Can a Cabinet Minister be a director of private firm?

Speech by DAP Organising Secretary, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at the second anniversary dinner of the DAP Penang Branch at Violet Café, Jalan Magazine, Penang on Saturday, 1st March 1969 at 8p.m.

Is it proper for a minister of the Cabinet to be one and the same time a director of a private firm?

Is it proper, say, for a Minister of Commerce and industry to be also a director of a private manufacturing firm, or for a Minister of Housing to be a director of a private firm dealing with the sale of construction materials?

I ask the Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, and the Director of Anti-Corruption Agency, Inche Harun bin Hashim, this question.

When the Anti-Corruption Agency was set up early last year, its Director, Inche Harun bin Hashim, hit the headlines continuously, with his announcement of anti-corruption measures, and his determination to act against all those dealing with corrupt practices – including politicians. He said no one was too high or too low for him to investigate.

We invite Inche Harun to investigate into the financial affairs of all Cabinet Ministers, and in particular, to find whether they are also sitting on boards of directors of private firms. If Inche Harun is prepared to institute a thorough and public inquiry, I will furnish him with some details.

The Malaysian public would want to know whether it is the policy of our Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, to allow his Ministers to serve as directors of private firms when they are serving in the Cabinet. If not, we want to know what action he would take against those ministers who are also directors of private firms. If this is the deliberate policy of the Alliance Cabinet, we want to know what justification there is for it, and the Ministers concerned who are getting payments from private firms for their directorships.

The Malaysian public is entitled to know the full details of this matter. One reason why corruption in Malaysia has become so rampant is that the political leadership set the bad example to the lower ranks of the civil service to follow.

Unless the political leadership, led by the Cabinet, can set the example of incorruptibility, all the Haruns and Anti-Corruption Agencies will not be able to break the back of corruption, apart from frying small fish who are caught trafficking $1 to $100.

This may be the reason why the Alliance is opposed to the DAP call for legislation requiring every Cabinet Minister, Mentri2 Besar, State Executive Councillors to annually declare their assets publicly, and to forbid their participation in business.

We hope the Alliance Cabinet and the Anti-Corruption Agency will give clear and satisfactory explanations to the questions I raised tonight, so that the people will know what standards our rime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, expects of his Ministerial colleagues. If we get no answers, then it is clear that they have a lot of shameful things to hide.