PUTRAJAYA, July 31 — Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali joined today a growing list of prominent public figures alleging massive corruption within Malaysia’s institutions in recent years.
Speaking at a Hari Raya open house here, the wife of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad shared how she was twice offered bribes while serving as a medical officer in Kedah in the 1970s, adding that corruption has grown over the years.
“The first time was when I was in charge of the pregnancy ward at the Kedah General Hospital… this poor man from the village had wanted to give me RM10 to buy blood for his wife who just gave birth,” Dr Siti Hasmah said.
“When he offered me, I felt very angry because I didn’t ask for it. I wanted to scold him but then I felt sympathy for him as well,” she added.
She said she explained to the man that the hospital provided blood for every woman who just gave birth, but the attempted bribery indicated that some officers had instead charged for it.
“I was so angry I cried,” she said and added that she returned the money to the man and advised him to spend it on food instead.
Dr Siti Hasmah related that the second bribery attempt took place when she was serving the medical office at one of the stations on the Kedah-Thailand border, at a time when Malaysians did not have to carry passports but needed to have medical certificates if they were seeking employment in Thailand.
“This man wanted to give me RM50 [to get the certificate so he could] get a job even when I did not ask for it. Again I was angry… so I went and reported the matter to the authorities,” she said.
At that time a mother of four, Dr Siti Hasmah said she was told to lay a trap for the would-be briber by pretending to provide the medical cert and secretly recording their conversation.
“But in the end, I felt scared and at the same time sympathy, because the man was only trying to look for a job,” she said.
Reflecting on both events, the retired doctor said it taught her that corruption was already a problem then, and has since worsened.
Dr Siti Hasmah said it was the civic duty of every Malaysian to take a stand against corruption, even if they were critical of her husband’s plan to found a new political party.
“New party or not, we have to speak up against corruption,” said the 90-year-old.
Dr Mahathir who served the country’s fourth prime minister for 22 years until his resignation in 2003 and had been accused of corruption during his term in office.
However, the 91-year-old has in turn criticised the current Barisan Nasional administration of the same and is seeking an end to its unbroken rule since Independence, by setting up a new party though he has been reticent on details.
Dr Mahathir was not present at the Hari Raya event due to health reasons. The Aidilfitri open house was organised by Kelab CheDet, a pro-Mahathir group named after the former PM’s pet name.
In March, Perak Ruler Sultan Nazrin Muizziddin Shah urged Putrajaya to bolster its anti-graft efforts, saying Malaysia’s poor score in Transparency International’s (TI) 2015 corruption perception index was cause for alarm.
Sultan Nazrin warned that the country was bound for self-destruction if it cannot rein in corruption, which he described as rampant today.
TI’s January report showed Malaysia slid to to 54th place from 50th in 2014, which put the country behind other developing nations such as Jordan (45), Nambia (45) and Rwanda (44). – Malay Mail Online