Sunday, May 19, 2013
In all honesty, I did not have high hopes for the appointment of Transparency International Chairman, Datuk Paul Low as a new Cabinet Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to bring about significant increase in transparency and reduction in corruption by the Barisan Nasional (BN) Government. However, I had hoped that I would be proven wrong.
I had hoped to see a newly appointed “Transparency Minister”, who even if he were to fail in ending corruption, cronyism and abuse of power in the BN Government, he would go down fighting for the cause while he is on the job.
However his interviews with the media today, with The Malaysian Insider and Malaysiakini have left me utterly and completely disappointed. Barely a day into his new job, Datuk Paul Low has started becoming an apologist for, and rationalising why corruption and abuse of power will be difficult to eradicate in the BN administration.
He said that his job was only to make proposals on changes to government systems, procedures and processes to reduce opportunities for corruption, as well as to strengthen integrity and good governance practices. Responding to calls for a crackdown on corruption, however, he said has no power on the matter and does not control any government agencies and “will help influence public policies where necessary to reduce corruption, including taking suggestions from MACC.”
He has also told the Singapore Straits Times “I am changing a culture and that cannot be done overnight.”
Datuk Paul Low must realise that he is being appointed as a full Minister, and not some paid consultant to the Government. If he as a Minister, have no powers or is not willing to put his foot down to fight corruption and abuse of power, then who will? Has our Cabinet appointments been reduced to pretty flower vases offering just “proposals… procedures and processes”?
As the Transparency Minister that Malaysians are going to look up to, Datuk Paul Low must stand up against corruption, cronyism and abuse of power and not succumb to the political shackles of his office. Datuk Paul Low cannot just tell Malaysians that MACC has the power to investigate Tan Sri Taib Mahmud for alleged corruption even if the latter refuses his cooperation. Malaysians already know that.
What Malaysians want to see is for our new Transparency Minister to show his teeth and tell the Prime Minister in no uncertain terms that the Government cannot have a Chief Minister so tainted by corruption and countless abuse of power. Malaysians want Datuk Paul Low to openly ask why the MACC has failed to investigate Tan Sri Taib Mahmud who has accumulated excessive amounts of wealth reputed to be in the region of RM45 billion, as estimated by the Bruno Manser Fund.
What hurts the most is for the President of Transparency International to openly defend the refusal by the BN Ministers to disclose their personal wealth using the same tired and unacceptable excuses sung by these same ministers to date. Datuk Paul Low said that “if you tell the public your kid is worth RM20 million, you put your children at security risk, it’s not fair” and hence “it was sufficient for ministers to declare their assets to the prime minister.”
Firstly, if even the children of Ministers are not safe under the close protection of the Royal Malaysian Police, what chance does the ordinary Malaysians have in avoiding crime? Secondly, and more importantly, aren’t the integrity and honesty of Cabinet members paramount to ensuring a corrupt-free nation? And if the child of the Minister is indeed worth RM20 million, don’t Malaysians have a right to ask where the money come from given that a Minister’s pay will never generate that amount of wealth?
What’s more, if the Pakatan Rakyat state executive councillors of Penang and Selangor can publicly disclose their assets, why can’t the BN Ministers do the same, unless they have something dirty to hide?
Datuk Paul Low’s appointment to the Cabinet was perhaps the only “bright spark” in the “same old” list. However the spark is being quickly doused before the fire has a chance to lit. Datuk Paul Low needs to be the champion for fighting corruption and cronyism in the Cabinet, and not become the bag carrier and make-up artist for Najib and his merry men.