KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 – Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been honoured by an anti-graft body under the United Nations, with the creation of a special fund in his name for the benefit of anti-corruption agents worldwide.
At the 10th General Conference and annual meeting of the International Association of Anti Corruption Authorities (IAACA) in Vienna yesterday, the agency’s president Ali Fetais Al-Marri launched the fund in honour of Mahathir’s efforts against corruption.
According to the New Straits Times, the Malaysian government donated RM500,000 to the fund to help people who faced repercussions in their efforts to combat corruption.
Fetais, who is also Qatar attorney-general, announced that his country will make a further contribution of 1 million Qatar Riyal (RM1.14 million) to the fund.
Call to change culture of corruption
In his keynote address to the IAACA conference, entitled “15 years of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, Accomplishments and Prospects”, Mahathir said corruption was affecting many countries.
“Corruption destroys society. There is a need to fight it. But it is not easy because people are tempted to accept. But we can change the culture by rejecting corrupt practices.
“Money can be moved across borders to other countries easily, such as through money laundering. International cooperation will help in reducing corruption to some bearable degree.
“We believe that organisations like IAACA and international cooperation are very important in such efforts,” he said.
International corruption affects poor countries
Mahathir also referred to how the United States helped to detect funds worth billions from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) that had been laundered and used to purchase assets in the US.
“I do hope this organisation which has 15 years of UN Convention Against Corruption, will continue to be active and members will continue exchange ideas. It is useful for poorer countries because corruption is in their system,” he added.
Mahathir has previously claimed corruption by the previous Barisan Nasional government had affected the country’s economy, especially with the alleged kleptocracy by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
In the eight months since Pakatan Harapan’s victory in the 14th general election, Najib, his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, his lawyer Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah and a number of current and former Umno lawmakers, as well top civil servants have been charged with corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.
Cronyism still part of Putrajaya culture?
Pakatan Harapan won the people’s mandate on a host of promises, including to rid the culture of corruption and for better governance across the board.
The better governance was meant to include ensuring there would be no cases of cronyism, with immediate family members or political appointees, in government agencies and government linked companies (GLCs), as well as other relevant bodies, especially those involving government funds.
However, there have been some appointments which have raised the ire of PH supporters and the public at large.
The latest being the controversy over the appointment of the chairperson and board member to Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM), a microfinance agency established to help develop female entrepreneurs.
Microfinancing agency led by wife of PM’s aide
It was previously announced in the Dewan Rakyat on December 6 last year, by Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, that the government was in the process of preparing the necessary documents to start the procedure of cancelling the certificate of incorporation for AIM for not complying with certain regulations, particularly those concerning the establishment of subsidiaries.
However, in a sudden turnaround since then, AIM was not deregistered and instead, a new board was named recently.
Controversy erupted over the appointment of the wife of Mahathir’s aide as the chairperson and Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad’s daughter as a board member.
Former Johor DAP leader Boo Cheng Hau raised the alarm first in a Facebook post claiming that PH has made little effort to reform the government, but instead allows the previous Barisan Nasional (BN)/Umno ways to manifest themselves into the new PH culture and policies.
Chairperson, board member deny cronyism
In response, the new AIM chairperson Datuk Junaidah Kiting, who is married to Mahathir’s political secretary, Abu Bakar Yahya, and AIM board member Nurul Iman Dzulkefly, both said their appointments were based on merit.
They denied cronyism in their appointments to the government’s microfinancing agency for the poor, The Star reported.
“I am a businesswoman in my own right. I developed my own cosmetic line with a small capital, just like the majority of poor women we are helping.
“It is unfair to allege cronyism in my appointment to the AIM chair just because I am the wife of the PM’s political secretary.
“As a woman entrepreneur who has gone through hardship just as the 340,000 women we are helping now, I believe I understand them and want to ensure AIM plays its role,” Junaidah was quoted as saying by the daily.
Meanwhile, Amanah leader Dzulkefly’s daughter said she had been concerned that being a family member of a minister would be an issue.
“There were initially no women board members despite the agency being a microfinancing one to assist mostly poor women to set up businesses. I was approached on that basis, and also because of my expertise.
“As I also have a legal background, I was asked to offer legal advice to AIM,” she told The Star.