Why did it take Mahathir more than a year to remember or realise that Anwar was the only member of his Cabinet who did not declare his assets when in office?


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
 

(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said in London on Friday that his former deputy, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, was the  only member of his Cabinet who did not declare his assets when in office.

Mahathir said Anwar, who had been accusing the Government of not being transparent, was himself not transparent.  He said all Cabinet ministers had to declare their assets to him and  he had records to back his statement that Anwar never declared his assets.

In a dialogue with Malaysian students at Malaysia Hall during a stopover in London from the United Nations General Assembly enroute to Zimbabwe for the South African International Dialogue, Mahathir said: "I donít know why (he did not declare his assets) but it may be that he thought he was the Deputy Prime Minister and he had the privilege."

I am not privy to any information on the declaration of assets by Cabinet Ministers to Mahathir, and only Anwar himself can respond to the latest specific allegation made against him by the Prime Minister.

To be fair and to show that he is not making a baseless allegation,  Mahathir should allow Anwar to call a media conference whether at the Hospital University Kebangsaan Malaysia or  the High Court premises  to anwer his  latest charge that Anwar had been "shouting from the roof top that everybody should be transparent" but  Anwar "never declared his assets" to him.

However,  to the ordinary Malaysians,  Mahathirís latest attack on Anwar is full of holes.

Firstly, why did it take  Mahathir more than a year to remember or realise that Anwar was the only member of his Cabinet who did not declare his assets when in office?

For the past year, Mahathir had been levelling all sorts of outrageous allegations against Anwar, and it is most unbelievable that the Prime Minister would have overlooked, forgotten or "saved" such a potent ammunition against Anwar  until more than a year later.

If Mahathirís latest allegation was  true, it would have been used as one of the most powerful weapons right from the very beginning on Sept. 2 last year to destroy Anwarís credibility and integrity, especially as Mahathir was on  the defensive on the issue of corruption. In fact, it would have been powerful enough to be cited as one reason for sacking Anwar as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister!
 
What is the reason then for Mahathirís 13-month delay to remember or realise that Anwar had committed the cardinal sin of being the only member of his Cabinet who did not declare his assets when in office?

Mahathir offered the explanation that "may be" Anwar thought he was the Deputy Prime Minister, he did not have to declare his assets. But why didnít Mahathir remind Anwar that although he was Deputy Prime Minister, he still had to declare his assets to him as Prime Minister?

Mahathir  had repeatedly assured the country and people that Cabinet Ministers were  clean, honest and not corrupt, because they were  all required to periodically declare their assets to him and he would ensure that they kept to the "straight and honest" road of integrity. But if he could now confess to  be so remiss as to allow Anwar never having to declare his assets to him, what credibility has Mahathir left when he denies that there is cronyism, corruption and nepotism in his government?

However, Mahathir cannot be right when he alleged that Anwar was the only Cabinet member who had never declared his assets to him as Prime Minister, probably thinking that he had such a privilege as Deputy Prime Minister.

Mahathir had publicly explained that Minister are required to declare their assets to him when they are first appointed to the Cabinet, after and before each general election.  Anwar did not become Deputy Prime Minister until 1993. Was Anwar already so "privileged" that he could refuse to declare assets to the Prime Minister when he was first appointed as Minister for Youth, Sports and Culture shortly after the 1982 general election, and after  the two subsequent general elections in 1986 and 1990 when he was not yet the Deputy Prime Minister?

If it was  true that Anwar was the only Cabinet member who never declared his assets in his 16 years in the Cabinet, then Mahathir had commited a grave dereliction of duty as Prime Minister, as his repeated assurances to Parliament and the people that he would ensure Cabinet integrity has proven to be an  empty one.

If Mahathirís allegation against  Anwar was not true, then the Prime Minister is guilty of another grave injustice to his former deputy, fortifying Anwarís allegation of a high-level conspiracy to subvert all organs and institutions of government to destroy his political future.

Mahathirís latest allegation against Anwar sounds as wild and improbable as the one he made a fortnight ago during his pre-election tour of Perlis, when he alleged that Anwarís supporters had threatened to kill his political secretary, Datuk Aziz Shamsuddin and the Deputy Home Minister, Azmi Khalid,  because they had been made to believe that the two were  responsible for allegedly poisoning the former deputy prime minister.

But no police report was ever lodged by either Aziz or Azmi, raising questions whether their  lives were ever  threatened  by Anwarís supporters or whether the Prime Ministerís allegation was pure concoction.

As the Barisan Nasional government is suffering the worst credibility gap in the nationís history, particularly in the ruthless campaign to character-assassinate Anwar, the only way the Malaysian public can confidently know what is true or false is for the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to conduct a public investigation into all the allegations which the Barisan Nasional Government has made against the former Deputy Prime Minister, including the latest allegation that Anwar was the only Cabinet member who had never declared his assets to the Prime Minister in the past 16 years!

Mahathirís allegation in London has vindicated the DAP demand that Cabinet Ministers must publicly declare their assets to set an example of public integrity, and not just to the Prime Minister, which has proven to be a meaningless exercise.

Mahathir should make public the latest  declaration of assets by all Cabinet Ministers, stating the dates of such declaration. Malaysians will be particularly interested to know whether the First Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, had declared his assets to the Prime Minister, when the declaration was made and the full details of such declaration.

(3/10/99)


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong