Sunday, September 23, 2007

Negate Not The Hard Work

No clear punitive action is taken against the guilty in any AG’s report. For this, the CID can play an important role.

HAVE you ever worn a flak jacket? In January 1964 when I was flying navigator in an Auster spotter plane over the Tawau-Tarakan border drawing Indonesian fire and radioing their positions back to our “artie”, I did wish I had one on. But, thank God, the Indonesian fire was feeble and a flak jacket was unnecessary.

A couple of weeks or so ago, I was under fire, again a feeble one, from a coterie of three government MPs because of my Aug 12 column The fence that eats the rice which alluded to what a very senior ACA officer had told me about police corruption.

These MPs, including one self-proclaimed “good Muslim”, obviously did not read my Aug 12 column and my Utusan Malaysia Sept 3 reply to one Baharuddin Idris with any understanding, or else they wouldn’t have opened their traps the way they did.

But, never mind, they gave a number of my friends a good laugh over how awash they were.

The “good Muslim” alluded to my position in Genting Berhad as proof of corruption and lack of integrity and revealed his ignorance that Genting is a large conglomerate with interests spanning diverse non-gambling activities such as an oil field and four power stations in China, two power stations in India and one in Sepang. It has struck gas in Irian Jaya and the Natunas in Indonesia. It’s prospecting for oil and gas in Morocco.

Diversified interests

It has large plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia, a housing development complete with a golf course and a hotel in Kedah; the list is long.

Muslims in the Genting Group are engaged only in its many non-casino businesses. The revenue in 2006 from these non-casino operations alone totalled RM3.2bil – nothing derisive by any standard!

So you see, my friends, how difficult is the fight against entrenched corruption? You sometimes get flayed even by government supporters! The fight has always been fraught with the danger of malefice. In one of my early columns on corruption, I wrote how a police clerk in Klang suggested in the mid-1970s that I should be shot for being a pain in the neck to the corrupt. Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Hussein Onn and I were branded as closet communists by followers of a powerful politician awaiting corruption charges in the mid-1970s – despite the irony of it.

A top judge reportedly told a group of friends in Mecca that the whole thing was a Jewish conspiracy to get rid of a forceful Malay leader and that I had lent myself to it because I was a member of the “Free Mason” movement. And to think that I didn’t even know I was!

Our three MPs can do better by joining in the fight against corruption, for it is the right thing to do. For these MPs, it would also be falling in line with their party leader, the Prime Minister, who has again reiterated that he wanted the police force to be cleansed of wrongdoings and that he would continue the fight against corruption. Or are they not with him here?

Our relative freedom of expression means that it would be wrong for me to make an unjustified statement and, if I have done so, I will apologise unreservedly. That is also the right thing to do but, as it stands, I have no reason to disbelieve my source of that information on the police – a top ACA officer. We’ll wait and see.

But, have you noticed that since my column of Aug 12, there have been no public altercations between the IGP and the Deputy Minister of Internal Security? Coincidence perhaps, but this is as should be since they are the same Minister’s right-hand men.

And Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz suddenly announced that the Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) – still draft, mind you – was ready for feedback from several NGOs and he could see the Bill coming before Parliament at the end of the current session. Coincidence again, maybe, but we can wait awhile to see how closely it will hew to the effectiveness envisaged by the Royal Commission.

My house was burgled on Sept 5. I lost a DVD player, three speakers, some DVD discs and a bunch of keys. But I wasn’t really crestfallen because the moment I rang up the police to report, patrol cars, the investigation officer, the dog and forensic teams and several high-ranking officers swarmed my house. They were certainly on the ball. Three beautiful fingerprints were lifted, hopefully not my maid’s. Even the IGP contacted me. I felt nostalgic for my old PDRM.

At first, the heavy police presence worried my neighbours who thought that I was being arrested for being a pain-in-the-neck critic! When they got the true picture, relief and envy followed that the police had shown me so much concern. To all the officers concerned, thank you for your confidence-building response!

Poor Nurin Jazlin – after being kidnapped for 28 days she was found killed in an unspeakable way by a sexual pervert in PJS 1/48. How the little one must have suffered from pain and fright, not comprehending why her life could change so quickly, so horribly!

I have said before that there are predators out there in the guise of men, and we tempt the fates if we are so cavalier about our children and grandchildren’s safety. It’s not safe out there for unaccompanied children. That message should be driven home to all parents and teachers.

Monitoring immigrant workers

The lack of control over the legal (let alone the illegal) immigrant workers’ movements quite rightly worries some enforcement officials. We must realise that many of the males are deprived of normal opportunities for sexual gratification.

While not saying that one of them is the weirdo responsible for the latest child-murder, I do hope the Internal Security Ministry will find a way through this.

Fifteen years ago when there were many foreign construction workers in the Subang Jaya area, their employers consented to placing them in a camp supervised by several retired senior police officers who registered and controlled their egress and ingress. This can still be done and made mandatory after a proper study to ensure the workers’ comfort and to iron out potential problems. The workers can be transported to their places of work as is done, I believe, in Singapore.

The Nurin case brings to mind the case of five-year-old Nazrin @ Yin which had a happy ending. In my Sunday Star column of April 22 Finders not keepers, I wrote, “If we do not show such people (kidnappers) that their act of depriving a family of its member is a serious crime ? our streets will be even less safe in a short while.”

Another issue that gripped our attention recently is the annual litany of apparent malfeasance exposed by the Auditor-General’s Report.

Nothing resolved

I could feel the disgust of friends as they flayed the Government for allowing the apparent malpractices exposed in annual AG’s reports to go on year after year ostensibly without proper resolution. No clear punitive action was taken against the guilty following last year’s no-less-damning report. Tan Sri Ambrin Buang and his auditors have done well again but lack of enforcement and Cabinet follow-ups may again negate all the hard work.

The ACA DG has announced that his agency had commenced investigations and that we should see the results soon. Good for him. It’s about time our faith in the system is restored. If there are plausible reasons for some of the outlandish purchases, then we should be informed to dispel our bad perception of government’s governance.

But the CID also has a role if it wants to play it. If the allegations smack of criminal breach of trust, cheating or any of the penal code offences, it’s the department’s duty to investigate without waiting for a report to be lodged. Explanatory statements made to the auditors and the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee by ministry and departmental officers are admissible in evidence.

Wilful malfeasance must be adequately punished so that others will be sufficiently deterred. The AG’s report bears out the perception that in government spending, we sometimes do not get our money’s worth!

And if, as suggested by Datuk Shahrir Samad, it is not that the civil service has not improved but that “the new ways of implementing projects – the direct negotiations and turnkey method” are the culprits, then the rules must be tightened to restore the image of the public services.

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