MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Thursday, November 7, 2019

Keep an eye on the boss

Image result for Mahathir and corruptionImage result for corruption (Malaysia)

THE Prime Minister has made a courageous admission that corruption, which used to be an “under-the-table” issue, is now an “over-the-table” concern in our country. It has actually been an “on-the -table” matter for decades, hence it is encouraging that the Prime Minister has acknowledged it.
All Malaysians should be concerned as the scourge of corruption has rapidly overwhelmed the nation and is costing us billions of ringgit in lost revenue.
Corruption is a problem that has been well recognised by all the biggest economies in the wider Asian region. China, India and Indonesia have been saddled with this problem for decades and have in the past 10 years taken extreme and extraordinary measures to combat it.
In South Korea, corruption-related issues have claimed at least five presidents – about half of the country’s presidents – since 1948. However, South Korea also had some presidents, like Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee, who were men of the highest integrity.
Professor Syed Hussein Alatas’ Corruption In Asia remains the best book to read in order to understand corruption and abuse of power especially in Malaysia. This book should be read by all civil servants and corporate functionaries.
The voluminous report by the Ahmad Nordin Committee of Inquiry (comprising Tan Sri Ahmad Nordin Zakaria, Chooi Mun Sau and Datuk Ramli Ibrahim) into the scandal involving Bank Bumiputra and its subsidiary Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF) in the 1980s also provides an excellent insight into how things went awry and awful in a merchant finance bank in Hong Kong.
Teh Yik Koon’s well-researched book expanded from her doctoral dissertation “From BMF to 1MDB” is also an invaluable addition to the body of literature on Malaysian corruption.
These publications do not, however, provide an in-depth study on the whole issue of the dynamics of behavioural conduct, especially obedience, getting along in a hierarchical situation with one’s superiors and acting in a manner consonant with the requirements of highly-placed politicians, top civil servants and corporate heads.
It is these top people who would determine a person’s prospects for promotion, postings and eventually the pension/gratuity on which a person retires.
If the highest ranking person is corrupt or compromised, parts of the organisation which he or she heads are likely to be affected, too.
A few straight underlings would hold on to their moral and ethical principles at great risk, as there would be a price to pay eventually.
This is a pertinent issue especially in Malaysia, which reportedly has the highest power distance ratio on the basis of surveys in a number of countries.
When serving with a straight, honest, no-nonsense, law-abiding and incorruptible superior, despite the superior’s preferences and personal quirks, organisational goals are often emphasised and acted upon in a coordinated and consistent manner.
The superior makes it clear from the beginning that particular objectives must be met in accordance with the direction from political or civil service higher-ups, and those objectives have to be met within the ambit of the law, circulars and set office procedures and the budget provided. This is the ideal situation.
In real life, such a situation is rare, at least on the basis of this writer’s experience. There is sometimes the case of the deeply flawed but highly favoured, high-flying superior in the system.
He is highly regarded, known to play golf with the key players in the highest levels of the state and administration, and is widely perceived as a doer and decider of many people’s fates.
In the foreign service which the writer is familiar with, that superior would decide the last overseas posting, whether it is Paris, Port Moresby or Putrajaya.
In this kind of situation, the superior’s role is seldom subject to outside scrutiny, hence obedience, compliance and consonance with this person’s preferences can become paramount.
I was quite lucky that I had the privilege while serving overseas (where senior envoys can behave like emperors) of working with some ambassadors of integrity, including Datuk AS Talalla, Datuk Abdul Majid Mohamed, Datuk Zainal Abidin Ibrahim and Datuk Anaitullah EA Karim.
To prevent corruption from becoming a systemic issue, periodic surveys have to be carried out to ensure that norms of probity and professionalism are closely adhered to.


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