(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that he needed to check whether former Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib had already declared to him the assets he owns in Australia.
Mahathir had rightly said that it is not a question of whether Muhammad is going to declare his assets now, but whether he had that kind of assets when he made his declaration earlier.
During Muhammad Taibís trial in Brisbane last week where he was acquitted on two charges of falsely declaring the money he took into Australia in December 1996 and failing to declare more than A$1.2 million when he left the country, it was revealed that Muhammad had extraordinary assets in Australia and New Zealand, including a 4,400 ha farm in Curajong Park, Queensland worth A$3.7 million (RM8.8 million), a plot of land worth A$460,000 and a bungalow worth A$460,000 on Sovereign Island, a NZ$500,000 (RM1 million) house and two plots of land valued at NZ$4 million in New Zealand.
Although I welcome Mahathirís statement that he would check whether
former Selangor Mentri Besar had already the assets he owns in Australia
in his earlier declaration of assets to the Prime Minister, the question
is why the Prime Minister has taken such a long time to act, as Mahathir
knew about these properties during the trial in Brisbane last week.
Was it because the UMNO disciplinary and management committee, chaired by the UMNO Deputy President, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, decided at its meeting on Thursday that Muhammad should explain his assets to Mahathir that the Prime Minister announced that he needed to check whether Muhammad had earlier declared his Australian and New Zealand properties, and that if not for the decision of the UMNO disciplinary and management committee, the whole matter would be overlooked with everybody keeping their eyes closed?
The Prime Minister must not be seen to be soft on corruption when it comes to top or former top UMNO leaders, as in the case of Muhammad.
In fact, Mahathir owes all Malaysians an explanation why he had not checked on Muhammadís declaration of assets for over one year, as I had made public revelation of some of Muhammadís extraordinary assets and properties in Australia as far back as early last year.
The procrastination of Mahathir and the failure of the Anti-Corruption Agency to conclude its investigations in its corruption probe into Muhammad after 18 months is a great disappointment. No wonder Malaysiaís ranking among the least-corrupt nations in the world is slipping rather than improving despite the enactment of a new Anti-Corruption Act by Parliament last year.
The way the Prime Minister and the ACA handle the Muhammad corruption probe is a test case as to whether there is a new-found political will against corruption in Malaysia.