Brave New World (The Star)
26 January 2012
Many MPs have their own businesses and professional careers, and frankly they need it. An MP’s pay is simply not that great.
WHEN I was a young boy, Chinese New Year meant getting money — lots of it. We would visit the homes of family friends and the red packets would be waiting.
I was trained to receive such gifts with grace. In other words, not to rip them open in front of the hosts and start counting.
So, I would patiently munch on peanuts and sip chrysanthemum tea, waiting for the time to leave and check out my loot.
In those days, getting a red packet that was light was considered a big deal. It meant that it contained paper money, and not coins.
One ringgit, two ringgit, this was big money. And if you managed to score a RM5 note, man, that was the jackpot!
As I got older, the red packets dried up but there were other things to bring amusement during CNY, like the Hong Kong comedy films that inevitably landed in our cinemas around this time.
This year, however, there was no need to hit the shopping malls to get my dose of laughs.
My favourite minister, Nazri Aziz, after being quiet for some time, gave me a hearty chuckle or two with his statement that ministers should not have their assets declared publicly because it may endanger them.
Endanger them from whom? The electorate?
I am guessing that he is thinking along the lines that if a person’s wealth is disclosed, then there is a threat of kidnapping and things like that.
Actually, if I were a kidnapper I won’t be sitting around waiting for an MACC report before choosing my target.
I could just get into my nondescript car and cruise around Damansara Heights and check out who lives in those giant, multi-million-ringgit mansions.
Or maybe I’ll hang around KL nightspots and observe which young man or woman steps out of a vehicle that costs the same as a luxury condominium.
There is really no need to wait for a public document to see who is rich and who is not.
But then, surely our hard-working elected officials have nothing to worry about. After all, they don’t live in mansions and their children don’t go scooting around in Ferraris, do they?
Actually, all this public declaration of assets business for me boils down to the issue of trust.
I find the whole idea of asking a person how much money and property he has, personally distasteful. It is just not a topic of conversation among polite society.
It can either be crass “I am a millionaire and I have loads of money”, or it can be intrusive “So, did you pay cash for this house?”
And I really don’t care if my elected officials are loaded or not. That is their rezeki.
Many MPs have their own businesses and professional careers, and frankly they need it. An MP’s pay is simply quite pathetic.
If you are an honest person, after you pay for your service centre and your staff you would barely have enough left to pay a mortgage, let alone live a life of luxury.
And I think it is unreasonable to say an MP has to stop all his business and professional interests when he or she becomes a minister.
However, when one is suspicious that power was abused in obtaining that rezeki, and that suspicion is reinforced time and time again by tales of corruption, perceived or otherwise, then it becomes necessary that such a distasteful activity be carried out.
I look forward to the day when we can trust our public and elected officials to the point that all this would simply not be necessary. Until that day comes, I am afraid that despite Nazri’s fear of politically-savvy kidnappers, a public declaration of assets for ministers is an absolute must.