Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
I once paid a cop 30 ringgit (about $10 then) for making an apparently illegal left-hand turn in Kuala Lumpur. Scores of drivers in front of me were also handing over their “instant fines”, discreetly enclosed within the policeman’s ticketing folder. It was days ahead of a major holiday and the cops were collecting their holiday bonus from the public.
Malaysia opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim holds a disc he says contains evidence of judge-fixing in Malaysia
I felt bad about this, of course. What I was doing was illegal, immoral and perpetuating an insidious culture that goes by many names in the East — “baksheesh” in India, “Ali Baba” (and his 40 thieves) in Malaysia, “swap” in Indonesia (means “to feed”). But the policeman pointed out I would have to take off the good part of a day to go to court and pay 10 times as much to the judge. So I rationalised: “When in Rome…”
Alas it was not the first time, nor would it be the last that I have (ahem) paid an “informal levy” to officialdom. I’ve given baksheesh to the phone company in India to get a telephone installed, and to get a driver’s license without a test (no wonder there are so many accidents in India.) I’ve paid the immigration officer at Jakarta airport to let me in with a nearly expired passport.