It appears that the scourge of corruption is so menacing to the young that the Malaysian government found it necessary for an integrity and anti-corruption course to be introduced to students.
According to Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy commissioner for prevention Norazlan Mohd Razali, the special cabinet committee on anti-corruption wanted the course to be made compulsory at all higher institutions of learning from next year.
The latest MACC statistics are disturbing, showing that 275 youths aged between 18 and 30 were arrested for corruption offences from 2020 to 3 June. Of the total, 231 were men.
The government directive may have also been prompted by the belief that it would be easier and meaningful to prevent the young from indulging in graft at an early stage of their lives.
As the Malay proverb goes, “melentur buluh biarlah daripada rebungnya”, which means it is better to mould a person’s character while he or she is still young and teachable. After all, they have many years ahead of them, and their lives should not be marred by the evil temptation of graft, as it would blight our future generation and the nation.
While the intent is laudable, such a programme with an emphasis on integrity may not be able to achieve its objectives fully and effectively, particularly when some of our leaders and senior civil servants provide an an unsavouryexample of unsavoury kind.
In other words, despite being told of the virtues of protecting their integrity as human beings and respectable citizens, some students may still be tempted to ape political leaders and others who are mired in corruption – obviously bad role models.
Moreover, the materialistic value that has been overemphasised by segments of our society over the years may goad the students to pursue material comfort in the shortest way possible as well as idolise greed, as shown by certain adults who supposedly serve as leaders of the country.
Our society has already witnessed the obscenely lavish lifestyles of certain leaders and civil servants who live beyond their means – a stark contrast to those in the bottom 40% of households who earn a meagre but honest living. The expensive watches and handbags of the former are more than enough to sustain a poor family for the rest of their lives.
Some young people may also be lured into corruption, especially after witnessing – and perhaps being ‘inspired’ by – how certain leaders are punished only lightly for their gross misconduct.
Worse, a few leaders and others were let off the hook after merely paying fines, thereby blurring the line between right and wrong for the young. This is especially so when the culprits even manage to escape time in prison.
This leads us to argue that the corrupt must be punished – and the overly corrupt severely punished. Leaders and senior civil servants found guilty must be made an example of, for the rest of our society, as this would show that the government means business.
Of equal importance in the course content would be to show that corruption can be systemic, so that factors such as political patronage and the lack of transparency and accountability in the government’s contract-awarding procedure are scrutinised. Corruption is not always at a personal level.
In other words, there also has to be substantive reform in the government sector – and elsewhere in society – so that a sufficient bulwark can be put in place to stem the rising tide of corruption.
Honesty, trust, transparency and accountability must be valued and practised – not only by our young – to ensure that our moral compass can be recalibrated. – The Malaysian Insight