Malaysia Dateline

Cynthia Gabriel

Anti-graft group urges Putrajaya to emulate Selangor in declaring wealth

Anti-graft group C4 Center today welcome the Selangor state assembly’s proposal to require all state assemblymen to declare their assets and financial interests.

“This effort should be emulated by other state governments and most importantly by our federal government,” said C4Center director Cynthia Gabriel.

She compared the move with Putrajaya’s rule for cabinet members to declare their assets.

“Federal level asset declaration is akin to ‘secret society’ operations,” said Cynthia, referring to the requirement on ministers to merely disclose information on their wealth privately to the prime minister.

Cynthia said such a method defeated the purpose of assets declaration.

“Declarations kept behind close doors, defeat the very purpose of such an exercise, disallowing other members of the government and the public from scrutinising how tax payers money is managed and assisting in pointing out discrepancies,” she said.

Under new amendments announced by Selangor speaker Hannah Yeoh, the state assembly’s Rights and Privileges Committee has the power to order any assemblyman to submit their declaration.

Assets declaration in Selangor currently only applies to Exco members.

“The amendment is being done for us to improve Selangor’s democracy system and governance of the state assembly,” said Yeoh.

Cynthia said the move to scrutinise through the assets and financial interests of all elected representatives was a formidable push towards greater transparency and accountability, and was needed “now more than ever” in the wake of revelations of billions of dollars ending up in the prime minister’s personal bank accounts.

She said high-ranking public officials must take the oath for accountability, adding that the excuse over safety of those who declare their wealth could reflect poorly on the Malaysian police’s ability to fight crime.

“It is no longer acceptable that given the state of corruption and fraud by top public officials in Malaysia, asset declaration of public officials must be made compulsory in Malaysia,” said Cynthia.

“This is after all, a major criteria for us to be included in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) group of countries.”