Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Expensive Gifts

As Pakatan Rakyat formed the state government in Selangor, its elected representatives have received increasing demands from corporate entities ranging from property developers to slimming centres to be the guest of honour at their launching ceremonies.

Some of the younger assemblymen have asked for advice as to whether they should accept such invitations. I told them to use their discretion, and by all means, if it is a reputable company with no intent of "using" you to endorse their products, feel free to attend such functions.

Corporations and businesses form the backbone of our economy and it is often useful to hear what are the challenges which they face. If some of the requests are valid such as unreasonable delays in processing normal business applications (whether to approve or reject), then we must certainly play our role to assist them in expediting the process. However, if we are asked to help secure approval for a particular project as they do not fully comply with existing by-laws and guidelines, then by all means ask them to follow proper channels.

I was the Guest-of-Honour at one such function last weekend, to launch a commercial property development project in Petaling Jaya. I was asked to replace one of the state executive councillor at the last minute due to certain urgent matters arising.

While I must say that I'm not at my most comfortable position doing so, I took the opportunity to add in my speech that as a part of the local community now, the developer and its management must have more dialogue and consultations with the local residents to ensure a balance between development and livability. While well-planned commercial development promotes vibrancy, excessive development kills livability.

Typically in such functions, the host will present us with tokens of appreciation, often things like plaques, pens or pewter mugs. But after having reached home and opening the gift parcel, I was taken aback by what was given. Yes, as the picture above shows, I received a Nokia E90 Communicator, worth approximately RM3,500.

Make no mistake, I love the phone and have been looking at it ever since it was first launched late last year. But surely, receiving such a "gift" for attending a launching function and saying a few words is more than a little excessive!

Subsequently, I did find out however, that it's not uncommon for certain elected representatives to receive these gifts, which ranges from luxury cars to Rolex watches(!)

The question then is, do I return the gift to the developer with apologies? Or do I sell the phone and use the proceeds for community purposes?

I wasn't the only party who received the gift. Loh Gwo-Burne of Kelana Jaya received the same item for attending the function. I had a quick discussion with him on what's the next best step.

After pondering over the issue for a short while, we agreed to sell/auction off the 2 phones to the highest bidders and use the proceeds to fund our respective service centres. After all, the financing of our service centres (rental, staff, equipment etc.) comes not from the Government (unlike Barisan Nasional MPs, opposition MPs gets zero assistance to set up such offices), but from public donations and out of our own pockets.

So, for all of you out there who are interested in a (or two) brand new Nokia E90 Communicator at a discounted price, please feel free to email me @ tonypua (at) yahoo (dot) com with your bid. Cheques should be written to "DAP Damansara Branch". Its for a good cause too! ;-)
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