ACCORDING to Law and Institutional Reform Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, the action of five Bersatu MPs who recently declared their support for Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in exchange for development funds cannot be considered a form of corruption.
Her reasoning is that such action can only be considered as bribery if Anwar had made such an offer in a bid to become the PM.
But since Anwar is already enjoying the support of 149 MPs and did not require the additional support of the five MPs, what the five Bersatu MPs did is not corruption. I don’t know about you but I find this definition to be bewildering and self-serving.
Going by Azalina’s definition, if the government leader and the opposition leader did the exact same thing – which is to promise MPs on the other side of the aisle to switch their support to their side in return of receiving favours – only the opposition leader will be guilty of corruption because he is eyeing the PM post.
The leader of the government cannot be considered as guilty of corruption although he does the exact same thing simply because he is already the PM.
Strange but true
Again going by Azalina’s definition, corruption is not defined by the act itself but by the needs of those who participate in it.
What this means is that if the five opposition MPs switched their support when Anwar only had the support of 107 MPs, then their action is deemed corruption because Anwar needs their support to become PM.
But since Anwar already has 149 MPs backing him and no longer need the five MPs’ support, then what the five opposition MPs did will no longer be considered as corruption. Going by this definition, I reckon the rich and the powerful are never corrupt. It’s only the poor and the helpless that can be guilty of corruption.
If you give RM100 to the office peon to subvert the office’s rules and the regulations, then that is corruption because the office peon – by virtue of not having a few hundred ringgit in his wallet – obviously took the RM100 you gave him out of need.
But if f you give RM1 mil to the head of the office to subvert the rules and regulations, this is not corruption because the head of the office already has RM1 mil in his/her bank account, hence he/she no longer needs your RM1 mil. Your RM1 mil to them can thus be considered a donation or a gift.
What kind of definition is this?
This “corruption is defined by the needs of the receiver as opposed to the act itself” theory that Azalina advocates for – by the way – sounds eerily similar to the theory that now incarcerated former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak applied when he took a few hundred million from a Saudi prince when he was in office.
Since he also claimed that he did not need the money or used the money on himself, he thought that there was nothing wrong with him taking the money either.
Listening to Azalina and thinking of Najib made me wonder whether all politicians interpret terms like corruption or nepotism the same way.
Other than their self-serving definition of corruption, Anwar also gave a similar defence when he was accused of nepotism after hiring his daughter to a high government post not too long ago.
According to Anwar, using his powers to appoint his daughter to a high position in the government – although she does not possess the experience nor qualification to take on that job and despite her appointment by-passes many more qualified and experienced candidate – is not nepotism because his daughter is not taking any salary in her position.
Note the similarity in argument between Azalina, Najib and Anwar here. They all seem to believe that corruption is not something that is defined by the act but by the self-assessment of those who participate in the act.
According to their point of view, it doesn’t matter if a Saudi Prince gives you hundreds of millions of ringgit for no reason or that five opposition MPs bizarrely decide to support the government leader while remaining in the opposition fold or if you get selected to a highly prestigious job without having any necessary experience or qualification.
This is so because the act itself doesn’t make you corrupt. You are only corrupt if you feel that you have gained something from it. If you don’t think that you have gained something from it – even if the act itself is indicating as clear as daylight that you did gain something from it – then it’s not corrupt.
In other words, your self-assessment of your gains versus your needs is the final arbiter of whether you are corrupt or not. Does everybody in the country think like this or is this just a belief that is peculiar to the politicians? – Dec 8, 2023
Nehru Sathiamoorthy is a roving tutor who loves politics, philosophy and psychology.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.