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MGG: The Price of Malaysian Excellence [CLP]
By M.G.G. Pillai

29/11/2001 12:22 am Thu


28 Nov 2001

The price of Malaysian excellence

MGG Pillai

The CLP fiasco did not happen because the Malay Mail obtained the question papers before it was due. Question papers could be bought from the first examination, but no one would in the Legal Profession Qualifying Board investigate this leak without proof. The director of the CLP examination unit, Khalid Yusof, it now turns out, tampered with the results.

The LPQB itself took lightly what it was appointed to uphold. It reacted in haste and fright at the Malay Malay report, did not realise its ramifications, and stonewalled student protests until it could no longer, then revised the results after marathon meetings and which it released last night.

The director tampered with the marks, the Attorney-General, who heads the LPQB, said. The Board could not now but distance itself from him. Were the results of previous years then as tainted? It raised another disturbing question: the integrity of the Board itself.

But it had no other choice but what it took. It found massive falsifying of results that half who passed in July failed in the revision it undertook. That a body as well connected and high ranking could abnegate its responsibilities is shocking.

That as new appointees, as the Attorney-General said, they could not be privy to the scandal is absurd. It was then all the more their responsibility to ensure everything was above board.

It now questions every other board similarly constituted, not just in professions, but of national importance. And proved that a professional body is an extra, costly, irrelevant hurdle one could buy one's way through to pass.

The individual members of the Board are of high integrity. But as a group, not only in the LPQB, they delegate its functions to its principal officer, and rubber stamp his decisions. They should not, but nobody cared.

Laughing stock

It is not a happy outcome. It makes a laughing stock of the government's claim to excellence in everything it does.

With no checks and balances, and the belief that with men and women of integrity, nothing would go wrong, those who wanted to run with it could, and did.

There should have been a contrary voice, perhaps chosen by the Opposition or the Bar, though he or she need not even be a lawyer, to keep it within the straight and narrow. But, by accident or design, its members were confined to one race, with the occasional multiracial component when the chairman of the Malaysian Bar was not a Malay.

Why is there this need to shut the others out? In the LPQB, as in others, members should include those who could be relied upon to ensure that all if fair and square. One or two men and women from the Opposition or selected for that purpose by the Malaysian Bar, would provide the right "tension" to see that everything is above board. And the section heads or the director should not hold office, as Khalid has, as a virtual lifelong appointment.

The Board, in its revised list, passed 119, compared wityh 232 in July; those with conditional passed declined from 228 to 170; and those who failed outright increased from 461 to 633. This opens a fresh can of worms: some of those who failed outright had made the Short Call, which allows them to appear in chambers and magistrates' courts.

Some who failed in July had now passed, some who passed failed. Those referred in one subject, and allowed to sit for the subisdiary examination, either passed or failed or referred in another subject.

What this reveals is the Board's delinquency in condoning the sabotage from within. It is a scandal of the highest order. And it must be responsible for it, The government must now move in smartly and sort out the mess once and fall.

None bothered

It is not just leaked questions that caused the fiasco. It is the ease with which procedures were blithely bypassed, so that those along the chain could make money. Even more shocking is that none bothered when brought to their attention.

The Board should not have awaited a formal complaint to find out, though several were made to the director who ignored it routinely. None of its members, it need be said, are so cut off from the world that the rumours could not have reached it.

What happened is to attack the integrity of the nation itself. The anecdotal stories of what took place over the years have just been confirmed in this episode. There is more. There are allegations of sex in exchange for good, or pass, marks. This may be the heightened imagination of the rumour mongers, but one must accept this as possible, if not likely.

So, the government's silence raises more questions than answers. Some failed Malay graduates saw two government ministers -- the defacto law minister Rais Yatim the the UMNO youth chief Hishamuddin Hussein -- and both refused to give them a hearing. Why?

The deputy prime minister called for an investigation into how 5,000 SPM answer scripts were in a chief marker's car, which was stolen and the papers dumped beside a river, but not on this scandal of the CLP. Why?

It is not the integrity of the system we should be bothered about, but of those in it. If they cannot be trusted, the best system of integrity would find itself not with this rot from within. That is what happened to the LPQB. And for that, everyone in it must take responsibility. But it would not go away until some harsh action is taken against whoever is deemed responsible.

M.G.G. Pillai