not later be used against you provided that you pay taxes on your illicit gains. You have to be specific with individuals involved, dates, and amounts. That would create a prisoner’s dilemma of sorts among the corrupt. Confess now and you would be spared subsequent prosecution; keep quiet and you risk being exposed by those who had been in cahoots with you.


            Such a commission would yield invaluable data and insights as to the magnitude and modus operandi of the corrupt.


            With the Agung now publicly backing MACC, it would be spared the leadership scourge of such slimy characters as Dzulkifli Ahmad. He was the rogue civil servant, who while in the Attorney-General’s office, tipped then Prime Minister Najib of the ongoing 1MDB investigations. Najib later appointed him MACC Chief, with approval of the previous Agung. True to his character, Dzulkifli was later spotted holidaying in Bali with a woman who was other than his wife. Not to be outdone, he was also asked to give a Friday sermon on (yes, you guessed it!) the evils of corruption. That’s the perversion of Islam in Malaysia, another long saga!


            Now with Sultan Ibrahim’s commitment and Anwar Ibrahim’s determination, Malaysia may yet get a handle on corruption. That would be the best ever Hari Raya gift to Malaysians!


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