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An important mission of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is to prevent corrupt practice and this has proven to be a most difficult task.

It’s harder than for example, arresting those involved in corruption and even charging them in court. Of course whether they will be convicted at the end of the day and serve their sentence is another story.

The MACC’s prevention efforts have taken many forms, including having an independent advisory panel on prevention and a separate unit whose task is to spread the message on the evils of corruption through educational campaigns.

I served as a member of this panel for six years until the earlier part of 2015, and now I am happy to say that fellow columnist R. Nadeswaran, also known as Citizen Nades, sits on the panel.

It’s disturbing to note that an MACC survey found even students did not regard corruption as a serious issue and even spoke of “peer influence” as being a contributing factor.

Statistics also show that we are still far from being able to “break the backbone” of corruption, so to speak, after all these years just as the nation is nowhere near to winning the war against drug abuse than when we started 40 years ago.

No one can actually say if it’s a winnable war by a long shot but the fight against both corruption and the drug menace must go on unrelentingly.

Thinking outside the box, the MACC recently added a new dimension to its preventive efforts and I am devoting this week’s column to it.

A young former magistrate, who has served a three-year jail sentence for receiving a RM8,000 bribe, has come out in the open as a motivational speaker to assist the MACC spread the anti-corruption message.

Let me first of all praise Mohd Firdaus Ramlan for his gallantry to not only own up for the crime but to tell others about it. Not many such people are willing to do it given society’s stigma against former prisoners.

Besides the jail term, Firdaus was fined RM40,000 for the offence and he began serving the sentence in 2012 after the Court of Appeal upheld the verdict imposed by the Kota Baru sessions court three years earlier.

He told of his ordeal before he was put behind bars in an interview with the Malaysia Gazette news portal last week.

To begin with, he spoke of how all four new car tyres and a handphone that he bought with the corrupt money were later stolen.

His marriage was on the rocks and after his arrest, he had to endure unbearable humiliation while family members went through a trauma.

The case not only hit him and his family but also his workplace and even the good name of the university he graduated from.

“After my arrest and court prosecution, I had to sell nasi lemak to put food on the table and no one, even close friends, bothered to ask me if I had money to buy napkins and milk for my children,” he said.

All his friends kept their distance but the most traumatic one was yet to come.

Two weeks before the Court of Appeal made its decision, his mother, step-father and younger brother were killed in a road accident during the Hari Raya month.

“Imagine how I felt while I was standing at the graveside while their bodies were being lowered for burial … I was devastated because I didn’t manage to seek forgiveness from my mother … and there was this fear that I could have unintentionally given my mother some of the corrupt money that I received,” he said.

Firdaus said he had this sense of guilt although he had made sure that he gave his mother only money from his legitimate salary as a magistrate but somehow felt on hindsight that there could be a mix-up of such money.

Another startling revelation of the effect of his ill-gotten money was that being a collector of shoes, he bought 48 pairs with the money and had them packed in plastic wrappers.

All the shoes were eaten up by termites and only two older pairs including one that he received as a wedding gift were spared!

Firdaus went on to say that the crime he committed took another toll on him. His tongue would just stiffen every time he wanted to recite verses from the Quran although he came from a religious school background.

It was only after going through hundreds of prayers seeking forgiveness from Allah the Almighty that he was able read the Quran again.

He also spoke about his harrowing experience behind bars where his spirits were only lifted when he realised that there were others who were serving longer jail terms.

“When I realised that there were some who have to go through as long as 47 years behind bars and I (had to serve) only three years … It made me grateful. I actually served only two years (after remission for good behaviour),” said Firdaus.

He used his time in prison to write a book that was published recently entitled ‘Tersugung Dek Rasuah‘ (Felled by Corruption). This shows how determined this young man is not to let the bitter lessons that he underwent be in vain and to use them for the benefit of society at large.

In the fight against the growing threat of corruption in Malaysia, we certainly need more brave people like Firdaus to send home more effectively the anti-corruption message.

Asked how everyone could hope to reduce or wipe out corrupt practice that could not only destroy individuals, society and even civilisation, Firdaus said philosophically: “It can only be realised if people are conscious of the fact that there is life after death.”

Azman wishes everyone a Happy New Year. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

Culled from The Sun Daily