Malaysia’s main ruling party has made a bid to clean up its ranks just ahead of party polls next week, warning or disqualifying 15 top party members who had been found guilty in an anti-corruption probe. The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO)’s head of the disciplinary board, Ahmad Rithaudeen, said that the most prominent of the 15 party members, Mohamad Ali Rustam, chief minister of Malacca state and a leading contender for the party's deputy presidency, was disqualified after three of his aids were guilty of vote-buying.
“It is presumption of guilt, as the principle is that he is liable for the wrongdoing of his agents," Ahmad Rithauddeen told a press conference.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will not start a probe into Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam’s case of breaching party ethics, said its chief commissioner Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan, as violation of party ethics was not criminal in nature.
Another prominent figure implicated in the ‘money politics’ probe is Khairy Jamaluddin, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s son-in-law, who although still in the running for the post of UMNO Youth Chief, was also found guilty of having agents who were involved in vote-buying and given a warning.
Deputy Prime Minister Najib said that the probe was motivated by the party’s desire to clean up UNMO. "We want UMNO to be seen as a clean party so we realise that there is some risk attached to it (internal factions). The biggest risk is... if UMNO is rejected by the people," Najib said.
Corruption was a key issue in the previous general election that saw the UMNO-led coalition suffer unprecedented losses to the opposition, including five states and a third of parliament.
There have been suggestions from the opposition that UMNO's anti-graft purge is a cover for settling old scores within the party, and that it has a minimal impact on the actual level of corruption in the party.
TheStar Online, Commission probes cases criminal in nature, not breach of party ethics, 21 March 2009, http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/3/21/nation/3527028&sec=...
AFP, Malaysia's leadership battle hit with corruption probe, 17 March 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hhy-cvVyYqtCDgsU73YJI...
Reuters, India, Malaysia's main ruling party bars top politician, 17 March 2009, http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-38547020090317