Civil society will make or break in battle against graft.

The Sun Newspaper 7 September 2006

KUALA LUMPUR: The strength and persistence of citizens' groups and civil society movements in fighting graft will make or break the battle against corruption in Malaysia.

Citizens International director Datuk Dr Anwar Fazal said the current climate which includes political will to fight graft and media organisations which are actively involved in highlighting graft, should be used to further the fight against corruption.

Anwar said in the long-term fight against corruption, there are several levels which society has to go through before eradicating graft, and Malaysia is now at the level where its citizens or civil society are actively involved in the issue.

"In the first stage the bad elements in society are exposed by groups in society's structure such as Aliran in Malaysia, and then comes the second stage where dedicated groups like Transparency International will set out towards this task," he said.

"Currently Malaysia is in the third stage where the long-term fight against graft becomes everybody's issue," said Anwar.

This is, of course, with the knowledge drawn from the dedicated groups in the second stage, he said.

"In this third stage, society is heading towards zero tolerance for corruption and will have no qualms about lodging reports on graft.

"When they find that no action is taken, they will link themselves to groups to have a larger voice and pursue the matter further - forming a coalition against corrupt practices," said Anwar, adding that this includes alignment with MPs.

He was speaking to theSun after a special presentation on the role of civil society in fighting graft at the first Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Anti-Corruption and Enhancing Integrity Forum 2006.

"Malaysian civil society is now at this important stage and they will have to speak up and be consistent and confident in their fight against graft as assertiveness is the hallmark of a civil society," he said, stressing that this should be done in an
organised and civil manner.

"A defeatist attitude and indifference will only lead to the loss of rights and freedom, so be bold and speak up," said Anwar.

Have the courage to use what you have now, because if you don't, you will risk losing it, he said.

Anwar cited the Penang and Ipoh Watch and the All Petaling Jaya Action Committee as examples of effective citizens' groups which utilise various means to further their cause, including highlighting issues on websites, via the media and constant dialogue with the authorities.

"This new courage must continue as it is their right to do so and if they are discouraged in any way, then they should ask - who is supposed to serve the public. Ultimately this will influence their decisions during election time," he said.

"Politicians, too, have learnt that if one is not responsive to people, they will have to pay a price," he added.

Anwar also suggested that citizens' groups work together with such bodies as the parliamentary committee on integrity to address graft issues.

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