Malaysia defends slide in global graft ranking

AP News
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Posted: Nov 18, 2009 12:02 PM

Malaysia has stepped up efforts to combat graft to maintain investor confidence as a survey showed the country's corruption ranking worsened this year, Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamad said Wednesday.

Malaysia fell to 56th position out of 180 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2009, compared to 47th last year. The fall in ranking is due to the perception that there has been little progress and political will to combat graft.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission appears to focus on "small fish" and opposition politicians, said the annual report by Transparency that was published Tuesday.

An opposition leader, Lim Kit Siang, called the downgrading a "national shame" and a major blow for Prime Minister Najib Razak, who declared the war against corruption as a key priority after taking power in April this year.

The trade minister said the government remained committed to weeding out graft but that measures would take time to bear fruit.

A government lawmaker and five other politically linked people were charged earlier this month with corruption in unrelated cases. It is rare for ruling party politicians to be charged with corruption.

"People have confidence in the measures that we have taken. The results will not come overnight but the results are beginning to show," Mustapa told reporters.

"We are quite confident that the next ranking exercise will see an improvement in Malaysia's position," he said.

Corruption is pervasive in Malaysia and ranges from small bribes to police officers to millions of dollars for contracts.