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Friday, May 07, 2010

Corruption - a tale from two cities

It was sometime in the late 1990's. And it was in Singapore.

A trailer driver was driving to deliver some goods to a Singaporean buyer. While doing so, he hit some tree branches which fell onto a car behind the trailer and damaged the car a little bit.

Both men stopped their respective vehicle. While they were "settling" their "dispute", a traffic police officer came by and stopped. Upon his inquiry, the trailer driver related what had happened to the officer. The officer then told the car driver that perhaps he should make a claim from his insurance company as it was not the fault of the trailer driver that his car was damaged.

Noting that the damage only involved some minor scratches, the car driver relented and drove off. The trailer driver was so relieved. He was also glad that the officer supported his case and was filled with gratitude to him.

In true Malaysian fashion, the trailer driver took out S$20 and gave it to the police officer. The police officer took it and rode off.

On the way back to Malaysia, the trailer driver was arrested at the Immigration checkpoint and detained. The next day he was charged for giving bribe to a police officer.

I was then advising the transport company for whom the driver worked. A Singaporean Counsel was engaged and he advised that it was an offence to do so. He advised the driver to plead guilty.

He did and was punished, fortunately, with just a  fine, albeit a hefty one.

Fast forward to last Monday, the 3rd of May 2010.

Time: 1.15am. Location, Jalan Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

The Sun newspaper today (6th May 2010), at page 4, reported of two incidents at a police road block along Jalan Cheras, Kuala Lumpur. The report  is entitled "Cop held over alleged bribery, sexual harassment."

The first lady was driving alone at 1.15am when she was stopped at the roadblock. The police said she was driving beyond the speed limit. According to her the police officer said the matter could be settled on the spot. She then offered RM15 and the officer agreed to take that sum as "settlement".

Money exchanged hand. The officer than allegedly told her that she was sexy. He allegedly asked her to lift her t-shirt and pull up her skirts. She immediately drove off.

But not before she performed her side of the agreed bargain. She paid him the 15 bucks and drove off.

Next was a nightclub singer about 30 minutes later. The same thing happened. This time the lady gave RM20. The same officer allegedly made similar advances. The lady also paid him off and drove off.

It was reported that the two women were "riled over the incidents."

The report however does not specify whether the two ladies were "riled" over the alleged sexual harassment and the fact that the officer had allegedly asked them for money or whether both of them were only "riled" over the alleged sexual harassment alone.

However, the MP for Cheras, Tan Kok Wai, whose help was sought by the two ladies, was quoted as saying:

"It is shocking to note that there are such sex maniacs in the police force. I believe these two cases may not be the first and many more may have gone unreported."

The above statement only touches on the sexual harassment and the fact that there are, in the good MP's words, "sex maniacs" in the police force. Nothing is said whatsoever about the bribery.

It is as if the YB did not even feel that the bribery was an offence. It is as if the bribery demanded by the officer - if it was true - and offered by the two ladies are not issues which he was supposed to highlight apart from the sexual harassment.

I could also surmise from the report that the two ladies were "riled" up because of the alleged sexual harassment and nothing else. The fact that they willingly paid the police officer - according to what was reported - without even thinking twice that they were actually committing a serious offence under our law is a cause to be concerned with.

It is as if bribery, in Malaysia, is an accepted practice and has become a national culture of sort. It is as if bribery is not an offence and is a way of life over here.

Would I be wrong to suggest here that those two incidents would not have been reported at all had the officer not been a horny dude with a perverted mind?

I don't think I would be wrong. I can bet  that the two ladies would not have even said a single word to the press had the incident only consist of the police officer asking for a bribe.

From the report it is obvious that the ladies did not hesitate to hand over RM15 and RM20 respectively to the officer. No outcry was ever made in the press report about the bribe. It was the alleged sexual harassments that caused the report.

The surprising - and disconcerting -  thing is this. Even the Member of Parliament did not see it fit to express any outrage over the bribe given by the two ladies!

The MACC recently had made an announcement of sort that it is also going to target the bribe giver in the future. I think that is a good move. But of course, MACC is so tainted with partiality allegations that nobody even care to give it any kind of attention, let alone trust. And we can only hope that it changes colour. That would be nothing less than a miracle!

Contrast the KL story with the one from Singapore. See the "cultural differences" between the two.

The trailer driver was just being a normal Malaysian who felt grateful to the police officer. He then gave him money. It was unsolicited. Nor was it intended to be any form of inducement to the police officer as the money was given after the event.

Nevertheless, the police officer stuck by the law. He took it and promptly reported the case. That very same day the trailer driver was arrested at the checkpoint.

The thing which we may miss from these two stories is the fact that in Singapore, abiding by the law is a culture while in Malaysia breaching the law is a culture.

Generally, when it comes to offering a bribe to the police or breaching traffic laws, Malaysians do not even blink to think about the fact that bribery is serious offence and that they are committing an offence.

Think about it. Do we Malaysians think that jumping que at a traffic light is an offence? Or giving "duit kopi" or "settling the matter" with the police or whatever authorities is an offence? No. The law against bribery is irrelevant and insignificant to us. Traffic laws are also mere ornament in law libraries.

It is a cultural thing as opposed to we being  habitual offenders. If we were habitual offenders, why is it that we would not do such things  when we are in Singapore or the UK?  Why do we suddenly  abide by their laws? Do we suddenly change into a law abiding person because of geographical differences?

The answer is when we are there we are not abiding by their laws. We are just following their culture. If we don't line up at the ATM in the UK, the British would tap on our shoulder and we would promptly be told off. We would be embarrassed. That is all. We do not suddenly change into a law abiding person while we are there.

On the other hand, when we are in Jakarta or Bangkok, why is it that we do not abide by their laws? If we drive in those two cities, we would surely breach their traffic laws as we do in Malaysia? The answer is obvious. We remain true to ourselves in Jakarta or Bangkok because their road culture is the same with ours. It is as simple as that.

Corruption being a Malaysian culture, no amount of enforcement of the law and no increase in the severity of the punishment would ever turn us around. If we are drug addicts for example, no amount of punishment would change us. Unless our values are changed.

The authorities must recognise this fact. And they must appreciate this fact if they are serious in combating corruption.

It is in the attitude. The values. The culture. And not simply in the laws and their enforcement.

42 comments:

MM said...

Aiya Art, have you been living in a foreign country for the past decades ?

In Malaysia, bribery and corruption are a way of life here !

flygoon said...

To MM,

I know people who do not bribe. It is the way of life if we made it so. Michael Jackson had put it eloquently in his Man in the Mirror song: If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place, Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change.

Richard Loh said...

Why the MP did not raise the corrupt issue because its become routine, a natural habit.

Poll: What Is Your Opinion Of Umno's Constant Threat Of Another May 13?"

stoplookingatfood said...

Indeed, "It is in the attitude. The values. The culture. And not simply in the laws and their enforcement."

No use changing laws when enforcement is weak. No use enforcing laws when people don't see the need to subscribe to them. No use obeying laws when those who enforce laws do not/hardly do so upon themselves.

Perhaps the first step in changing attitudes is increasing the confidence that the people have in the law enforcers. Tough job, but there always need to be first steps, however wobbly they might be. The worst that can happen is just sulking over the inevitability of the situation and how nothing can be done to change things.

Anonymous said...

Corruption is rampant in malaysia and it is our culture.RM15.00 and RM20.00 in KL is their market rate,in Penang the amount is lower.I ever paid RM5.00 to police officer hiding behind a tree when I beat the traffic light in 1993.

I believe some police must have worked OT without their superior's knowledge just to make extra income after midnight.

the disillusioned said...

it is true to our culture "Malaysia Boleh". if you can find a way, any way to get what you want, you will do it and it is only natural when others do the same. the devil and angel in disguise.

cultivating culture is a step by step structure but can lead to an overhaul change. we should all shame our politicians and the authority in the wishful thinking of vision 2020. we ain't never gonna be a developed nation when our mentality are copiously unethical

rob said...

Art

The issues are more than just a 'cultural' or way of life thing.

It is a combination of factors that include our legal system and government processes.

I believe - it may be naive - that most people would not bribe if the legal system and government processes are efficient and quick.

How often do we have postponement in the court and even tardiness? Sometimes due to absenteeism as well as inefficiency.

I am sure you and quite a lot of Malaysians have filed a report at our local constabulary or try to get a document from a government hospital.

I am not condoning bribery. But just imagine that one is caught for driving under the influence on a Friday night out. There is no court for you to appear on Saturday and Sunday. The one choose to 'selesai' or settle outside the court. The MIB knows that as well i.e. 'supply and demand' and hence are particularly active on weekends.

Please do not get me wrong - I am not condoning bribery.

Peace

Anonymous said...

Art,

It takes two hands to clap. However I totally agree with you that bribery and corruption is the malaysian culture which is drummed into since 52 years ago. It is the oxygen in the bloodstream of UMNO-BN.

If the 1PM Jibby can do it right in front of everyone and smiling from ear to ear when he handed out the RM3 million fake cheque to the HS school, he is effectively telling all malaysians that is A-OK to give bribes and to receive bribes.

This is the revised 1Malaysia slogan "Bribes First, Performance Forget it lah"

Anonymous said...

What is the use of talking about poor culture and practises in this country? These are not the things that move people to action. We have an incredible tolerance for the mediocre not only for ourselves but even for our leaders and systems we rely on.

Once oil is gone, taxes goes up, prices goes up, then people will be moved to action. There used to be a saying among the Chinese in KL 'don't die, won't act'.

Anonymous said...

Spore and Msia parted in 1965 and yet 2 distinctive culture evolved.

The society of these two countries are almost similar. Former British colony with multi-racial population and the list goes on.

The difference is in the governments.

No question, peoples always complain about spore being one party rule. But the peoples get the real bargain.

In comparison, who rules Msia? What is the ruling philosophy? whoever mentions meritocracy is accused of being chauvinist. whoever talks about justice and equality, the excuse is that it is in the constitution.

Why are Msian getting a raw deal? just look at the government they voted in election after election.

The damage done to Msia requires complete overhaul. It is the mindset of the peoples who keep voting for BN.

Let me also ask why UMNO is unable to be an enligthened ruler like PAP. Is the problem the members? or the leaders?

Peoples don't mind one party rule (this has been a fact since 1970s, the coalition is just a facade).

we want a good government who takes care of peoples'life, liberty and property.

Anonymous said...

i wud be annoyed if turned off by sexy women. wat can you get 4 RM20? 5 fingers? :(

.bang.

sinkeh said...

Looks like we have ended up like Greece in the making.

Anonymous said...

Hi Art,
I agree with you that it's a cultural thing.

That's the gravest damage that the current Government is doing to this country ;the damage to our value system. The politicians simply do not walk their talk; they screw up our values like nobody's business.

If Najib can openly offer millions to HS by-election voters if he wins then what is the common people to do?

lkl

Anonymous said...

Hello
I can't see anything wrong here. What is the different between paying on the spot and paying a summon? Less trees and no paper work. While others are still waiting for summons and wasting court time. I think the rest of the world got so much to learn from Malaysia not what to do. I salute Malaysia.

vinnan said...

anon 7 May 2010 19:49,

Given the argument when someone rapes your wife/daughter you do not need the law, all you need is to somehow do the bugger in. What if your wife or daughter were gang raped. Kill all the rapist. You think you are some kind of super killer? What an asshole.

Anonymous said...

I've experienced it in an immigration office once. No one entertain me when I stand at "customer service" counter. After sometime, I sketch a placard "Tolong Layan Saya". I can see those with connection walk in and out. Later I found out they are instructed by their Tuan not to layan the public cos of complaints. Later a young officer(freshie) layan me. From his look & the way he talk, he actually pity me without saying it. In my mind, with the environment he's in, he'll be influence in no time.
We should be more concern for the this young guy than those old timers who can't be "saved"

展惟定姍 said...

肯定與支持你!!!加油囉~........................................

pinsysu said...

bodohland is rotting from head to toe ... too toxic for anybody to handle unless the rakyats decide to get rid of it.

JJ said...

What can you expect when Najib as PM can blatantly and openly flouting all the rules and laws in the books by bribing the voters of Hulu Selangor with RM 3 mil and nothing happens ?

If you don't realise this, just observe next year; when Hari Raya is just around the corner, you will see many policemen suddenly becomes very hardworking and flashing their torch-lights during the nights.

blink said...

Corruption is absolutely the culture in M'sia. Go to any govt. dept.and they will ask you for RM1 for making photocopies, or to 'donate' RM5 for their 'charity fund', or RM10 for their clerk to process the paperwork 'faster'. Your application is in their hands, will you dare refuse?

If the 2 ladies had paid the actual fine instead of fobbing off the police with RM20, then they are sure to be chided by their friends and family for being 'stupid' - paying a larger fine instead of 'settling' the matter quickly with RM20. And I can bet you that some honest policemen who don't take bribes are similarly chastise for not being 'smart' enough to take advantage of their position.

I wonder when allocating wages, the govt. also takes into consideration the 'extra' side income of the staff? Because in no way can a govt. clerk / policeman survive on their actual pay.

But then again, what's a RM20 bribe compared to RM3 million?

kelvin, a malaysian said...

I totally agree with you on corruption in malaysia generally.
it's part of our life, it's in our blood. it's even become part of our cultural. it's sad but that's the fact we gonna face it now.

I dun believe MACC can do much about it even whoever their head really want to combat it.

To combat corruption we need a Leader, I mean a PM who dare to make the call, to say yes. Let's do it now. But looking around us, how many PM candidate fit the shoe? Can PR dare to call it a day to end corruption? Can BN dare to surrender MACC to parliament? make it an independent Agency? not in my wildest dream man.

In sg, ppl scare to give, here we says what's the big deal man? who to blame?

I just share a joke with my fren ytd. I said if we go all out to catch corruption, easily half of our country will out of job!! haha.. pathetic indeed.

But, i still believe we need a change of government like what happening in Britain now. Regardless, whether the alternative can do the work or not. Atleast, as a rakyat we send out massage clearly enough is enough.

Again, qeastion is as a rakyat ourselves. Do we want to call it a day on corruption? back to you rakyat.

Anonymous said...

A proper channel for reporting bribery and corruption is needed.
This should coupled with strict enforcement.

TT

TwitJayaMACC said...

Art is right. We can stop the 'bribe culture' by starting with us. We have a facebook group http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Duit-Kopi-Takda-Serbuk-Kopi-Ada/108734709162764

Pls join us if you are in FB.

Batang Berjuntai said...

Orang memberi kita merasa,
Orang berbudi kita berbahasa;
Begitu indahnya peribahasa,
Yang kita ada suatu ketika.

Saman dipadam duit diberi,
Wang disuap diminta paha lagi;
Ginilah suasana pada ini hari,
Dah menjadi budaya berakar umbi.

Direnung-renung boleh tahan lagi,
Menolong orang dan juga diri;
Daripada dibazir melobi sana sini,
Serta mengiklan mengampu diri.

Anonymous said...

MACC,

Please go after the big fish who bought the submarine with high commission paid la...

Please go after the Port Klang money absconding issue la...

Please go after the missing jet engines la...

Please go after why all BN ministers are living beyond their means la... (First on the line is Khir Toyo's palace)

Please go after your own MACC members are impartial and cannot be bribed first la...

Please go after the judges are not politically linked first la...

Please go after the asshole who fixed the judge years back la... (by the way, he was aquitted)

Please do the must do la....

If the ruling government is cheating, what you expect the citizen to do or how they should behave?

Try this in Singapore.

Don't make us Malaysian a laughing stock la.....


MACC....go home sleep la...

Victor said...

Dear Art, we must not forget that asking for sexual favour is also an act of corruption. The MP and the girls did not stress on the money involved because policeman seeking sexual favour is much more serious.

So let us focus our attention on the policeman instead and have him punished as a warning to all.

Anonymous said...

Ingrained Malaysian culture: This case is more revealing.

MCA man jailed for offering bribe to Singapore cop

http://blog.limkitsiang.com/2009/01/07/mca-man-jailed-for-offering-bribe-to-singapore-cop/

In this case, the bribe amount is minor while the sexual harassment was more serious. Of course it were on the scale of PKFZ or Khir Toyo, that would be different!

Anonymous said...

To
Mamak Kutty a/l Nevertellthetruth and his gangs

You ruled Malaysia more than 2 decades
What you want Malaysia to be ?
You and your gangs keep on your old style to rule us
What you want Rakyat to be ?
You and your family already billionaires
What you want poor Rakyat to be ?
Your cronies and gangs at least millionaires
What more your gangs want us to be ?

When Rakyat fight for their very basic rights !
Your gangs named them traitor, racist and disloyal.
When Rakyat unite to live in peace and harmony !
Your gangs create disorder or chaos to us.
When Rakyat calling themselve “Anak-anak bangsa Malaysia”!
You and your gangs shout and bark “Ketuanan Melayu”.

You and your gangs are real destroyers of the country !
You and your gangs are real cowards of the country !
You and your gangs have done more harm than good to the country !
You and your gangs have no sense of compassion !

What else you and your gangs need from RAKYAT ?!
How old can everyone goes ?
Can you and your gangs go more than 100 years at age ?
Yes……… ?
No……….. ?

If I am your age , I will teach the young to love each other.
If I am your age , I will do more donation and charity works.
If I am your age , I will help to form a better government.
If I am your age , I will help to rebuild a better education system for the nation.
If I am your age , I will help to rebuild a better judiciary for the country.

To you, Mamak Kutty:
“A liar always liar and without feeling ashame”

To your gangs:
“Some people have so much respect for their superiors they have none left for themselves. ”
Peter McArthur

Tomorrow is Mother’s day to all.
I wish all mothers having a wonderful day and coming days and years.
I also wish my mother-land will be having good years soon.

I love you, mother !
I love you, Malaysia !

Saya anak bangsa Malaysia

Greenpark Condo, Kuala Lumpur said...

Art,

It is really a sad reflection of the state of affairs in our beloved Malaysia.

Most Malaysians would even think twice about offering a bribe whenever they are caught infringing a traffic offence - if fact many of my foreign friends make a joke amongst themselves.

The way to stop this rot is for the executive to start the ball rolling by having an impartial MACC and have big wigs arrested and charged and send to jail (not just fined) for corruption.

But alas, when even the PM himself is so tainted with allegations of corruption, what can the rakyat expect.

Just to share my own experiences -
I love to speed along the highway and have been caught many times over the speed limit - instead of offering a bribe, I just accept any summons issued and subsequently pay off the summons.

Paying off summons (amount already in the tens of thousands since I started to drive 20 years ago) was supposed to teach me to slow down but then again the pain was still bearable so I continue to drive fast.

However, I can walk tall that I have not offered a bribe to any policeman for years - how many Malaysians can say that ?

Anak Watan.

walk_on_water said...

In the U.S. it is a different ball game. The only contact the police officer is allowed to have with the driver is only to ask for his insurance, registration and his driving license. Then he writes out a summons and gives it to the driver saying "Thank you, Sir" and he moves on. When this is taking place the driver is to remain in his car and not get out. The second officer is merely watching at the back of the car while the whole incident is caught on tape from a camera in the police car right behind.

If he has reasonable cause to suspect something else like the driver reeks of marijuana and sees something suspicious in the car, he asks the driver to "Please step out of the car, Sir" and does a quick body search and cuffs him or her and gives him his Miranda rights and drives him or her to the station.

walk_on_water said...

In Malaysia I got stopped by a Tom Cruise looking Malay policeman on a Honda bike hidden in the bushes while his Indian side kick incidentally the more intelligent of the two and was asked to choose i.e. pay RM50 or attend court and pay a fine of RM250. I told him that would be a breach of the oath of office I took many years earlier. I gave him my call card but he still insisted i.e. until the Indian partner whispered to him to just let me go. Somehow common sense prevailed and I was let go.

Anonymous said...

The magic words to bribe a policeman or two are "selesai" and "ikhlas".

Anonymous said...

See this before it is censored.Scorpion Submarine Scandal-Revealed.....at last
If this is true and you are a Malaysian, you should know what you should do when the next general election comes. And you would be committing a sin if you are not forwarding this info to your Malaysian friends to do justice.
find out whether this is the truth or not first.
this is a very serious allegation.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SBzfn0CU-c

eiling lim said...

yeah to be fair those two ladies should be fined too for giving bribery to the policeman. It's funny how bribery seemed to be instilled in our culture. It's not easy to clean up this country. Perhaps we were all waiting for a miracle to happen that someone would initiate it.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it is the value system that one has that determines what kind of action one takes. However, that alone would not be enough if it cause a lot of inconvenience and economically not viable. Relating my experiences with the traffic police, I have this to say. Would you rather pay a fine of RM100 to compound for a questionable traffic offence or appear in court many times? I have attended court for 7 times when I was still a student 30 years ago for forgetting to switch on my motorbike's headlamp. On top of this, they even sent the officers from the social welfare department to grill me on whether I was involved in drugs or triads. By the way, the questionable traffic offence I mentioned was not about forgetting to switch on the headlamp but for switching lanes i.e. the lanes have dotted lines and by right switching of lanes should be allowed as I have checked with one of the JPJ officers. I decided to pay the compound of RM100 so as to save the inconvenient option and not to mention uneconomical option of attending court to challenge the case. What would you do if it were you?

art harun said...

Dear Anon @ 10:18,

Frankly, I value my time more than anything else. I am not about to naik turun the staircase at the Court complex for 7 times. I would pay the RM100 compound and forget about it.

But of course there will be people who would fight on principle. I salute them.

As for bribing the police, the answer is NO. I won't bribe the policemen.

So far I have refused to pay them on about 3 occasions, if memory serves me right.

Ah Beng Crosby said...

Our law enforcer entertain the ideal of quick settlement and who doesn't want a quick settlement when a law has been broken?

If all the policemen do not take bribe and detain all the bribe givers, do you thing the rakyat will dare to even mention the magic word 'settle'? If the law enforcer is not able to enforce the law, do you think the rakyat will respect the law?

Anonymous said...

How to respect someone who has no self-respect?
NO HOLDS BARRED

Terengganu is being run by Umno. And the Terengganu government is sponsoring the May 13 victory celebration tomorrow. MCA is part ...................Read more

http://malaysia-today.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=31791:how-to-respect-someone-who-has-no-self-respect&catid=20:no-holds-barred&Itemid=100087


"Some people have so much respect for their superiors they have none left for themselves."
Quoted by
Peter McArthur

Anonymous said...

I sympathise with the low ranking policemen whose pay are only a couple of hundred ringgit.

Imagine the predicament of those who are stationed in big towns and cities especially those with a wife and few kids.

hurricanemax said...

Corruption starts from the very Top for so long and made more 'customary' in the last 2 decades, that by 'not being ocrrupted' stands out like a bad case of pimple on flawless skin.
It will take another 2 generations to undo the wrong..and the first step starts her & now. Thanks Art.

Anonymous said...

Mamahkthir Mamak Kutty was the main culprit for the rampant corruption in Malaysia.

Corruption and abuse of power shot through the roof when he was the PM and got from bad to worst until now.

DistressedNyen said...

I would submit that we would have been the same as the Singaporeans more than 50 years ago. We were after all in the same country then. Hence, I would go on to say that the system that has been in existence in the past 50 years created and instilled this 'culture-acceptance of corrupt practices' in almost all of us. Sigh...

What have we Malaysians done to deserve this?