The reluctance of certain public figures to declare their assets was not surprising, said Sarawak Opposition Chief Baru Bian in a statement.
“This goes back to the system of patronage.”
He referred to development projects being used to support the cronies of those in power. “These unjust methods of the government authorities breed corruption.”
That’s the heart of the matter, stressed Baru.
He does not see the situation changing as long as the Umno/Barisan Nasional (BN) Government was in power.
“I do not expect the system to change anytime soon,” he reiterated. “We will continue to hear excuses from rich officials who refuse to declare assets publicly.”
He was commenting on a statement by BN Secretary-General, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, that he will be in fear of criminals if he declares his assets publicly.
Baru said the excuse was unacceptable. “It’s a poor excuse for the lack of accountability and transparency,” he said. “Many public officials and politicians are guilty of making the same excuses.”
Adnan’s statement gives the impression the country was overrun with gangsters and criminals, charged Baru. “It does not reflect well on our law enforcement bodies.”
However, he continued, that’s not the point.
The issue was whether the government was serious in efforts to arrest corruption, he argued. “If it was, the starting point was leadership.”
He pointed out that it was difficult for public officials to declare assets publicly when the Prime Minister does not. “This is unlike the top public officials in the US, Hong Kong and many other countries.”
Top Malaysian Government officials and Cabinet Minsters are required to confidentially declare their assets to the Prime Minister. This was accessible to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
The question that needs to be asked, said Baru, was why declare to the Prime Minister and not to the MACC directly.
There is no independent mechanism to verify what was declared, according to the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, agreed Baru. “So, this practice rather defeats the purpose of the declarations.”
The declaration of assets was to prevent conflict of interest situations, abuse of power, and detect illicit wealth, summed up Baru.