Nazri and Co have something to hide when it concerns public funds

Mariam Mokhtar | January 20, 2012

The minister appears to have no desire to arrest the erosion of trust in the way we are governed.

In March 2011, four politicians in Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) declared their assets in statutory declarations which listed their salaries and assets such as cars and houses. The four are Sungai Siput MP Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, Kota Damansara assemblyman Nasir Hashim, Shah Alam councillor A Sivarajan and Kajang councillor S Arutchelvan. They also tried to persuade the opposition coalition to emulate them.

This January, Bersih 2.0 chairman S Ambiga, Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) chief Paul Low and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and members of his executive council urged Umno-BN politicians to publicly declare their assets.

Just in case Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz has not been paying attention, the integrity and reputation of Malaysian ministers has been eroded by a never-ending list of scandalous revelations. Most involve politicians of the ruling coalition.

Perhaps, Nazri does not care about his reputation and that of his colleagues. Does he fear our reaction on reading what’s listed under their assets?

Nazri appears to have no desire to arrest the erosion of trust in the way we are governed. His recent comments show that he places little or no importance on transparency of the electoral process. He appears not to want to improve the independent auditing of assets.

Nazri remains clueless about proper regulation and the implications of the reasons for the public wanting a declaration of the assets of its ministers.

If he is still unaware, we can tell him that we have heard about a particular minister’s wife and her penchant for expensive handbags and diamond rings.

There are allegations of ministers having garages full of expensive imported cars, some given by grateful businessmen.

Public purse

There are ministers’ children who allegedly brag about the purchases adorning their homes and the holidays in the properties they own abroad.

And we mustn’t forget the more mundane abuse of taxpayers’ money like the rakyat subsidising the utility bills of our ministers, the protection of their personal homes, the renovations of their residences and of course the use of the public purse to fund their personal lifestyle under the guise of government contracts.

Nazri reportedly said that ministers and their immediate family members should not have to declare their assets to the public as this could place them in danger. Danger of what? Prosecution for corruption?

“If we make these details public, it may endanger the individuals concerned. This is especially so as it will also include personal details, on which we also have laws to protect against indiscriminate distribution.”

When asked to clarify the dangers they would face, his answers were as garbled as a drunk being asked to spell his name backwards.

Nazri said that the declaration of the assets of ministers and their families would only be given to the prime minister and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). He stressed that the MACC should only be given a copy of the declaration if absolutely necessary.

He said, “They should only declare to the MACC if there are reports of corruption. There is no need to declare if there are no reports. After all, we have already declared it to the prime minister.”

Nazri failed to mention who the prime minister should declare his assets to.

People’s money

Moreover, allegations of corruption that have been unearthed are only the tip of the iceberg. Why wait till there are reports of corruption?

Even when corruption is exposed, the delay tactics employed, the unwillingness of the authorities to investigate and the run-around given by the politicians, all point towards a cover-up.

Politicians like Nazri are not interested in transparency, which is an opportunity to prove their sincerity and integrity. Why are other Umno-BN MPs silent about the “assets declaration”?

Public and elected officials, and those who want to be nominated, should provide details of other jobs, positions in organisations, directorships, property assets and shares owned.

They should also state whether they would hang onto these other posts, if they were successfully elected.

They should also list which organisations and which individuals donate to the party’s coffers. Perhaps a hefty donation does influence the party’s policies.

They must also declare gifts, club memberships and benefits in kind, such as tickets to sporting events, like Wimbledon.

Do any of the elected officials earn money from overseas investments? How many overseas properties do they own?

We must also demand that the MPs list their expenses from the public purse. The rakyat should also be entitled to scrutinise these.

Nazri disagreed that Cabinet ministers and their family members should be subjected to rigorous requirements like declaring their assets.

He said, “Members of the Cabinet and their spouses are not duty-bound to declare their assets to the MACC. We should only (declare) it to the prime minister.”

When will Nazri realise that MPs cannot be freeloaders? The majority underperform and are high maintenance.

If Nazri and his Umno-BN MPs are in any doubt, let me repeat what Arutchelvan of the PSM said last March: “We’re trying to put the message across that this is not our money. It is people’s money. And we have to be responsible and accountable.”

But will Nazri ever understand this?

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