Students aping leaders on bribery, say civil society leaders

THE high levels of corruption hitting Malaysia in recent years are likely to have contributed to university students feeling that bribery is acceptable.

A survey published yesterday by the Malaysian Institute of Integrity (IIM) found that more than a third of public university students now believe that graft is morally acceptable and does not constitute a crime.

The survey, which was carried out mainly in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi Mara, also found a fifth of respondents were fine with nepotism and over a third are willing to file false claims for money.

“I place the blame on the leadership,” said Cynthia Gabriel, executive director of Corruption and Cronyism (C4).

“People see corruption at the highest levels taking place without anyone being punished. So, they think it’s all right to do the same ,” she told The Malaysian Insight.

Cynthia said a culture of honesty and integrity can only be forged when laws are properly enforced and applied equally by institutions without fear or favour, something that many youths see as lacking.

The survey, which IIM said was conducted recently, found that 35.8% of students believe that “receiving gifts in the form of money, goods or services for services rendered is not a form of bribery”.

It also found that 28.1% believe “it is not wrong to take home office supplies, such as thumb drives, toner and paper, for personal use”.

“The results are a concern,” said IIM CEO Dr Anis Yusal Yusoff, adding that the country’s education might need rethinking.

Akhbar Satar, president of Transparency International Malaysia, said the results were “very bad” for the future of the country.

In 2002, UKM conducted a survey on the public perception of corruption in Malaysia and found that 30.5% of the university students interviewed were willing to accept bribes “if they had the power and the opportunity”.

The research also showed that in terms of values and attitudes, 15% of the respondents would not mind offering bribes to close business deals.

In January, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) revealed that more than 50% of 2,329 people arrested for corruption since 2014 were below the age of 40.

“Most of the youths in the original survey are in the system now. With the recent survey, it’s very sad. I think the government has to find ways to overcome this problem,” said Akhbar.

“We should not be seeing this in the youth. We are looking to Gen-Y to eventually lead the country but if you have this kind of youth who have been saying corruption is okay... I’m hoping for the Gen-Y leaders to take care of my grandchildren, but things look sad.”

Akhbar said there are possible reasons leading students to think this way.

“It could a form of rationalisation (to justify their thinking). They condemn the condemners.

“They’re thinking, well everybody is doing it (breaking the law), the boss is doing it, so the youth shift the blame when they eventually break the law. Crime is a learned behaviour.

“They also look at the tone at the top (leadership). If people believe millions or billions are being stolen, they think, ‘Well, what’s wrong with taking a stapler?’.”

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