November 15, 2017.
Recollections & Reflections – A commentary
MALAYSIAN politicians can be very strange people, asking something of others which they themselves are not wont to do.
Since recent days there’s been quite a fair amount of coverage in a few mainstream newspapers on the wealth of former Kedah mentri besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, also son of former prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.
The issue was not a direct result of what Mukhriz did but triggered by photos on social media platforms that were picked up by the mainstream press, showing one of his daughters and a yacht named after her, said to be a birthday present from dad. Nothing wrong there, although some amongst us find something like this objectionable, especially if it involves families of politicians who hold public office.
The most mature of politicians will never allow their kids to flaunt their wealth, even if the money is all clean and lawful.
Over the years there’s been a lot of talk about how obscenely wealthy some Malaysian politicians and senior civil servants are and the lifestyles of their children, especially the cars they own, only serve to reaffirm the gossips, only help people to believe in the rumours they hear.
Not many may realise this but there’s so many rumours and speculations on these Malaysians simply because we don’t have a law requiring them to declare publicly their assets, especially before they run for election.
Of what good is doing so only to the prime minister?
Someone hoping to be the next United States president has to declare his assets to the public. Indonesia has been doing the same including for presidential and gubernatorial candidates since post-Suharto about 19 years ago. Despite this open policy, there has been no single report on any of the candidates being hunted by robbers and gangsters and their lives threatened.
Given the situation in this country, it is thus perplexing why anyone should ask Mukhriz to reveal to us the source or sources of his wealth. Even if someone suspects that he has been up to no good, it is not for Mukhriz to prove his innocence. Rather it is for his detractors to prove the case against him.
So until and unless someone has something that he thinks he can use against Muhkriz through the proper channels, like taking him to court, you cannot see why Mukhriz be compelled to appease his critics.
Over the years journalists who have covered politics should remember that when word went around about a certain minister’s wealth, we would hear a justification like “I used to be with a law firm before I entered politics and later became a minister”.
Likewise, Mukhriz can just say that he too was in a (legitimate) business dealing in fibre optics before he was active in politics. Some say he made quite a pile then.
If our leaders truly want Malaysians to be less sceptical, one way is to follow countries that require politicians to declare publicly their assets. This allows for open scrutiny and the clean ones have nothing to worry. It is a policy that will only enhance the reputation and integrity of our politicians and the government.
Also somewhat strange is Mahathir’s latest statement that he will declare his assets publicly only if he is chosen by his Pakatan Harapan as a candidate in the next general elections. But he never thought this necessary when he led the country for 22 years.