We will hold government to account

Filed under - Civil society

Speech by Elena Panfilova, Vice-Chair, Transparency International, 4 September 2015 – 16th IACC, Putrajaya, Malaysia
Image of speaker/author

Thank you so much Honourable Datuk Mustafar Ali, Deputy Chief Commissioner, Honourable Senator Dato Abdul Wahid Omar, the Honorable Paul Low. Dear Chair of the IACC Council, Mr Akere Muna, dear honourable colleagues, friends, ambassadors and everyone in this room, journalists, students, and everyone who is hearing us through this internet broadcasting.

We just had three very exciting days together when we have heard a lot about how corruption is changing; how technology can make it to make it easier for the corrupt to move their money; how it has become more complex to unravel the web that holds together the politicians, the criminals and the businesses who steal from the people.

But we have also heard how we all are changing, all of us, how the TI movement is changing right now, how we are using new methods, and some old updated and improved methods; how we innovate and how we merge forces together to bring the corrupt to justice.

We in TI, as a movement as well as we all of us as a community of anti-corruption activists and professionals, have come a long way since these conferences first began more than twenty years ago.

Elena Panfilova speaking at 16th IACC

In those days corruption wasn’t widely recognised as an issue of concern; it was not even on the world agenda in spite of the way corruption was draining public money from hospitals, from schools, from households into the private pockets, or destroying rain forests and depleting our natural resources.

That has changed. And it has changed because of the work of this conference over so many years in alliance with all those who will oppose corruption. And I would like to use this opportunity to thank all people who’ve been involved in preparation of all IACCs, this IACC, and all IACCs down the road, who created the space to meet, to absorb knowledge and to bring changes to our societies.

We saw how these changes were developed during our recent IACC. We discussed ways how to trace luxury goods. We discussed new procurement laws. We discussed so many tools that bring us closer together to implementation of all those wonderful instruments on the prevention side. We discussed how to better our societies and we discussed what is needed to be done.

As an example our technology hub developed a very good tool to help our Malaysia chapter to work on the disclosure of income and assets of local officials. Let’s see how it is going to be used. I am sure it will be a great success.

Since the beginning we have focused our efforts on prevention of corruption, ‘disintegrity’ all those things that public officials do against the interest of societies. We were promoting systematic changes, closing the loopholes and putting in place stronger legal frameworks.

There are conventions in place and there are commissions and they are vital in a system of international law, but they are not enough. Too many countries still fail to enforce those them and those conventions exist on paper and never work in practices. Many countries still need to do their homework and clean up their own backyard. We as civil society still need to do more.

We have heard this week of the many obstacles in our way. How journalists have been murdered, how activists have been put in prisons and organisations banned.

In many countries we are having to fight to be heard.

There are many languages spoken in the world, yet too many governments are using the same language when they are trying to close down the anti-corruption movement and a free media.

They develop a lot of tools:

Obstacles to peaceful assembly

Economic crimes put on our activists


Accusations, and even treason.

They call us names: foreign agent for example. Calling us agents of external influence. If I have been any influence in my country I call that good.

It can start with charges after a peaceful protest, a threat from a government minister or an anonymous letter, and it can end with many years in prison for an activist or journalist.

I say now.

Kind of, we are not afraid of that.

We will not be silent.

We will speak truth to power.

At the last IACC in Brazil, under the leadership of Huguette Labelle, the message was very clear – we had to tackle impunity – we could not let the corrupt get away with it; to steal from countries and simply fly off to life a life of luxury at the expense of all of us – especially the poor.

And we are not alone in this call. Just yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia said in his interview in relation to the Jose Ugaz’s opening speach at this IACC : “There will be no impunity.”

That is wonderful news. We agree with him. Totally agree with him.

We will watch him.

And we will hold him to account for his words.

We have heard that the Malaysian authorities are doing a great job improving anti-corruption and integrity systems and we applaud those efforts.  So why not to excel in that by adding one more investigation?

And we agree with the thousands of Malaysian people who took to the streets last weekend to support the call that the Prime Minister must answer that very simply question of the $700m that went into his personal bank account. It’s easy to answer questions. We do that all the time.

At the end of the day ending impunity is not about what you say, it is what you do.

Earlier this week Transparency International agreed a new strategy 2020 to meet the challenges we are facing as a movement. We have not done that in isolation, we have worked on that with many organisations and many of you in this room to get there.

I want to bring together one aspect of that strategy – people demanding accountability and justice – with the theme of this conference – which we chose together - ending impunity.

We know that the corrupt will stop at nothing to hold on to their power. They will threaten, they will bribe, they will spread their web as widely as possible. Corrupt politicians can collude, weak investigators can lose files, laws can be twisted and distorted against the interests of the people.

By the way, in case you haven’t noticed I am from Russia. I know what I am talking about.

Yet it is the people who can demand accountability and justice.

It is by working together, by working with mass social movements, journalists, business people, investigators, police forces that open case, that we can end impunity.

Just yesterday the President of Guatemala resigned after months of pressure from people on the streets, prosecutors, the UN International Commission against Impunity, the Public Ministry our own TI chapter, - great job, guys! -  and, finally, Congress removed his immunity.

Now he sits in jail awaiting trial.

The Grand Corrupt should take note.

This is the beginning of a new phase of our movement, of our joint movement, and it will end with those (the corrupt) behind bars.

As a historian by training I know for sure that there is not any single precedent of endless corrupt regimes.

They all become history sooner or later.

We will make it “sooner” not later.

And we will do it together.

Take that not as a note but as a promise.



Country / Territory - International   |   Malaysia   
Region - Global   
Language(s) - English   
Topic - Accountability   |   Civil society   |   Organised crime   |   Politics and government   |   Private sector   |   Transparency International   
Tags - Elena Panfilova   |   16th IACC   

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