Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fighting graft not on CPP menu

Fighting graft not on CPP menu

Fighting graft not on CPP menu

It wasn't so much what the ruling party outlined in its recently released 11-point

platform to guide the country through the next five years, as what it left out.

Despite widespread acknowledgment that corruption is one of the country's most pressing

problems, the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) ignored the issue in its policy

document which was issued on April 25.

It wasn't always like that. Back in 1998, both the CPP and its current coalition

partner Funcinpec said in their pre-election messages they would work to beat the

scourge.

But action has been slow in coming says Comfrel, a local election monitoring NGO,

in its assessment of the pledges made by the two parties during the country's last

general election. As the NGO states, monitoring the action taken on party promises

is as important as keeping an eye on what happens during the election period.

Comfrel's report, which was released in March, noted that the draft corruption law

has moved between the inter-ministerial committee and the Council of Ministers.

But it is yet to reach the National Assembly, despite Prime Minister Hun Sen's promise

to donors that would happen by July this year. With the Assembly in virtual recess

because of the looming election, MPs said there was no chance the legislature will

review the bill by that date.

"It is unclear why this process has taken four years," said Comfrel's monitoring

coordinator, Mar Sophal. "Furthermore, initial evaluations of the draft law

by monitoring groups have found the law to be lacking several important components

and fear that the law could become a symbolic gesture opposed to actual reform."

So why the inaction? One member of the CPP cabinet told the Post that his party has

never concerned itself with criticism from others. The new platform, he said speaking

on the customary condition of anonymity, reflected the will of the people expressed

at last year's local elections when the CPP won all but a handful of the 1,621 commune

chief positions.

"Our core policy is that of January 7, which has brought achievements in all

aspects of society," he said. "Our extraordinary session [held on April

24 and 25] has established a new direction for national development over the next

five years."

And a member of the party's Central Committee, who also did not want to be named,

said the CPP was well aware of the need for anti-corruption measures. In fact, he

said, a detail in a subsidiary 59-point plan, which will not be released, covered

that very topic.

"If the CPP wins the election, we will push to adopt the anti-corruption law,

based on this government's reform efforts in four fields: finance, the judiciary,

administrative reform, and the military. Everybody in the party loves our nation

and we will not drop the anti-corruption policy."

Among the areas the 11-point policy paper does cover are development in numerous

fields, from education to health, judicial reform to economic growth. In line with

the government's plan to tackle crushing rural poverty, there are steps to generate

jobs, and invest in agriculture. Another measure is to pay "appropriate"

salaries to military, police and civil servants, although the document does not specify

any figures.

In its analysis, Comfrel noted that neither the CPP nor Funcinpec have achieved certain

other goals they laid out in 1998, such as ensuring all citizens had enough to eat,

and creating a food reserve. Although the country produces enough rice to feed everyone,

up to two million people are still "food insecure".

Comfrel felt that one flaw of the CPP's 1998 platform was that while it stated the

need to eradicate corruption, it did not specifically endorse the passage of an anti-corruption

law. Neither did it mention judicial reform, which is key to that fight.

On a brighter note, though, Comfrel applauded Hun Sen's commitment made to donors

last year to sign the proposed anti-corruption legislation into law. Despite the

fact that won't happen by his self-imposed deadline of July, when the general election

will be held, the Prime Minister's promise indicated a recognition of the corrosive

effect corruption has on society.

Sophal warned that some foreign organizations working here on humanitarian projects

had indicated they would not continue with their work until a comprehensive anti-corruption

law was both passed and enforced.

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