Why the Center? Why Now?
It will help increase public participation on governance issues and elevate the need to promote transparency, competency and accountability at all levels of government.
Despite the growing prominence and importance of the issue of corruption in Malaysia, measures to address it has at best been addressed through adhoc and inconsistent means and on attention given on high profile exposes’ or specific cases only.
With an altered political landscape, a bolder more courageous citizenry have emerged, open with their expressions on public spending, corruption and human rights. The Centre will seek to facilitate platforms for empowerment and public advocacy across the country, and fill the need for a strong citizens backed anti corruption movement, to help promote competency, accountability and integrity in Malaysia.
The attempts to narrow discourse on corruption and governance, and the return of more draconian legal measures, will only serve to strengthen the need to promote spaces and a sense of commitment among all Malaysians to keep up the fight for a clean and accountable administration.
There are several clear motivations for the establishment of this centre.
- POLICY SHAPING - The stronger check and balance in parliament as a result of a bigger Opposition presence since 2008 and 2013, has opened up new levels of debate both within and outside Parliament on the need for an enhanced, transparent and open government. Research and policies need to be cohesively developed to influence policy and legislation. Lawmakers need to advocate the move towards open governance through the amendment of existing laws and the formation of new legislation to foster such an enabling environment.
- MONITORING COMPLIANCE – Malaysia has ratified the UNCAC in 2008. It has however escaped the critical inputs and assessments on its track record thus far. There is no independent initiative in ensuring obligations and responsibility of the government, and that standards are respected and best practices are shared. The Centre shall play an important role in this standard setting initiative to ensure compliance. Monitoring and observation of agencies addressing corruption issues will also be part of the centre’s responsibilities.
- INSTITUTIONALISNG MECHANISMS - The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) led state governments since 2008, especially in Penang and Selangor (2 of the most economically developed states), have demonstrated a new brand of governance since taking power in 2008. The introduction of a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, at the state levels, the introduction of open tenders in procurements, and broad calls for the return of local government elections, have signaled that Malaysians demands for accountability, democracy and clean government is being addressed to some degree by Pakatan Rakyat. Herein lies the opportunity for the centre to facilitate the institutionalizing of mechanisms within the bureaucracy with the aim to enhance public participation in decision- making at the state and local government levels.
It is further envisioned that platforms could also be created within Barisan Nasional states through cooperation with the MACC and other public institutions, in order that the NKRA on corruption would be more meaningfully addressed.
- EDUCATION & TRAINING - The social media platform has allowed ordinary Malaysians to express clearly frustrations, hopes and sharing of ideas. The centre sees abundant opportunities to cull these ideas, shape the energy and facilitate the motivations of young people and voters through training and empowerment programmes.
Training programmes will be directed towards, journalists and teachers, young people and the rural constituents. Sabah and Sarawak will also be a big target.
- CAPTURING THE NEED & FILLING THE VOID - The centre fills an important void in Malaysian civil society as an independent non-partisan voice in Malaysia working on corruption issues. With the exception of Transparency International (TI-M), which operates on a focused mandate as a country chapter of the global institution. The centre sees its formation as complementary to the TI-M, to strengthen independent research, perspectives and advocacy around fighting corruption and promoting a more transparent government in Malaysia. Exposing cases of corruption will be another distinguishing feature of the Centre. Another group called the National Oversight and Whistleblower (NOW) centre, formed by prominent PKR MP, Rafizi Ramli, was recently launched but has taken a quieter role, after Rafizi pursued a political career in the last General Elections.