By U Khin Maung (A retired diplomat)
1. Bribery and corruption are, in my view, two sides of the same coin. Bribery and corruption, these two facts or ideas are very much correlative, that is to say, they are closely related to or depend on another fact or idea. For example, a bribe-giver, as an accomplice, aids and abets a corrupt official in committing corruption, and the corrupt official expects or demands and takes a bribe from a person in return for favouritism, the act of unfairly treating him better than others.
2. And now, the question is, what does it tend to corrupt? On this point, I believe I can’t do any better than to quote what the scholars have said. They are reproduced, and kindly see below: -
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” “Lord Acton” Historical essays.
“The greater the power, the greater dangerous the abuse.”
“Edmund Burke” In a speech delivered to the House of Commons,” UK
“Corruption is a global shame and a sin against good manners and character. Mr Ban Ki-moon — former United Nations Secretary-General.
So, in support of all these scholarly views, I, as a layman, would like to say that corruption is, without a shadow of a doubt, a crime, a shame and a sin. In a much better definition, Professor Syed Hussein Alatas has pointed out that “the association of corruption and crime is a well-known phenomenon”.
3. Corruption; does it mean only bribe-taking? Well, I don’t think so, I am afraid. From the legal point of view, corruption also means maladministration of justice, mismanagement of affairs, prejudice, bias, wrong-doing etc. And mismanagement, in a sense, means failure to do something that ought to be done and committing an act which ought not to be done. Well, now, before tackling what factors bring about prejudice and bias, I think we should see their meanings. Prejudice means an unreasonable dislike of or preference for a person, group or custom etc. And bias means a strong feeling in favour of or against one group of people or one side in an argument. In our culture, there are four kinds of prejudice and bias. Prejudice and bias, first, arising from an emotional issue or wish; second, arising from anger; third, arising from fear; and fourth, arising from ignorance.
4. May I quote relevant writings of a well-known scholar Mr Syed Hussein Altas from his famous book “Corruption and the Destiny of Asia” as follows: “The association of corruption and crime” is a well-known phenomenon. But the forms of this association vary according to the degree of corruption. As corruption develops in intensity, these forms multiply.
5. In this article, may I also present to you the significance of the rule of law. This phrase, the rule of law, means equality before the laws, fair play, and uniformity of laws for all private citizens and public officials alike. In connection with the rule of law, the first Prime Minister of our independent and sovereign union, U Nu, said in the address to the Parliament (The Pyithu Hluttaw): “is to base all our activities firmly on the rule of law.” And Chairman and Prime Minister of the State Administration Council, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, also expresses the significance of the rule of law on every occasion, relevant, proper and necessary.
6. Under the old administration system, we, BCS- Burma civil service personnel, were entrusted and honoured with magisterial powers, by virtue of our posts and by virtue of experience and expertise. While I was serving as a subdivisional officer, I was empowered and entrusted with special magisterial powers. Our superior officers, such as the district magistrates and the district and sessions judges, frequently advised and, I would like to say, taught and guided all the subordinate judges and magistrates not to meet or talk exclusively with a client or a party to a dispute, in his or her chamber, or in any place privately. Our superior judges and magistrates explained to all of us that the other client or the other party might misunderstand us. We were taught and guided that a magistrate or a judge should bear in mind that “it is not enough that justice is done, but justice must be seen to have been done”. And to win the hearts and minds of the people we were serving as a judge or a magistrate, we should always go on learning so as to be entitled to be addressed as “the learned judge”, the learned magistrate. Learning, in this context, means laws, the supreme court’s instructions, supreme court’s rulings must be read and studied in earnest and also learning anything that is worth it for the improvement and expansion of legal education. After all, no educative process, legal or whatsoever, is ever the end: it is always the beginning of more education, more learning, more living”.
7. I think we have already had a law entitled “suppression of bribery and corruption act, and our successive governments have suppressed and treated it as a shame, sin, crime and evil. And, as living laws are necessary in this living world, I am sure our authorities concerned have already taken necessary actions to review and revise or, if necessary, to amend that “suppression of bribery and corruption act.” so as to be in line with the changing world.
(1) Corruption and the destiny of Asia, Syed Hussein Alatas.
(2) Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.
(3) Law and custom in Burma and the Burmese family, Dr Maung Maung.
(4) Book of essential quotations.
(5) Word power made easy. Norman Lewis