View of the Malaysian Political and Economic State of Affairs.
May 5, 2013
Malaysia - The Dark Forces of Corruption
For the first time in more than half a century, Malaysia's corruption-tainted ruling coalition - which has held power since independence from Britain - looks like it could be in serious trouble. No political party in the world has been in power for longer than the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).
But now an opposition victory on Sunday promises sweeping change for nearly 30 million Malaysians and for the foreign investors who have helped transform the country into one of Asia's leading "Tiger" economies... against the odds.
Against the odds because Malaysia is a country where corruption is endemic. Big corruption. The opposition, led by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, has campaigned for clean government - and it could yet turn out to be a winning ticket.
Malaysia has an appealing edifice of modernity and sophistication.
But when it comes to corporate bribery, that image shatters. The country was last year ranked the world's worst offender in Transparency International's bribe payers' survey. Many Malaysians were shocked by this, though unsurprised... if it's possible to feel both at the same time.
Another survey last year by international corruption watchdog Global Financial Integrity ranked Malaysia as the world's third largest source of illicit financial flows - an estimated US$285bn in capital flight in the decade up to 2010.
An untaxed financial haemorrhage, depriving the exchequer of funds that could have been used to improve Malaysians' living standards.
Exposing the culprits
But over the past few years, Malaysians have also seen their corrupt officials exposed, one after another. Some scandals have been about little brown envelopes or vote-buying. Others have been pretty exotic.
"At one point it was a scandal a week," Ambiga Sreenevasan, former president of the Malaysian bar council, told Channel 4 News. "People are truly sick and tired of it, and the sheer amount of money bleeding from the system."
At one point it was a scandal a week. People are truly sick and tired of the sheer amount of money bleeding from the system.Ambiga Sreenevasan
Dato' Ambiga now heads Bersih 2.0 - a group campaigning for free and fair elections - whose name means "clean" in Malay.
Bersih wants an end to corruption and to stop dirty politics. "Since 2008, we've had a strong opposition and they've raked up so much dirt, exposed a lot of misdeeds of public officials. Everyone knew it was happening, but to see the details? It's horrified everyone."
One particular scandal has horrified more than most. It has exposed corruption on a grand scale and has, in Ms Ambiga's view, "disgusted voters."