Back in Malaysia to attend to some personal business and got chatting with my old classmate about the new car he’s bought.
Turns out he had to get a new car because his old one was stolen. “At least the police here are not like the ones in Indonesia where you have to pay to have the privilege of reporting that you’ve been robbed,” I said.
“Oh, they are no better,” he said. Apparently he called the Malaysian police a few after the car was stolen in Damansara utama, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. “The police didn’t sound the least interested when I reported the theft to them,” he said. Their interest wasn’t even aroused when he showed them a report, available from the web, of how the car thieves were driving his car straight to the port, to be shipped to presumably Indonesia, Thailand or elsewhere. (he was able to do this because the thieves were using his SMART card, a debit card for use on toll gates on the highways. You can track where a person goes on the highways by logging in on the Net).
The story gets worse. When the asked the police the close the investigation file so he could claim his insurance, the policeman refused, unless he was paid RM3,000. Sound familiar to Indonesian drivers who have had their cars stolen?
Then he had other horror stories to tell, of tenders for a highway contract where five registered contractors entered and was told at the last moment that they would be joined by five other contractors that nobody had heard of. On asking around he found that the firms all belonged to a politician. “The word among contractors,” he said, “was that the five legit registered firms put in a bid of a certain range of around RM14 million while the five had a bid range between RM25 and RM29 million. Guess who won? The company that put in the RM 29 million. And guess what the winning company did next? It went to the company that bid 14 million and said that it could be its subcontractor, provided it worked for RM 14 million minus another 5% for him as middleman. The other RM15 goes to a person he cannot reveal the identity of.
“It’s gotten worse since Abdullah Badawi became Prime Minister,” he said, venturing to speculate that the deterioration was because the guys on top of politics and the civil service are now unsure how long they will be retained under a changing of the guards, so they opt for short term, get-rich actions.
Granted, it’s anecdotal and could be an isolated case. But I’ve known this friend for years and have always known him to have a good sense of what’s happening in the society around him, especially in the business world
Why, oh why does this sound more and more like Indonesia? Perhaps Indonesians should not complain so much about how bad corruption is in their country, certainly if compared to their serumpun neighbor.