UMNO and Barisan Nasional leaders are not sincere in their rhetorics about greater transparency and war against corruption as they are not committed to a new culture of political integrity and zero tolerance for corruption by politicians
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): No serious student of Malaysian politics and public affairs would believe that UMNO and Barisan Nasional leaders would ever agree to tighten laws to ensure greater transparency or to effectively combat corruption as they are not committed to a new culture of political integrity and zero tolerance for corruption by politicians.
The cynicism and skepticism generated by the recent discussion that UMNO elected representatives should not flaunt their wealth followed by the proposal that candidates should declare their assets have been proven right in a very short space of time when the UMNO vice president and Minister for Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin came out openly to oppose the suggestion for election laws to be amended to require all candidates, whether from ruling or opposition parties, to publicly declare their assets.
It is easy to call the bluff of UMNO and Barisan Nasional leaders in their rhetorics about greater transparency and the war against corruption, as when Thursday’s Utusan Malaysia (10.7.03) carried a front-page report quoting the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers’ Club Chairman Datuk Mohd Zin Mohamed declaring that Opposiiton candidates should also be required to declare their assets if Barisan Nasional candidates have to do so to ensure integrity among elected representatives.
When the DAP accepted the challenge and demanded the passage of a law in September Parliament in time for next general election to require all candidates to publicly declare their assets, UMNO and Barisan Nasional leaders quickly beat a retreat as illustrated by Muhyiddin’s statement yesterday, claiming that it was not necessary as “the existing laws being enforced by the Election Commission, like ensuring that candidates are not bankrupt, are adequate”.
Muhyiddin is not only wrong but is guilty of deliberately trying to confuse the issue of ensuring that politicians do not use politics, whether at national or state level, as a passport for personal enrichment from the bankruptcy of elected representatives like the Barisan Nasional MP for Kuching, Song Swee Guan.
Muhyiddin cannot be so ignorant as to believe that the existing laws are adequate to deal with corrupt politicians, who have not refrained from flaunting their ill-gotten gains completely disproportionate to their known sources of income because they presently enjoy immunity from meaningful investigation from a toothless Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) and prosecution.
Malaysians must have wondered how many Ministers, Chief Ministers, Mentri-Mentri Besar, State Ministers or Executive Councillors would be able to remain unscathed if the ACA could launch a no-holds-barred crackdown against all political leaders and charge those with unaccountable wealth and fortunes completely disproportionate to their known sources of income for corruption as in countries serious about the war against graft.
A law requiring election candidates to publicly declare their assets will be one important step to monitor the integrity of political leaders to ascertain whether they have used politics as a passport for personal enrichment instead of public service.
I would urge Muhyiddin to reconsider his objection to an election law requiring all candidates to publicly declare their assets so as not to bring his credentials and credibility into question as to his commitment to clean and honest politics where there is no place or room for money politics, whether UMNO politics or the larger national politics as during general elections.
Instead of proposing that any declaration of asset by candidates should be an internal UMNO affair, he should be leading a campaign for a change to the election law in the September Parliament to require all candidates to publicly declare their assets to usher in a new era of clean, honest and uncorrupt politics.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman