Going in clean

AN EFFECTIVE asset declaration programme can ensure a nation’s scarce resource is spent honestly and effectively, giving the most out of every ringgit dispensed. 

While resources are scarce, greed is boundless. Hence, we need to ensure that the nation’s wealth is put to good use, and not enrich politicians or government officials. 

One critical component to ensure the above can be achieved is asset declaration on the part of politicians and officials who can enrich themselves if they trip the system. 

As the nation prepares to elect 222 parliamentarians at the 15th General Election (GE15), a major political party sprang a pleasant surprise. 

PKR, a key member of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, has announced that all its MPs will declare their assets. By now, all its candidates, including party president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, have declared their net worth. And it has been published at a special website called Calon Keadilan. 

Kudos to the party for the move. This is a great step to ensure better governance as we move forward. 

And what about Ramanan’s lack of disclosure as to how his millions add up? Those breakdowns matter

However, it is disappointing to see that the DAP and Parti Amanah Negara, the other two biggest members of PH, are not doing so. 

It’s disenchanting to see that DAP has no plans to make it mandatory for its aspiring lawmakers to declare their assets. When asked by the media, DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke Siew Fook said the party would require elected members to make the declaration, a practice it has adopted for some time now. But nothing more at this juncture. 

And it is nauseating to hear a caretaker minister making a mockery of the asset declaration move by his rivals, even to the extent of calling it “a farce”. 

Coming out of a slew of mega-scale corruption trials, political parties in the GE15 fray could have done some groundwork to ensure that the bad days of corruption stay behind, once and for all. 

As the nation was prepping up for GE14, the US Attorney General called the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal a “kleptocracy at its worst”. Despite the warning, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib 

Razak led the Barisan National (BN) coalition into the polls, only to lose to PH, then led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Najib and the BN troop ignored the corruption scandal, only to pay the price when the people voted them out. 

This time around, it looks like the corruption theme is again at play and, once again, most parties do not seem serious in addressing it. There is much lip service, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And they can start with coming clean as they put themselves up for election. 

I’m far from suggesting that PKR is at the top of the game, governance-wise, with a one-time candidate asset declaration. A one-off declaration, and that too, a limited one, may not serve the purpose of keeping these lawmakers from the mighty pull of the corruption scourge. 

The asset declaration is meaningless if not backed by a number of checks and balances. It has to be part of an effective disclosure system plugged into wider anti-corruption elements. 

The 42-year-old Amirudin is married with 6 children. Any assets under his wife or children? What about his siblings? Those numbers matter

From the new disclosure, we now know that Mentri Besar Selangor Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari has a net worth of just above RM639,000. 

PKR’s Hulu Selangor candidate Dr Sathia Parkash Nadarajan has declared a net worth of RM40 million. The 45-year-old “local Rawang boy”, as he is described on his company’s website, is the founder and chairman of SP Care Group, which runs 14 primary healthcare centres. 

The 41-year-old Nurul Izzah Anwar has declared a net asset worth just above RM800,000, while former minister Dr Maszlee Malek, who is running in Simpang Renggam, has a net asset close to RM440,000. And the man tasked to stop wanna-be Prime Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in Sungai Buloh, PKR’s Ramanan Ramakrishnan, has declared a whopping net worth of RM63.5 million. 

These declarations bring up a host of questions. The 42-year-old Amirudin, vying for the Gombak seat, is married with six children aged seven to 16. Any assets under his wife or children? What about his siblings? Those numbers matter. 

And what about Ramanan’s lack of disclosure as to how his millions add up? Those breakdowns matter. The former MIC leader has some explaining to do if he wants to stay a lawmaker. 

It is common knowledge that the corrosive power of corruption has led elected officials to park assets under their nearest and dearest. This happens everywhere. Malaysia is no exception, surely. 

Hence, those numbers matter. So, we may need to unpack assets held by family and relatives if you want to have a purposeful and effective asset declaration regime. 

PKR, maybe this is your next step. Other political parties, time to catch up with step one: Enforce your aspiring lawmakers to publicly declare their assets. Otherwise, don’t contest. 

Habhajan Singh is the corporate editor at The Malaysian Reserve. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition