The Herculean task of eradicating corruption

IT is heartening that over 400 independent organisations are coming together as “Rasuah Busters” to create a future free from corruption.  

Forging a corruption-free culture in a society where corruption is so rampant is much more than a Herculean task. It would take miracle for that goal to be achieved in one generation’s time. 

The Star in its report dated August 19 said: “In conjunction with Merdeka month, young children share their hopes for a corruption-free future through a series of multilanguage videos unveiled by Rasuah Busters, a movement to eradicate the chain of corruption in the country.”

Excited about what children had to say, I watched all the four videos. 

However, I was greatly disappointed. 

The videos only showed four children repeating the same statement in Malay, English, Chinese, and Tamil.

While the children did a good job in their roles, what they said were merely words composed by some adult. It would have been different if they were expressing their own opinion.

I thought it was a far cry from being a genuine “children’s dreams of corruption-free Malaysia”, as portrayed in some news reports.  

Efforts have been made in the past to change Malaysians’ behaviour on several issues, but without any success despite the huge amount of effort and costs.

The “tak nak” campaign by the government to discourage smoking failed miserably after millions were spent on “educating” people through campaigns, publications, advertisements, and huge billboards along highways.

A few years back The Sun Daily ran a two-year campaign called “red means stop” to discourage road users from beating the red light. However, the campaign failed to make any impact on the behaviour of road users, who still beat the red light frequently.

The Education Ministry introduced religious and moral studies in hopes of moulding children into being law-biding citizens. These subjects were even made compulsory examination subjects to. However, indiscipline is still rampant in school, and crime is still on the rise. 

A few years ago, the MACC suggested that anti-corruption should be taught in schools and proposed to come up with a teaching module. This would have ended up just like Religious and Moral studies, which did nothing to mould the character of children.    

To achieve a corruption-free society, re-conditioning needs to be done. This is difficult especially with adults as old habits die hard. It requires strong political will, which the government lacks, as evidenced by the withdrawal of criminal charges in several high-profile cases.

Corruption is the fuel that has kept the Umno regime in power for more than 60 years, during which time corruption has seeped deeper into the fabric of Malaysian society.   

According to Singapore’s former leader, the late Lee Kuan Yew, fighting corruption has to start with people in the highest office. It is a top-down process, not bottom-up as is done in Malaysia to placate Malaysians that the government is fighting corruption.        

Indonesia is now mulling the death penalty for corruption, just like in China, where those convicted of corruption have to face the firing squad and the family has to pay for the bullets. 

While this may not eliminate corruption completely, it works very well to keep it minimal. The corrupted, especially those in very high public office, do not deserve an iota of human rights.    

We need to take a serious look at whether the seeds of corruption are being sown into the minds of children today, which could make them the corrupted adults of tomorrow.

When a child is taught that the giving or receiving of a material reward is proper social norm for doing something that ought to be done voluntarily, selflessly or just as a duty, they will believe that the act of bribery is right and proper.  

Schools are where children can be brought up to be morally upright, law-abiding, respectful, and caring. Teachers are therefore the most important persons in any society as they mould the character of future generations that will either carry the nation to higher levels or bring it down into a morass.

Any society is a mirror image of its schools. Today’s Malaysian society is the product of an education system that has failed to educate its youth to be good citizens.

It is the concentration of power in the hands of a small band of people in the upper echelons that has brought us to where we are. Corruption must be removed from all quarters – politics, enforcement agencies, and the judiciary – in order to free the society of this ill. 

The Rasuah Busters have a very tough job ahead of them in their efforts to eradicate the culture of corruption. They must learn from past failures and bear in mind that any hope of creating a corruption-free future lies in programming the minds of children, starting from the time they begin formal education until they leave school. – September 14, 2021.

* Ravinder Singh reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.

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