(Speech by the Parliamentary Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat when moving a motion to introduce a private member’s bill to be known as Ministers and Members of Parliament (Declaration of Assets) Act 1978 on October 18, 1977)
I rise under Standing Orders 49 to move a motion to seek leave of the House to introduce a private member’s bill to be known as Ministers and Members of Parliament (Declaration of Assets) 1978 Bill requiring every Minister and Member of Parliament to publicly declare his or her assets annually and that of the next of kin.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, has a personal reputation of being opposed to corrupt practices, the country has a National Bureau of Investigations, and every now and then we read of departmental heads requiring their public servants to declare their assets. But it cannot be denied that corruption in Malaysia is a rampant problem, with many top political and public servants possessing unaccounted wealth and property.
In Malaysia, the problem is not ikan bilis corruption, but corruption in high political and public places. In my mind, there cannot: be any effective war against corruption in the country unless there is an honest and incorruptible political leadership, where every political leader is prepared to subject himself regularly to public scrutiny and accountability to demonstrate that he has not abused his public or political office for personal monetary gain.
Of course, it is not possible to ensure that every political leader whether Minister or Member of Parliament is incorruptible, but there must be more satisfactory mechanism to weed out Ministers or MPs who make use of their political office for personal enrichment.
Political corruption takes many forms and has many causes. For instance, the annual allocation of $100,000 a year for Barisan Nasional Parliamentary
constituencies for minor development projects is a form of political corruption. Yet the Government cannot recognize it for what it is, which showed that it had a moral blind-spot which prevented it from discerning what is morally right and what is morally wrong.
Political corruption will remain a serious problem so long as politics is seen as a short-cut to riches and fortune, rather than as a form of service and dedication to the country and people.
The Far Eastern Economic Review, in its October 6 issue, carried an article of how a Ministry of Trade and Industry scheme to widen share ownership among bumiputras had been made use of by influential UMNO political leaders, including Ministers, Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen to acquire shares at very cheap prices and become rich overnight in contravention of the Ministry’s own regulations. The two share issues researched into were the East Asiatic Company (Malaysia) and the Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK). For instance, the book profit accruing to these special breed of highly political influential share-holders of KLK stock reached $1 million within a month of the issue in May this year.
More and more in Malaysia, politics is identified with money, to the extent that the politics of money has become a very unhealthy development, as it corrupts politics and politicians.
When I visited Sabah in February this year and Sarawak last month, I became aware of the pervasive power of money in politics. Although election laws limit election expenditures to $20,000 per parliamentary candidate, I do not think there is a single Barisan Nasional parliamentary candidate who spent less than $20,000. In Sarawak, the average election expenditure for a Barisan Nasional candidate is in the region of $200,000 to $300,000. understand that there was a Barisan Nasional parliamentary candidate seeking re-election who spent as much as $1.5 million.
When so much money is spent to get elected, one can legitimately ask what is at issue: money or politics? Those who spent vast fortunes to get elected will spend their term in office not only recouping their expenditures, but to reap back profits many fold! They will be more interested in making use of their elected office and term to get land, timber concessions, licenses, permits, shares which are underpriced, and all other short- uts to wealth and fortune.
The most effective way to curb such betrayal of public interest is to have a law requiring Ministers. and MPs to annually declare in public their assets and that of their next of kin.
Although at present, Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries are required to declare their assets to the Prime Minister when they take up their posts, this is not satisfactory- as evidenced by the fact that the public is not convinced that every member of the Cabinet could explain where and how his wealth had been legally and honourably acquired.
A law requiring a regular public declaration of assets by Ministers And Members of Parliament is a pre-condition to a clean, honest, and incorrupt Government.
Corruption has led to the downfall of many countries and the decay of many societies. It is the duty of Parliament to safeguard our country from such a disaster, and to enact laws which will ensure, to the best of human ability, that our public and high political leaders are men of integrity and incorruptibility-that they are not only clean and incorrupt, but can be constantly subject to public scrutiny and accountability to demonstrate their honesty and incorruptibility.