Does asset declaration by candidates make any difference?


Does asset declaration by candidates make any difference?
By Zan Azlee

I browsed through PKR’s website recently because I was interested in seeing how much in assets their candidates had. It really was more of a kaypoh (busybody) reason rather than anything. As I was looking through everyone’s statutory declaration, it felt like I was googling the net worth of different celebrities.

I wanted to see the lifestyle of the rich and famous – the mansions with how many rooms they were living in, how many Bentleys they had in their garages, and what their chefs cooked for them on a regular basis. I really wanted to watch a TMZ expose video and then gossip with my friends about it.

Instead, a majority of the candidates seemed like normal middle-class people with a decent amount of assets balanced out with a decent amount of loans and commitments. Not much different than me and other people I know. They would have one or two moderately valued houses, a car or two, loans to match, and some savings.

In general, this made me feel like these candidates, if voted into Parliament, would do a decent job of representing my segment of the population. We all want to feel represented, so that is a good thing. Of course, they could have proxies where their assets could be parked under, but let’s not be too cynical.

Unwillingness to declare assets suspicious

Is there any use in having politicians declare their assets? PAS politicians definitely don’t think so. But I feel like their reasoning is quite illogical. The party’s vice-president Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah was reported to have stated that PAS leaders are not wealthy at all so it would be embarrassing to declare whatever they had.

But then PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang said it differently. He said that the declaration of assets is stupid and it is just a form of showing off. But if they have nothing to declare because they are so poor, then what are they showing off? All this makes no sense to me. But then, when do PAS leaders ever say anything that makes sense anyway?

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang

I think the declaration of assets is quite a good thing. For one, it means that we can see and question how elected leaders make their wealth and if it was obtained through unscrupulous means. So when we hear of politicians not wanting to declare their assets, it makes it seem just the more suspicious.

Even the way they declare their assets can make it suspicious. For example, PKR’s candidate in Sungai Buloh, R Ramanan, declared his assets but in such a general way that it just begs questions. Worth RM60 million, he refused to detail what assets were accumulated to make him worth that amount or what his source of income is like.

So, would you want somebody who isn’t transparent with his huge wealth to be in public office? I can’t make that decision for you but I know where I stand when it comes to it. You all make up your own minds and then sleep in whatever bed that you make.

R Ramanan

The key is transparency

There is another reason I think asset declaration for candidates is a good thing, but it could be contradictory to whatever I have mentioned. If somebody is already very wealthy, it would mean that they don’t need money and therefore, will not be susceptible to corruption.

Why would they need to if they already have so much, right? Then it could be seen that they are really dedicating their lives to public service and not expecting any financial rewards. But of course, the issue of transparency is very important because we need to know where all the wealth came from.

What do you readers think? Are you appreciative of these candidates willingly declaring their assets? Or do you think it serves no real purpose and doesn’t make any difference to how you vote? Let us know in the comments below.

As far as I am concerned, it makes me think a little bit. But it sure makes for entertaining conversations between my wife and I – “Hey sayang! Look at this candidate! He has practically nothing in his EPF! And this other one seems to be taking too many loans than he can afford!”.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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