Declaring assets/liabilities

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Invoke is a new organization but it has always been in the headlines. Headed by YB Rafizi Ramli it is working hard to help some selected candidates win this coming general election. They do this by actively campaigning in certain selected areas for the candidate they have chosen, and doing all sorts of surveys to ascertain the true feelings of the local voters, and even promising financial help to these candidates if they satisfy the conditions imposed by Invoke. Many of those aspiring wakil Rakyat have accepted the offer from Invoke, and they are willing to declare their assets.

I am not sure this is a good idea; simply because some good candidates may have a lot of debts which they do not want the world to know. Being “indebted” does not mean he or she is not suitable as an MP. It does not mean he or she will be corrupt when they become backbenchers in Parliament. In a Parliamentary system, the ones most vulnerable to corruption are the Ministers because they make commercial and policy decisions; backbenchers just meet 42 days in a year. Anyway, our backbenchers do not have the influence or clout of “lobbyists” of the United States Congress to enact laws that we need to know how rich they are.

This asset declaration also puts the other candidates in the opposition camp in a difficult situation. Questions will be raised by BN as to why other Pakatan candidates are not declaring their assets. What are they trying to hide, UMNO will ask. Some may want to know why some are getting financial help from Invoke but not others.

UMNO will create issues which are totally unnecessary for Pakatan as a group to deal with. This asset declaration and all its ramifications are something Pakatan must deal collectively as one voice and they should have waited for the Pakatan Council to decide on them. Anyway its useful and expected of a Minister to declare assets but its really not necessary for all aspiring MPs to do so. This candidate may not even win the election, and the Pakatan coalition may also not succeed in forming a new government.

Declaring assets are useful and necessary in the right circumstances, but shouldn’t we worry first about how to reorganize our public institutions so that they can first be competent and trustworthy? We need to start talking about reforms Pakatan will need to do to achieve a truly professional public service to serve the public. What are the changes we will undertake to take care of JAKIM, FELDA, MARA, Khazanah and Petronas, for example? These reforms are surely more pressing. Before we start with MPs being truthful about their assets, should we not first make sure that The Police, and the MACC are free from the influence of the corrupt elites and the underworld bosses? Should we not talk first about how to make sure the new Judiciary are not scared of the new Prime Minister and are manned by competent jurists?

When I was a candidate in Hulu Selangor; UMNO /BN were busy telling the people that I was a rich man, that UMNO had made me rich. This was pure fiction to make the UMNO voters hate me for being ungrateful. Would it make any difference if I had declared my assets and liabilities while this Prime Minister was handing out millions every other day to the voters? No, it would not. Will I declare my assets this time around? Firstly I have not been selected by Invoke as a candidate; nor has my party selected me, so the issue does not arise.

But even if I am a candidate I will not do so, because it’s unnecessary and embarrassing to my family to let the world know how much I still owe the creditors. Being ordinary is painful when the world thinks you are rich. MPs in other modern Parliaments are also not required to declare their assets. It’s a different matter if someone is given a Ministerial portfolio, then the government and the new Prime Minister may want Ministers to declare their assets and liabilities for public viewing. That is when asset declaration becomes a relevant issue for Pakatan.

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