The Selangor Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) concluded its public inquiry into the expenses of the now-defunct Balkis on Wednesday, March 31.
Balkis was the welfare and charity organization set up by the wives of Selangor’s elected representatives during Barisan Nasional (BN) rule. It was hurriedly dissolved after March 8, and RM10m was transferred to Bakti, the charity organization for wives of federal government ministers. The legality of that dissolution and cash transfer is also being questioned, but that’s another issue.
Right now, I am disheartened by the absence of public outrage and mainstream media coverage on the abuse of power and privilege unearthed by the Committee. Consider just a few of the revelations:
1) State investment agency Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd (PNSB) spent almost RM1m on a Dec 2004 Eurodisney trip for then Selangor menteri besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, his wife, their three children AND maid;
2) Khir must have hankered for the real thing after seeing the European copy, so off he went to Disneyland in Orlando, Florida, in Jan 2008, just 2 months before historic March 8. Again, his wife, their three children and maid went along. Cost – about RM650,000 for their entire US jaunt.
PNSB CEO Datin Khairiyah Abu Hassan told the Committee that the trips were in preparation for setting up an 8 hectare theme park in Bagan Lalang. A very flimsy reason indeed which collapsed under further questioning when it transpired that Khir and entourage visited Disney as ordinary public guests, there were no meetings with Disney senior executives or technical personnel and no reports were submitted after the trips!
But where is the public outrage, and where is the disciplinary action by UMNO? The very senior UMNO politician has not denied spending RM1.7m of public money on a private family jaunt. RM1.7m is 68 low-cost houses; it can keep nearly 300 families out of hard-core poverty for a year. And that RM1.7m is just one of numerous other infractions. If UMNO is serious about reform, it needs to send a clear message. Abuse of power will not be tolerated. Transgressors will be expelled.
It doesn’t seem to be happening.
Also, what about the other Barisan Nasional coalition members? Silence implies consent, or at the very least, acquiescence.
Ask what politics can do for you and your family, not what you can do for the people sounds like an appropriate BN slogan.