SECRECY WILL ONLY ENCOURAGE MORE CRIMES

Posted on January 20, 2012

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While the reasoning behind it may require quite some understanding let alone acceptance or assent, the announcement made by the defacto law minister about why “Revealing the asset declarations of ministers and their immediate family members to the public should not be done…” (as reported by Malaysiakini.com, 12:20PM Jan 19, 2012), it is nevertheless good that there is now in black and white an answer to the question I had posed in my blog. That is, when I am at the polling booth come the next general elections, I will ask myself, “Which of the two contesting political party coalitions will be more likely to move against those who have allegedly committed crime against the country by misusing the people’s financial resources?”

The timing is perfect. The question was posed on January 17 and this answer (albeit inadvertently) came in within two days. What remarkable service! I have no doubt whatsoever that the minister was honest and open in making the point. The reason he reportedly gave was that such revelation regarding assets of ministers and their immediate family “may endanger them” (again as reported by Malaysiakini.com). Here again I am not questioning the minister’s concern; in fact to a certain extent, I can even agree with him on his concern.

What concerns me is that in being open in the way he had spoken about the issue of asset declarations by government ministers, the prescription he made, nevertheless, was to revert to the practice of secrecy. According to reports, the minister had said that such asset declarations by cabinet ministers are to be made only to the prime minister and only if there are allegations of corruption, also to the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission). I am afraid that this falls far short of required good governance protocols and such a prescription gives little if any confidence or satisfaction to many already very concerned Malaysians who fear for the resources, financial or natural, which they have entrusted to the powers that be.

Like anybody else, including cabinet ministers, I too believe that we human beings need and should have a certain degree of privacy without which life will be rather uneasy and troubling. But personal privacy can never be absolute. Certainly not to the extent that personal freedom and privacy will engender as well as hide crimes committed against others. Many countries including our own are fond of telling other countries to mind their own business or back yard and not try to sound the alarm about dirt in our garden. While there is some credibility in such arguments, if I should be committing spouse or child abuse in the privacy of my own house, should my neighbours who come to know about this remain forever silent? Is this good neighbourliness? If there is a fire in my neighbourhood, I shouldn’t call the fire brigade because it isn’t my own house on fire?

Self-monitoring or internal monitoring isn’t sufficient to fight crime or put out fires (of all kinds). Prevention is better than cure. If given the choice, and we do have the choice in a democracy, I would prefer that the government in my country does not have the choice to monitor itself. I say, to “SAVE THE PEOPLE’S MONEY” which is critically important for our present generation as well as our future generations, holders of public office must be required to publicly declare assets in their names as well as their immediate family members’ names.
If I can’t or won’t do this, then public office is not for me. To a certain extent, it may be unfair that servants of the people are forced to surrender their right to privacy. For certain, there are out there unfair critics who will abuse good governance practices and processes for their own benefits. Indeed, some critics will abuse such or for that matter whatever available facility to put others down. In this respect, education is required by people on both sides of any argument.

Be that as it may, to fight corruption involving public money and other resources, self and internal monitoring isn’t enough and cannot be a safeguard. If the people’s resources are to be secured, we will need the resolve to have public disclosure of personal assets alongside other effective instruments of accountability to ensure that no sin against the people will be effectively kept from exposure and discovery. In this matter, secrecy will only encourage more crimes against the people with impunity.

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Posted in: Elections