KUALA LUMPUR: The move by the current government to make it compulsory for all parliamentarians to declare their assets shows the government’s commitment to fighting corruption and increasing integrity in corporate governance.
It would also boost the public’s confidence in the efforts by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to combat corruption, a promise it made in its manifesto during the 14th general election.
Local political analysts feel the effort must be made to create a cultural eco-system of integrity and corruption-free so that Malaysia will be on equal footing with other developed nations in upholding integrity.
According to Professor Dr Zaid Ahmad from the Department of Government and Civilisation Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), those who are in positions which expose them to issues of integrity, especially politicians, must uphold the trust given by the public.
“It should also be extended to state assemblymen as their functions and roles are the same as members of Parliament, only on a smaller scale.
“However, this is only an effort and there is no guarantee that corruption will be eradicated because it is connected not to just one factor. Rather, it is an eco-system,” he told Bernama.
On July 1, the Dewan Rakyat unanimously passed a motion making it compulsory for all parliamentarians to declare their assets, as well as those of their spouses, children and trustees in a statutory declaration.
The statutory declaration must be submitted to the Dewan Rakyat Speaker within three months from the date the motion was passed and a copy sent to the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
The list of members of parliament who have declared their assets will be on the MACC portal and only the details of the asset declaration will be displayed on it for three months from the date the statutory declaration was received by the MACC.
Members of Paraliament who fail to do so will be referred to the Parliamentary Rights and Privileges Committee under Standing Order 80 of the Dewan Rakyat for violating the rights and privileges of the house.
If a member of parliament is found making a false declaration, the individual would be subject to Section 3 of Act 783 and Section 199 of the Penal Code and if convicted, could be sentenced under Section 193 of the Penal Code which provides for a maximum of three years in jail and fine.
Commenting on the same issue, geostrategist and former lecturer of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Azmi Hassan said asset declaration by politicians is not a strange thing because it has been practised in developed countries either through legislation or on a voluntary basis.
“This is a noble move by the government because this means constraints have been put into place making it difficult for politicians to acquire wealth illegally. This is because politicians, especially those holding posts, are constantly faced with the risk of corruption.
“But it must be stressed that this move is not something which cannot be manipulated because those who are corrupted will find ways to circumvent the regulation to declare their assets,” he said.
Azmi also advised all parties to be alert about the asset declaration so that it is not abused by those who would use it as a political tool to eradicate their political enemies.
Political analyst and social science lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Prof Dr. Sivamurugan Pandian said the move by the government was appropriate as it would help leaders from being trapped in the game of perception or efforts against them as politicians.
“This move is important and must be supported as it transcends political interests. It should apply to all levels of leadership, including state assemblymen. There should be steps taken to show the seriousness of the government in implementing it,” he said.
Similar views were also expressed by dean of the College of Law, Government and International Studies, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani who said the government’s move would help eradicate corruption.
“We still do not have laws on political sponsorship. This first step to declare assets is necessary to ensure transparency in governance. If this move is successful, it should be applied to state assemblymen too,” he said.