I don’t know if a code of conduct exists for public servants, and if one exists, whether it is adhered to. Incredibly, some Malaysians cannot understand why the declaration of assets, by people who hold important public positions, is critical.
Last month, when the Federal Territories Minister, Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, said that he was reluctant to declare his assets, he made one mistake. He tried to justify his unwillingness on his fear, that he and his family, would be targeted by robbers and kidnappers.
If he were to read the papers, he would realise that there have been several kidnappings in Malaysia. Some extremely wealthy people have probably been kidnapped but it is highly likely that these kidnaps, do not enter the public domain. The ransom would probably have been paid, quietly.
The kidnappings which we read in the news, are usually of ordinary people. They do not hold important positions in any organisation, nor do they hold senior posts in public service. They were not wealthy, did not have several fast cars parked outside their mansion, nor live in a desirable part of Kuala Lumpur.
The call to declare ministerial assets, was made because senior ranking officers, including those with the honorific, “Datuk”, have been investigated for corruption.
KuNan, as Tengku Adnan is usually called, had been asked to declare his assets, by the PKR communications directorss, Fahmi Fadzil. The same request had been sent to the KL Mayor, Amin Nordin.
One Datuk Seri has been investigated under the Anti-Money Laundering, Ant-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001. On his arrest, his BMW was seized, as were many documents, from his office.
The men who were charged with corruption had their bank accounts frozen, as well as their luxury watches, properties and cars seized. Around RM400,000 cash, in RM50 and RM100 notes, had been stashed away above a ceiling.
With the rise in cases being investigated by the MACC, for corruption involving civil servants, the call for people who hold crucial positions in government service to declare their assets, is all the more important. It is not a flippant request.
We expect both ruling and opposition MPs, as well as senior civil servants, to help fight entrenched corruption. We are all too familiar with individuals thinking that public service is a chance to amass a vast fortune.
We can identify ministers, whose children, are fresh out of college, but drive luxury, imported sports cars, and live in apartments or houses which are worth millions. We need only look at the watches they wear, the handbags they use and the holidays they take.
If ministers and public servants are not prepared to declare their assets, then they should opt to leave public service entirely. The nation cannot afford to be robbed by people whom it entrusts to look after its interests.
The need for transparency and the request for the declaration of assets is critical. One month after KuNan said that he would not publicly declare his assets, another corruption scandal rocked the nation.
This time, another “Datuk Seri”, who is from the advertising division of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, is being investigated for giving jobs which entail the purchasing of aeroplane tickets, to a company belonging to some of his family members.
The culture of nepotism runs deep in government ministries and government agencies. It has been talked about for decades, but few concerted attempts to uncover the truth have been undertaken.
For those who think that the declaration of public assets is wrong, think again!
When a minister, or official, refuses to declare his assets, the general perception is that he has something to hide. Moreover, an official who lives beyond his means, should be subject to scrutiny. Why should others treat the public’s money, like their own? Why allow these individuals to rob the taxpayer?
Poor Malaysians are imprisoned for stealing a tin of sardines, while the fat cats steal millions of ringgits, with impunity.
If one official from the Ministry of Tourism has been found guilty, of corruption, how many others must be guilty of similar misconduct? We should also urge the Minister of Tourism to publicly declare his assets. How deep is the problem of senior officials abusing their positions?