On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Only time to say tidak boleh

The latest joke making the rounds involves a politician, a self- proclaimed religious expert and a lawyer, all members of a local political party.

The three were given an envelope with RM30,000 each by their pensioner friend. They were told that they must return the money when he died. “Just put the envelopes with the money in my coffin.  Don't ask me what a dead man is going to do with it. I will try to bless you and your family in my  after-life,'' said the old man.

At the funeral, all three did as they were told. On their way home, the religious expert confessed that he had just returned RM20,000.

“I don't think he would mind. I need RM10,000 for my organisation and it's for a good cause after all,'' he said.

The lawyer next confessed that he only left RM10,000 in the coffin.“He won't mind, he's already dead. I need the money to pay my debts,'' he justified.

The Yang Berhormat became upset, scolding the two for their lack  of trustworthiness.

“How can you steal from a dead man? It's pathetic and sinful. I am so ashamed I don't think I can talk to you. As for me, I do everything for the people, for development and for the country. Yes, I took away the entire RM30,000 but I gave the dead man a blank cheque, so my conscience is clear.''

Over the last week, even sceptical Malaysians must have been surprised at the swift action taken against certain public figures and senior government officials for alleged corruption.

They include former Malacca state executive councillor Datuk Sahar Arpan who was charged in court.Deputy primary industries minister Siti Zainab Abu Bakar was sacked for her involvement in the “missing'' RM1.8 million from the  Wanita Umno accounts.

At the same time, the Cabinet has approved heavier penalties sought by the Anti-Corruption Agency against those found guilty of graft.

It is significant to note that Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has  declared that elected representatives “should not only be clean but also seen to be clean, or we will lose our credibility.''

This is not the first time that Dr Mahathir has spoken against corruption. He brought up the matter at last year's Umno general assembly, stating his views on money politics.

Dr Mahathir's warning of a war against corruption came a day after Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced that all new state executive councillors must declare their assets to the ACA before taking office.

The actions of the top two leaders deserve the backing of all Malaysians. A strong political will is necessary to fight corruption. While it is often difficult to gather evidence in such cases, Malaysians want to see clear actions against  unscrupulous politicians.

The leadership should perhaps go a step further by insisting that those holding public office must declare their assets periodically.

To be fair, there are many Malaysian politicians who have given up a fortune to serve the country.

Unfortunately, there are those who believe that they would be in a better position to make more money, either legally or illegally, once they have the authority and right connections.

The time has come to send a strong message to those who spend millions on party political campaigns that there is no guarantee they will be rewarded with a government position.

While Malaysians should retain their “can do'' confidence and even be euphoric over Malaysia Boleh, a line should be drawn over matters involving ethics and public accountability and that's when we say tidak boleh.