The Malaysian Bar welcomes the announcement by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad earlier this week about the proposal by the Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption to form a special court that would hear corruption cases to expedite their resolution.
The Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption National Centre in the Prime Minister’s Department reportedly subsequently stated that the “suggestion to set up a special high court and a special appeals court will speed up trials involving corruption cases”.
Special courts for corruption cases are not unprecedented. They have been set up in several countries including the Philippines and Thailand. In 2011, several Sessions Courts throughout Malaysia were already designated as special courts for corruption cases – a move that garnered positive recognition internationally.
The fight against corruption has been a longstanding one for the nation. Malaysia ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2008, but since 2014 the country’s score on the Corruption Perceptions Index has suffered several consecutive drops and has not improved.
Thus, the National Anti-Corruption Plan 2019–2023, launched by the government on 29 January 2019 and encompasses the proposal to set up the special corruption court, sets out a commendable long-term vision towards a corruption-free nation.
The rot of corruption must be stamped out. Any manner of dishonest or fraudulent behaviour undermines institutions and is antithetical to the rule of law. Acts of public corruption are a violation of public trust and deprive citizens of state resources that should be used for public benefit instead of being pocketed for personal gain.
In the words of then-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a statement on the adoption of the Convention against Corruption on 31 October 2003: “Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life, and allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish.”
The Malaysian Bar stands in support of the proposal to set up special corruption courts and is ready to assist the government in their formation. We urge the government to ensure that the special corruption courts must not have past corruption cases as their sole focus. The mandate of these specialised courts must be to mete out justice for offences, whether past, present or future.
Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor is president of the Malaysian Bar.