THERE is a meaningful definition of corruption and a legal definition of corruption.
Meaningfully, you can consider someone corrupt if they choose to elevate something of a lesser value at the expense of something that is greater in value.
When you say an individual is spiritually corrupt, what it means is that person has chosen to elevate their material well-being at the expense of their spiritual well-being. A thief, for example, can be said to be spiritually corrupt because their thieving ways would weaken and silence their conscience although it will materially enrich them.
When you say a public official is corrupt, it means that the official has chosen to look after his/her personal self-interest or the self-interest of his/her family or relatives by weakening the institution that they serve. A policeman who takes bribes, for example, is corrupt because he is eroding the reputation of the force for the sake of enriching himself.
However, this definition is not the legal definition of corruption. I don’t know the specifics of the legal definition but what I do know is that in our law as in the law of other countries around the globe, there is a specific definition of corruption.
This is whereby you have to prove that a person is specifically corrupt according to these definitions before you can act against them by law.
An example of what I would view as a corrupt activity in terms of meaning and principles but not viewed as a corruption by the definition of the law is the action of five opposition MPs who supported the Madani government while remaining in the opposition fold.
I consider this corrupt because the shameful action of the five MPs is debasing the parliament to enhance the survivability of the Madani government which is tantamount to weakening that which is of higher value for the sake of something that is lower in value.
Although I consider their action to be corrupt in principle, what the five MPs did is not considered as corrupt by the letter of the law because of technical details like the absence of money changing hands or because the MPs in question did not directly break the anti-hopping law.
One of the biggest problems with the old order is the reign of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and all those who embrace the values of Mahathirism. The old order has basically legalised corruption.
What I mean by this is that during the Mahathir era, laws were made and enforced in such a way that it is possible for a small group of people to legally weaken the nation in order to strengthen their own personal well-being.
Laws are not necessarily principled or just. History is replete with laws that have been written to legalise unjust and unprincipled activities. Slavery, for example, was a legally approved activity in the past in many parts of the world.
Colonialism – another practice that is universally condemned as unjust today – was perpetrated in the past with the full backing of the laws of the colonial powers. The apartheid system which is categorically condemned as anti-humanity and evil today was a legally approved concept in South Africa during the apartheid era.
That these corrupt and evil practices existed within the aegis of the law just goes to show that to write a law, you don’t need to be just or principled. If you have enough legal power, you can pretty much write any law that you want.
This is because in the latter half of his reign, Dr Mahathir and his inner circle held near absolute power.
Even then, it will be difficult to prove that what Dr Mahathir and his inner circle did to Malaysia is corrupt in legal terms although meaningfully, it might be as clear as daylight that at least some of their activities are corrupt simply because they were the ones that were writing the law at the time.
Having the power to write and interpret the law of the land for decades, they would have naturally written and interpreted the law in such a way, that though their activities weakened the nation to elevate the self-interest of their circle, their activities will likely be considered legal from the point of view of the law.
It is an open secret, for example, that the wealth of Dr Mahathir’s children was not accumulated in the right way. None of his children, for example, have come up with any goods and services that are well received by the market.
They have no great talent like being able to sing well or play football well. They did not inherit their great wealth from their ancestors either.
Dr Mahathir might claim that his children made their immense wealth through their own merit but common sense tells us that his children could have only made their wealth through wheeling and dealing which they could only have done because their father was not only the longest serving premier in the country but also a part of an elite inner circle that was empowered to move the wealth of the nation or the organisation that they belonged to in any manner that they deemed fit.
Despite that, I don’t think that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will be able to legally prove that people like Dr Mahathir or Tun Daim Zainuddin – a member of Dr Mahathir’s inner circle – is corrupt even if it is as clear as daylight that the vast amount of wealth that they possess could not have been obtained in an improper manner.
The very fact that Daim owns the RM 2.3 bil Menara Ilham which was seized by MACC last week can only logically be explained by the concept of legalised corruption. – Dec 27, 2023
TO BE CONTNUED
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.
Main pic credit: Sinar Harian