Open letter on International Anti-Corruption Day:

Dear PM Najib Abdul Razak,

Malaysia has made clear commitments to tackle corruption, including strong national laws and support to international initiatives.

Living up to these commitments is vital if we are to succeed in preventing those who seek to corrupt Malaysia's government structures and business community.

Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer 2013 indicates that the Malaysian public do not believe the government is taking enough action, while half of all businesses surveyed in the Bribe Payers Index 2012 said that they had lost deals because they didn't pay a bribe.

In TI's recently published Corruption Perception Index 2013, Malaysia has made little improvement.

It is disappointing that your government's commitment to tackling corruption has not yet yielded serious reform. While the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's (MACC) commissioner has compared recent conviction rates with the world's leading anti-corruption agencies, convictions of high level politicians involving large sums of money are conspicuously absent.

It is unlikely this is because no such corruption exists. In fact, many high profile Malaysian corruption scandals have reverberated around the world's news wires.

Notable recent examples have been the allocation of land and forest licences in Sarawak involving Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, or the Port Klang Free Zone land scandal that ended in the former transport minister Dr Ling Liong Sik's acquittal on Oct 25, 2013. The attorney-general has decided not to appeal this decision.

Malaysia's neighbour Indonesia has built a strong, independent anti-corruption agency - Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK) - out of the wreckage of state looting under the Suharto regime.

While corruption is still widespread there, it has demonstrated the political will and built sufficiently independent institutions to confront corruption head-on at the heart of government.

The MACC has ample resources to achieve similar results. It has more personnel than the KPK and a comparable annual budget, for a population just over a tenth the size of Indonesia's.

This suggests that other barriers exist. These must be identified and swept aside, so that those suspected of corruption face the full force of corruption investigations and prosecutions.

We would welcome your assurances that these issues have your utmost attention and would like to hear what additional measures are being considered to deal with the particular challenges of tackling high-level corruption.

Yours sincerely,
  • Azmi Sharom, Human Rights Centre, Universiti Malaya
  • Cheong Kee Cheok, Faculty of Economics, Universiti Malaya
  • Edmund Terence Gomez, Faculty of Economics, Universiti Malaya
  • KJ John, UCSI University
  • Sharon Kaur, Human Rights Centre, Universiti Malaya
  • Lee Hwok Aun, Faculty of Economics, Universiti Malaya
  • Sumit Mandal, National University of Malaysia (UKM)
  • Maznah Mohamad, formerly Universiti Sains Malaysia
  • Johan Saravanamuttu, formerly Universiti Sains Malaysia
  • Tan Beng Hui, Human Rights Centre, Universiti Malaya
  • Gregore Pio Lopez, Visiting Fellow at Department of Political and Social Change, ANU
  • Maria Chin Abdullah, chair, Bersih 2.0
  • Ambiga Sreenevasan, president of Malaysian Bar Council (2007-2009)
  • Masjaliza Hamzah, executive director, Centre for Independent Journalism
  • Denison Jayasooria, secretary-general of Proham (Human Rights Promotion Association)
  • Global Witness
  • Cynthia Gabriel
  • Wong Chin Huat
  • Cecilia Ng
  • Chee Heng Leng
  • Rosli Omar
  • Diana Wong
  • Zainah Anwar