Sunday, June 30, 2013

Corruption Close to Khalid Puts the Issue Back Under the Spotlight

Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim has made no comment following the prison sentence meted out to his former special officer who has been found guilty of corruption.

Mohd Yahya Mat Sahri was jailed two years and will receive two strokes of the rotan for cheating the president of Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Bhd, Datuk Abdul Karim Munisar, over the sale of bogus charity sponsorships five years ago. Yahya had sold event packages valued at RM50,000 on behalf of Pakatan Rakyat.

He had been cleared of these charges following a trial back in 2011 but was found guilty at this second trial in which 28 prosecution witnesses – including Khalid – gave evidence.

While Yahya remains a free man pending appeal, the case is a reminder that our corruption fighting apparatus works. The Government vowed to use it to net "big fish" and that description is well-suited to Yahya – a man who was at the heart of the Selangor administration.

It also brings the issue of corruption back into the limelight in the wake of GE13. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has spoken much of corruption since GE13 in the self-serving context of trying to prove that he, not BN, won the poll. Few on his own side of politics have taken his claims seriously.

In contrast to Anwar's wild claims, this case is a reminder of how real corruption is exposed and then dealt with before the courts.

Before GE13, both sides said much about how they would tackle corruption. BN pointed to the empowerment and increasing success rate of the MACC while Pakatan Rakyat vowed to set up a new Governmental body to oversee the MACC, which would have brought with it the risk of undermining its independence.

At one stage, PKR founding member Dr Chandra Muzaffar intervened to caution voters that Pakatan's record of dodgy land deals at state level was proof it holds no advantage over BN when it comes to this thorny issue.

BN also pointed to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Special Committee on Corruption that were accepted in January, which gave the MACC and the courts broader powers to crack down on graft. Once the legislation is passed investigators will, for example, be allowed to probe any public official "living beyond their means". Suddenly the new condo or car doesn't look so easy to conceal.

The Committee also recommended a "corporate liability" clause to make companies accountable for their graft of their employees and a "cooling off period" to stop former elected officials benefiting from positions in the corporate world as soon as they leave public office.

The Government is serious about corruption and that means netting the big fish. Yahya is living proof that this strategy is working.

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