I was invited to share my views around integrity at the launch of the Youth For Integrity project over the weekend. It was officiated by Datuk Paul Low, the Minister in the Prime Minister Department who are in-charge of public governance and integrity issues. Around 80 youths who were mainly students from the institutions of higher learning around Kuala Lumpur participated in the programme.
Together with me was Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed, the Chief Commissioner, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). Other key individuals who were invited to share their views on integrity and anti-corruption were Tunku Aziz Tunku Ibrahim, the President of Anti-Corruption Foundation and Cynthia Gabriel, the Founder of the Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism.
One thing that was agreed upon by all the panellists was that for Malaysia to move forward, it needed further strengthening of integrity and governance across the board. Somehow, we had drifted into a situation where good governance and the demonstration integrity are clearly short in the eyes of the public.
Many commented on the role of enforcement agencies in addressing the issue of corruption. Among the questions asked were how MACC conducted its investigation and whether those who are in the higher echelons of the society are spared. Tan Sri Abu Kassim explained about the check and balance structure around MACC and I was requested to share my experience as one of the former member of its Operational Review Panel.
The issue of the meaning of integrity and regulation was also discussed. One quote that struck me was from Tunku Aziz where he remarked "We are overly regulated but hopelessly enforced".
At the end, everyone agreed that to ensure a just and fair society to be enjoyed by all citizens, strengthening of integrity in each and every Malaysian is the foundation. However, the answer to the question of who should be responsible for integrity remained an elusive one!
All panellists agreed that integrity is the outcome of many inputs from our families, friends and the environment which we live in but to pinpoint to the exact drivers was very difficult. My view was that for a person to be able to do the right thing when nobody is watching involves the values and beliefs of the person, the values of the organisation where he or she is attached to and what the society as a whole believes as right and wrong as well.
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there is nothing that we can do to influence whether a person could be seen as beautiful or not. However, we still have the opportunity to instil integrity as the core value of our society. We can start this with ourselves, our children, friends and those who are within our sphere of influence.
Judging from the questions raised by the youths, I am convinced that they treasure integrity as one of the building blocks in building this nation towards what we aspire in the future. In them lies our hope that Malaysia will be a country that provides its citizens with prosperity and opportunity that are shared fairly and justly.