By Mariam Mokhtar
The swearing-in ceremony of ministers and their deputies may make headlines now, but we must not lose sight and interest of the trials of Umno-Baru politicians at the High Court. The revelations of vast wealth, don't just raise eyebrows, they also raise our blood pressure.
Adnan Mansor, the former Minister for the Federal Territories, was apoplectic when he was forced to publicly declare his assets at the High Court, but it was the rakyat who were more livid when they finally found out that Adnan had assets worth around one billion ringgit.
The thought running through their minds was: "How did a former minister, and a third rate one at that, accumulate so much wealth? He is only a politician."
Few Malaysians are able to remember any of Adnan's policies which contributed towards the success of the nation.
On the other hand, they recall how he blasted the homeless NGOs and told them they could not operate their soup kitchens within a two-mile radius of the KL city center.
He blamed the homeless and vagrants for marring the image of KL. He said the image of beggars on the streets deterred tourists and showed the ugly side of the city. He also said that soup kitchens created litter problems.
Meanwhile, individuals who helped in the soup kitchens alleged various tactics which had been employed by the authorities to discourage the homeless people from sleeping on the streets, at bus stops, or on the pavements.
Adnan's multi-millionaire status is an insult to the homeless of KL. No wonder he did not want his assets to be made public. Just imagine how a cash injection of a few million ringgit could have helped the NGOs alleviate the accommodation problems and health issues of the homeless.
Not all of the homeless lack qualifications to find jobs. Many have migrated from towns and rural areas where there is a lack of employment opportunities. In some parts of KL, several of these displaced people live in one room.
Last Wednesday's revelation about Adnan's billionaire status was revealed on the second day of his trial when he had to present his defense to a charge of accepting RM2 million from businessman Chai Kin Kong.
His assertion that a RM2 million bribe was chicken feed is a further insult to the rakyat.
Many will recall that in previous years Adnan had adamantly refused to declare his assets despite the call for MPs to list them. He claimed that he had already shared the information with three prime ministers: Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Abdullah Badawi and disgraced Najib Abdul Razak.
In 2001, when Dr Mahathir was PM, Adnan had assets worth RM938,643,566.16. In the following years, he made similar declarations to the PMs at the time. In 2006 he had assets worth RM711,325,822, in 2013 the assets were worth RM691,770,649, and in 2016, his assets were RM782,748,061.
A furious Adnan refused to make his assets known to the public because he claimed that the issue would be sensationalized. He said, "That's why I feel I have been deprived."
Deprived or depraved?
So how did Adnan become so rich? He is not known to be a wizard in business, nor does he strike us as being the Malaysian Alan Sugar or genius Bill Gates.
During his trial, Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan ordered that the details were heard for the trial to be considered transparent and fair.
We know why Adnan was livid. He did not want us to know his true net worth nor how he accumulated his wealth. He has insulted the ordinary Malays who have been told to tighten their belts and to accept the austerity measures dished out by successive governments, and to work harder even though many already hold down two or three jobs, and have scaled back on their daily expenses.
In 2016, despite repeated calls to declare his assets, he refused to comply because he said he and his family would be targeted by robbers and kidnappers.
At the time, several senior ranking officers, including those with the honorific “Datuk” had been investigated for corruption.
With the rise in cases being investigated by the MACC for corruption involving civil servants, the call for people who hold crucial positions in government service to declare their assets is all the more important. It is not a flippant request.
We expect both ruling and opposition MPs as well as senior civil servants to help fight entrenched corruption. We are all too familiar with individuals thinking that public service is a chance to amass a vast fortune.
Poor Malaysians are imprisoned for stealing a tin of sardines while the fat cats steal millions of ringgit with impunity.
The rakyat are bound to wonder how many politicians have become multi-millionaires or billionaires.
1. New Straits Times: No KL soup kitchens in 2km radius from Aug 16: Tengku Adnan
2. New Straits Times: Ku Nan's application to set aside order for surrender of passport dismissed
3. Free Malaysia Today: Court says 'no' to Ku Nan's bid for assets declaration to be heard in-camera
4. New Straits Times: Ku Nan: RM2 million is just pocket money for me
5. MySinchew: Ku Nan's RM800m wealth under probe: MACC
(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)