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Malaysia: anti-corruption measures need strengthening

Malaysia is facing a corruption crisis. The on-going investigation of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. Investment fund (1MDB), where millions of dollars have gone missing and government officials are in the spotlight, highlights the need to strengthen the country’s anti-corruption laws.

While investigations are on-going, the prime minister must demonstrate commitment to the transparency and independence of the judiciary and enforcement authorities.

The dismissal of the attorney general does not solve the problem. The position of attorney general needs to be independent and that independence guaranteed through, for example, confirmation by the senate. Furthermore, the attorney general serves as both principle legal adviser to the government and also decides which cases are investigated. This poses a significant risk of a conflict of interest.

Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) needs to be strengthened and its independence guaranteed. This includes staff appointments, independent budgets and assurance that its investigations will be taken forward to prosecution when warranted by the attorney general.

Judicial reform

A strong, independent judiciary is essential. In Malaysia, however, the prime minister plays a key role in the appointment of some members of the Judicial Appointments Commission, which then selects judges. This can lead to the potential for conflicts of interest as well as be seen as trading favours for power with a judiciary indebted to the prime minister.

The current defamation case brought by Prime Minister Najib Razak against a media company, for example, could be heard by judges he had a role in selecting.

Anti-Corruption Conference to tackle the issues

From 2-4 September, 1000 anti-corruption experts will come to Malaysia to take part in the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference and the current corruption allegations will be high on the agenda.

This year’s conference is supported by the government of Malaysia, the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission and the Malaysian Society for Transparency and Integrity, Transparency International’s chapter in Malaysia. The theme this time is Ending Impunity: People, Integrity, Action.

By hosting the conference in Malaysia, Transparency International believes that the government and the Malaysian civil society, as well as the media, have a unique opportunity to seek concrete solutions to its corruption challenges, engage with and gain the support of the global anti-corruption community.

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