“Corruption is an enormous obstacle to the realisation of all human rights” – former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay
As we reach this time of the year, where two days earmarked by the UN stand side by side – World Anti-Corruption Day (9 December) and World Human Rights Day (10 December), the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) strongly warns that worsening corruption in our country has great ramifications for the human rights of the people.
Entrenched corruption has eroded trust, defeated the rule of law, hampered economic development and further exacerbated inequality, poverty, social division and the environmental crisis – all of which are grave human rights concerns.
It has been a turbulent time for Malaysia since the previous general election. Not only did Malaysia see her people raising their voices in anger over various public corruption scandals including the grand 1MDB theft of public funds and a fleet of other scandals, it eventually led to the fall of the indefatigable Barisan Nasional administration during the 2018 general election, which saw several once powerful politicians knocked down and eventually charged in court for corrupt practices.
While the monumental change was supposed to herald a time of better anti-corruption and human rights reforms and transparency in government, this did not come to pass. An internal political coup saw the Pakatan Harapan government dethroned and the Perikatan Nasional administration established, just days before Malaysia felt the first of Covid-19, shattering any hope that the rights of the people would be prioritised.
Horse trading among politicians for positions of power, with MPs being appointed as heads of major government-linked companies, deepening the nexus between politics and business, became a reality.
The state governments in Kedah, Perak, Malacca and Johor fell, and another failed power grab triggered the Sabah state election, which caused the third wave of Covid-19, which has run rampant in Malaysia.
The coup also saw several high-profile corruption cases involving millions of ringgit fizzle out, with notable cases such as the discharge not amounting to an acquittal of Najib Razak’s stepson, Riza Aziz on five counts of money laundering over US$248m (RM1bn), former Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman’s abrupt acquittal of 46 corruption charges, and former federal territories minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor’s discharge not amounting to an acquittal over his RM1m corruption case.
The importance of independent institutions that are not beholden to the government, so that accountability and transparency can well and truly be enforced, and the need for transparency in public participation, a necessary component which maintains checks and balances on those in power, has been shattered.
For public participation and independent institutions to be able to truly fulfil their role as a mechanism for checks and balances, there must be access to pertinent information to ensure that conclusions can be drawn logically, backed by evidence and data.
As such, C4 Center challenges this unelected administration to put word to deed once and for all and state its stand on the reforms needed to protect the rights and safety of all citizens and to table immediately in Parliament a right to information law and a stronger Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, which would serve to protect those who report corruption from unsavoury repercussions.
Above all, there must be strong political will from all parties to genuinely roll out anti-corruption and human rights reform efforts.
The journey towards a Malaysia free of corruption, where the nation is an open and better place, requires so much more political will. We urge that the realisation of that Malaysia does not remain a pipe dream.