The comments from the prime minister are among the most forceful from any high-level government official on the scourge of graft in Malaysia.
In a speech delivered at Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s Chinese New Year open house held at Setia SPICE Arena in Bayan Lepas on Monday, January 23, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim unequivocally rejected corrupt practices and expressed his belief that Malaysia’s progress was being held back by corruption and the abuse of power. He characterised such unethical practices as “stealing the country’s wealth.”
The anti-graft comments ranked among the strongest of any Malaysian minister – let alone the nation’s leader – in recent memory.
The prime minister said political leaders, high-ranking civil servants, and enforcement agencies must put a stop to corruption in Malaysia.
Anwar added that Malaysia in fact has the potential to be a developed country in the region if the widespread practice of stealing the nation’s wealth through corrupt practices is stopped completely.
“I will no longer tolerate the attitude of those who make use of contracts or projects to acquire wealth which is not theirs,” he declared, noting that ministers and other leaders must stop racing to accumulate personal wealth.
Anwar’s latest remarks are in line with his previous declarations against corruption, a subject on which he has notably taken a strong stand, insisting that it must stop in order for the nation to thrive. He said in his speech that all parties in the current ‘unity government’ had been put on notice.
“We give clear rules… to be strong and stable, and get the support of the people, leaders must reject corruption and abuse of power.
“In this case, I stand firm. If you want to get rich, go out and become a businessman, not a minister; because if you do, the country will be ruined,” he said.
He also called on Malaysians to have the courage and integrity to reject racism, graft, and abuse of power, remarking that if the people of Malaysia could find and foster a strong spirit of unity to reject unethical practices, the nation would be able to achieve great things.
Anwar further implored Malaysians to stop competing in the interest of race and religion, saying that the much-touted multicultural differences of the nation should be viewed as a strength, not used to inflame and divide.
“The Masyarakat Madani (Civil Society) slogan demands our confidence as citizens. All religions have their beliefs, but to live in a society there must be an understanding of humanity, and that humanity has no meaning if there is no love between us.
“When there is a racial rift and narrow religious pride, hatred is planted. We need to accept our differences as a strength,” he said.
Anwar also addressed the giving of donations or ‘charity’ during elections, seen by many as a brazen tactic to buy votes, particularly among rural or impoverished communities.
“Giving money to voters during the election is bribery,” he said plainly, stressing that such practices were not only unethical, but would benefit neither the communities involved nor society as a whole.
“If it is for charity, then that is fine, but if the charity is to obtain votes in the election, that is corruption.”
Anwar said the time had come for a change.
“Malaysia is a rich country with a lot of capabilities, but if the leadership is still in the old way, the country will be ruined.”
Sources: Bernama, The Edge, The Star
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