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MGG: A transparent mentri besar's hidden assets
By M.G.G. Pillai
6/11/2001 1:20 pm Tue
The times are hard for Malaysia's mentris besar. Dato' Abdul
Ghani Othman of Johore insisted upon compulsory AIDS testing for
Muslim couples intending to marry in the state. It backfired,
with egg on his face, and he beat a hasty retreat. In Selangor,
Dato' Mohamed Khir Toyo found, if a fraction of what I hear is
true, his experience in extracting teeth came in useful as mentri
besar for other extractions. When a journalist openly accused
him of corruption recently, it raised questions in the state
assembly that showed him, despite his assertive denials, to be
the master of extraction he allegedly is.
As usual, mentris besar gets their backs up when accused of
corruption: it is collective responsibility, they insist, so how
could they be corrupt? Indeed! It is, no doubt, the natural
love and affection of business men with projects in the state
have for mentris besar that cause them to leave unmarked parcels
in unmarked cash and kind when they come acalling, and it is only
much later that it is found to be with forbidden stuff. Since by
then they do not know who had given the money, especially since
they meets lots of people every day, including holidays, they do
not know to whom to send them back to. If they return the money
to the Khazanah, that would raise more questions than answers,
and the money itself may disappear into some one else's pocket.
Especially, he would also acquire an unjustified reputation of
being corrupt. That would not do.
To prevent all that hassle, these mentris besar have no
choice than to use the money -- not for themselves, but in the
name of the people who elected them -- for the betterment of
humanity, country, and incidentally, mind you only incidentally,
themselves. When the wife needs a RM500,000 diamond tiara for
the sultan's birthday celebrations, they could not take the money
from the state treasury, could they? These large caches of
unaccounted money come in useful, so that the state would not be
let down with the mentri besar's wife not dressed like the queen
she would dearly like to be.
In today's political climate, it is considered right and
proper that mentris besar acquire a reputation of being
thoroughly corrupt with being so. So, Dr Khir's predecessor, Tan
Sri Taib Mahmud, could go on a holiday to Australia with an
undeclared RM2.5 million in foreign notes, and he is elected an
UMNO vice president, after the initial hullabaloo. Since
Malaysia is an Islamic state, the mentris besar also must
practice it, and have at least enough wives to tell the world of
Malaysia's Islamic regime. That is also when that unexplained
caches of money come in useful.
But there are limits that must be respected: Do not be
accused of sexual peccadillos; it does not matter then whether
you are the Prime Minister's pet, or the accusations are false,
or the girl involved is lying, or her grandmother has a vested
interest in removing Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Chik as chief minister
of Malacca: he would be out. Worse, if you allow yourself to be
accused of homosexuality: again it does not matter if it true,
if the courts say you are, you lose your political office
and your freedom, but not your self-respect. If mentris besar
stick to the current norms of the office, you are safe and free.
Not quite. This was true at one time. Today, it is not.
Again it is not their fault. They have become the targets of a
larger political quarrel the Malays have with their Prime
Minister. So, when a Malaysian journalist, who made his name in
the alternate media, accused him of a propensity to corruption in
land deals, and it became an issue in the just concluded Selangor
state assembly, Dr Khir was right to believe he is targetted. It
does not matter in this instance whether the accusations are
true. He is a creature of the Prime Minister, who must be put in
his place, and so any allegation with a basis of fact gets the
credence it would not have just last year.
Dr Khir himself is clear in his mind, so he tells his
acolytes and friends, he is a one-term MP, and he is frightened
of not having the money to sustain a lifestyle he acquired in
office in private life. And since he is still only four decades
old, and he could live as long, imagine his fear if he should
live as long out of office. I hear his savings account increase
by month what that international business man of unquestioned
repute wanted from me. That might be scuttle butt, spread by
those who are jealous of the upright politician he is. The last
time I looked, he does not, unlike me, carry a tongkat and his
name is not Ali.
But these rumours are bad for his reputation. He should
show his anger at these rumour mongers and do what no mentri
besar, Barisan Nasional or opposition would dare: refuse to sit
on the committee that dispenses land to those business men and
the political satraps. Unfortunately, they insist they must be
there to ensure that his executive councillors are not corrupt.
There should only be only one corrupt man in the government,
where all bribes can be diverted to. Too many could well bring
the opposition into power. More frightening than the loss of
office and perks, is that the corruption would then shift to new
players. And UMNO could not allow that, could it? So, mentris
besar like Dr Khir must shoulder on in the national interest
while acquiring this un-Islamic reputation of being corrupt.
What a tragedy!