LETTER | Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was reported as saying that asset declarations should not be a mere political gimmick utilised by politicians to garner support but should be more transparent, systematic, and accountable.
It is true that in Anwar’s fight against corruption, it would be essential to develop a systematic approach to monitor the accumulation of wealth by public figures who work for the people, ranging from MPs and politicians to business tycoons and government-linked companies (GLC) leaders.
The question is, how can a systematic approach be established?
Asset Declarations Act has been a long demand by advocacy groups and think-tanks, so that a proper legal ground can be inaugurated to allow actions to be taken against those who refuse to declare their assets, or those who submit fake declarations.
More importantly, such an approach can act as a prevention of corruption, where evidence can be found before the involved culprits further steal more money from the people.
Currently, according to reports, Anwar is only discussing with the MACC to set the “right parameters” for assets declarations by political leaders, without touching on the introduction of a new law to regulate the whole process.
Talk to other parties too
In my view, an Asset Declarations Act is definitely needed as it is currently cloudy in terms of MACC’s power to set such parameters of asset declarations. In addition, a mere discussion between the prime minister and MACC to set such important parameters could cause larger problems of lack of transparency and accountability, as the final parameters set may be politically biased towards the interest of the prime minister alone.
And that could be detrimental to the whole process of asset declarations.
Having a law enables clear provisions and standards of asset declarations to be outlined legally, as well as the processes of regulation, monitoring, nabbing and granting of powers to related agencies.
Most importantly, when a new law is introduced, it grants the Parliament the power to question and amend the provisions when needed, granting the opposition the chance to also express their perspectives, leading to more transparency and accountability.
Should the law cover business tycoons as well?
In Malaysia, the Asset Declarations Act has always been viewed as a political act to regulate politicians’ wealth.
It becomes an issue since the debunking of the 1MDB scandal, with many believing it is a necessity to tackle the problem of corruption, including the ill culture of gift-giving, which can be a form of bribery.
It is therefore important for business tycoons to also declare their assets under the law. First and foremost, many politicians in Malaysia are also business tycoons themselves, holding a lot of shares and positions in huge corporates.
Second, the corporates owned by business tycoons always conduct businesses that involve millions and billions of ringgits, and it possesses a huge impact towards society.
Last but not least, the ill culture of gift-giving mentioned above often involves business tycoons and incumbent government leaders as a form of bribery to get key government projects or for other forms of benefits. To stop this, asset declarations play an important role.
An independent agency investigating assets should be set up after the Assets Declarations Act is passed in Parliament.
Every time a person declares his or her assets under the requirement of the Act, proper investigations should be conducted to determine whether the declaration is correct and cover all the wealth that he or she has accumulated.
Shall any evidence of corruption or money laundering be found, then the case should be referred to the MACC for further investigations and nabbing.
It is time for Malaysia to brush off the shadow of a lack of transparency so that the people can really participate in the democratic process and make informed decisions.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.