Integrity key to wiping out bribery at borders

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A porous border could make the country vulnerable to unlawful pursuits, such as human trafficking, writes Mustafa K Anuar.

Kedah Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission director Shaharom Nizam Abd Manap was spot on when he asserted that high levels of integrity among civil servants are a bulwark against corruption and will spur them to catch and hand over offenders to graft-busters.

He said this in response to alleged corrupt practices at the state’s Bukit Kayu Hitam checkpoint, as highlighted by The Malaysian Insight recently. It was reported that enforcement officers there would ask for bribes as low as RM10, allowing tour buses and vans to enter Malaysia without much inspection, if at all.

Equally culpable, as pointed out by Border Security Agency commander Abd Latif Abdul Rahman, are those who offer bribes to these officers.

Clearly, these illegal activities throw a spanner in the works of the Pakatan Harapan government in its professed desire to curb the systemic corruption that has emerged over the years.

Corruption is a heinous crime, one that can harm the image of the country, especially at the international level. Corruption at the country’s gateways is the last thing on earth that we want because front-line enforcement officers, in many ways, double up as our “ambassadors”, greeting whoever enters or leaves Malaysia.

Their public misconduct would leave a lasting impression on genuine tourists and other bona fide visitors, to the effect that many of them may not want to come back after an unpleasant experience. Glossy brochures about how “truly Asia” Malaysia is may no longer have the magic to lure them back.

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Besides, their bad behaviour unfairly smears the integrity and dignity of other enforcement officers and government personnel who are honest, hardworking and God-fearing and take great pride in their work.

The reported corruption has helped certain individuals bring into Malaysia, unhindered and untaxed, controlled items – which leads to a distortion in the taxation system and unnecessary leakages.

Depending on how lax border enforcement is, these corrupt practices may well lead to other adverse possibilities. They could make possible the smuggling of other kinds of contraband into the country, including illicit toxic alcohol and cigarettes.

Non-existent or improper inspection at checkpoints could also encourage drug trafficking, a huge money-maker. Obviously, an easy flow of drugs from the outside only adds to the challenge of eradicating the scourge of addiction in society.

A porous border of this nature could also make the country vulnerable to unlawful pursuits, such as human trafficking – as seen in the cases of prostitution and undocumented migrants.

One shudders to imagine the possibility of terrorists being smuggled into the country in this manner, ie below the authorities’ radar. This clearly has much darker consequences for national peace and prosperity. Corruption at this level makes even more difficult attempts to fight terrorism in the region.

Such porosity at the borders could also expose the country to the risk of contracting certain communicable diseases from unchecked visitors – something that strict inspections can prevent.

It cannot be overemphasised that plugging porous borders should be a pressing concern not just for government officers, but ordinary Malaysians as well.

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Source: themalaysianinsight.com

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