Newly-minted Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Paul Low should not adapt so quickly from President of Malaysian Transparency International to BN spokesman by being adept in BN’s culture of lies in explaining why Cabinet members should not publicly disclose their assets. Paul Low lied when the said that Penang Chief Minister and state exco members’ public declaration of assets whilst positive was ‘informal’ because officials who fail to declare their assets would not be penalised, or if the declaration is significantly inaccurate in reflecting a person’s wealth.
I wish to remind Paul Low that when he was Malaysian Transparency International President, he had lauded the Penang state government’s leaders for being the first government in Malaysia to publicly declare their assets. Instead of adopting a similar measure to uphold public integrity in the Federal government, why is he taking a different position now?
Penang’s public declaration assets are certified by an international accounting firm and a pledge signed by the EXCO members that they provided true and correct information. All EXCO members who fail to declare their assets will be unceremoniously sacked. Isn’t that a sufficiently harsh penalty to ensure full compliance?
The Penang state government has taken a step further by now requiring all elected Penang State Assemblymen, not just EXCO members to publicly declare their assets. Now that Paul Low is a BN Minister, he has swallowed the BN propaganda “hook, line and sinker” that publicly declaration of assets would threaten the personal security of Cabinet members.
What have Cabinet members have to hide? Penang state leaders have public declared their assets and yet our personal security has not been harmed. Perhaps it is because our assets are pitifully few to make much of an impact. If at all our personal security is threatened, it is by racists from BN supporters and Perkasa.
Would Paul Low take the lead by publicly declaring his assets?
Under the present BN system, a declaration of assets is made privately to the Prime Minister. How would one know whether the information supplied is accurate? With a public declaration of assets, there can be a checking and verification system in addition to that done by international accounting companies. As an accountant himself, Paul Low should know that such verification by international accounting firms are much more reliable, credible and trustworthy than government agencies monitoring and auditing the declarations, as government agencies are subject to Ministerial directives.
Behaving like a BN apologist to justify why public declaration of assets should not be implemented because it would discourage wealthy, talented and skilled persons from serving the public is unacceptable. Public service requires sacrifice and that “one must not only be clean but also seen to be clean”.
Would Paul Low take the lead by publicly declaring his assets? I still remember when Paul Low met me last year on Transparency International’s Integrity Pledge, he had refused my request that a public declaration of assets be included. Paul Low explained that by including the public declaration of assets into the Integrity Pledge, BN would not sign. Clearly he was tailoring the Integrity Pledge not to promote public integrity but to suit BN.
Paul Low must demonstrate that he can make a difference in cleaning up corruption in the BN Federal government by giving a clear and unequivocal commitment to promote public integrity. Only when the BN government commits to a public declaration of assets and implementation of open competitive tenders can convince the public. Anything less would only fuel suspicion that Paul Low is merely a plant and apologist to dress up UMNO and BN as anti-corruption.