Seven years ago, I asked the 50-year old father of four college going students, about the scandals rocking our nation. He seemed unperturbed. He said that if given half a chance, he would accept bribes, if it would help him put his children through higher education. (and pay for his high maintenance wife.)
He said, “Do you know how hard I have to work, to pay the college fees? When I read about the millions of ringgits accepted by our MPs, I, too, want a share of that money.”
This man, who will remain anonymous, is a highly trained professional, enjoys a senior position in a GLC, counts many Datuks, Tan Sris and royalty as his friends, and is widely travelled.
His father is a retired teacher, his mother is a housewife and they could easily be the average Malaysian family, with a terraced house and one car.
So, what could have persuaded this professional, that taking or giving bribes, is acceptable? Do his children think in a similar fashion? Has this once rational man, with a down-to-earth father, become jaded by the high cost of living, so that he is prepared to be part of the corrupt scene?
That is why the recent revelations about graft, conducted among a cross section of our youth, is neither surprising nor unexpected. If anything, it should fill us with fear, and dread for the future. These are the people, who will one day lead the nation, or at least be part of the society of tomorrow.
Shocking MACC study involving university students
Last year, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) conducted a study involving 1,000 university students. The MACC chief commissioner, Dzulkifli Ahmad said 16 per cent of the students, who took part in the Corruption Prevention Action Effectiveness Perception Study, were prepared to accept or offer bribes, to avoid penalties.
The figures for 2015 and 2014, are 10.7 and 11.3 per cent. respectively
There was a slight rise in the number of students who were preprared to offer bribes. In 2015, only 17.4 per cent would offer bribes, but in 2016, this figure increased to 18.2.
The news about senior civil servants and politicians hoarding money in the attic, is too enticing. Today’s millenials desire to own the latest watch, the imported fast car, or go on exotic holidays, without doing an ounce of work.
Tarnished Malaysian image
In many parts of the world, middle-men are no longer used, but in many third world countries, and in Malaysia, there is a heavy dependence on the use of local intermediaries, to handle transactions. Being well connected to key officials and politicians, means that these agents will use illicit payments, to secure the contracts and easily procure various permits.
Our parents and teachers can only teach us so much, but when students read about prominent people in respected positions, and politicians being convicted of bribery and corruption, what sort of message does this send to our young?
An English expat working in Malaysia said, “I was speeding and had too much to drink, but when I was stopped, I just paid the policeman a few hundred ringgits. It was either that or be sacked. The car is essential to my work. Of course, I would not dream of bribing a cop, in my own country.”
So what sort of image is Malaysia give our youth, and the rest of the world?