As announced by the Election Commission on 5 July, the upcoming elections for the state legislative assemblies of six states – Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Selangor and Terengganu – will be held on 12 August, with nomination day being on 29 July.
The Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Center) urges each party or coalition to announce their commitment to asset declaration by political candidates, both during the lead-up to polling day as well as in their legislative agenda.
Article 8(5) of the UN’s Convention against Corruption (a universally binding anti-corruption instrument, which Malaysia ratified in 2008 and is thereby bound to) stipulates that state parties shall endeavour “to establish measures and systems requiring public officials to make declarations to appropriate authorities” regarding their investments, assets and substantial gifts or benefits from which a conflict of interest may arise.
Presently, Malaysia still does not have any statutory requirement for mandatory asset declaration by elected officials. Yet this should not be an excuse for political aspirants to not comply with the spirit of the convention – who are perfectly capable of volunteering such information to be made publicly available.
Asset declaration is an important element of open government policies, as it allows for increased transparency of the financial positions of those in power. The public availability of such information enables civil society to also serve as watchdogs to monitor potential instances of illicit enrichment and corruption. However, an important consideration is the extent to which candidates are truly honest when making such declarations.
Previously, asset declarations have been made by elected officials and electoral candidates which have not included sufficient details or which have doubtful veracity. Therefore, when making these declarations, C4 Center reminds candidates of the oath they must take upon election as members of the state legislative assemblies: to bear true faith and allegiance to their state and the federation. Their personal interests must never be allowed to conflict with or supersede their functions as public officials.
Therefore, we call upon all political parties or coalitions to require all candidates they nominate to declare their assets, movable or immovable, in a public manner. This may be done by making the declarations available on online platforms, and to submit copies to the office of the speaker of their respective state legislative assemblies, and must be accessible by the public.
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Further, we urge each party or coalition to insert the enactment of an asset declaration law targeted at elected officials and electoral candidates into their election manifestos, and to commit to this pledge upon coming into power in order to entrench mandatory asset declarations at the state level.
We welcome the decision by Kedah Barisan Nasional and the Pakatan Harapan alliance’s recent manifesto pledge that biennial asset declaration requirements shall be imposed upon the menteri besar, state executive councillors and assembly members, should the alliance emerge victorious. We urge all the other political parties to adopt a similar commitment.
Over the coming weeks, C4 Center shall also schedule meetings with each and every party or coalition in order to get their firm commitment to this matter. It is our genuine hope that this call to action shall be taken up by all candidates, in the best interests of their states and the electorate to which they are beholden, as well as to show their commitment to combating corruption within our society. – C4 Center