In the age of social media, the concept of “innocent till proven guilty” has been flipped on its head. But with the scandals we’re hearing about all the time, you cannot blame Malaysians for being cynical and assuming the worst in our politicians.
As recently demonstrated by Gerakan’s Andy Yong, our politicians have taken notice of the public’s willingness to pull out the pitchforks at the slightest hint. Following the MACC arrest of Ampang PKR Youth chief Adam Rosly, Yong said it was not justifiable to go after politicians just because they seemed to be living beyond their means. He pointed out that many politicians could be investigated and arrested if this were the reason for investigation.
He seemed rather uncomfortable with the idea that a politician’s wealth could be scrutinised for evidence of corruption, misappropriation, embezzlement and so on if it was perceived that they lived beyond their means.
The average MP draws a monthly salary of RM16,000. While that is more than the amount the average middle-class Malaysian makes, it is still not impressive. Walking around with fancy watches, driving in fast cars and living in a luxurious house – or houses – on that salary does seem rather suspicious. Sure, the MP may have his own money from a previous occupation. But the public does not know and does not care, and unless an income proportionate to the properties and luxuries owned is declared, the first suspicion is corruption.
Given that these people purport to be public servants, the idea of declaring one’s income and assets so that the public can see whether or not a politician lives beyond his means should be compulsory. After all, accountability is the only cure for the social ill of corruption that seems to be ingrained at all levels of our society. Without that accountability, politicians must accept the fact that they are always under suspicion. A politician who looks too rich always irks us, partly because he cannot possibly understand the struggle of the common people and partly because the wealth of this “representative of the people” is, well, not representative of the people.
Adam Rosly has not been arrested for committing a crime yet, merely to facilitate investigations. The public hasn’t turned on him, and is more than likely maddened that yet another minor politician has possibly fallen into the corruption dragnet while the whales continue to swim freely. If Adam indeed has this “unusual wealth” that Jamal Yunos speaks of, perhaps he can explain it. Otherwise, he’ll have to resign himself to prison time and the disdain of the public.
Let’s not mince words, Andy Yong. “Unusual wealth” is enough of a reason to investigate or even arrest a politician in this day and age. The public does not trust politicians and the burden is not on the rakyat or the MACC to prove the innocence of politicians. They can do that themselves by doing as Rafizi Ramli has done and reveal details of their earnings through statutory declarations.
Scott Ng is an FMT columnist.