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As Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin begins the arduous process of trying to form a cabinet, one theme that keeps coming up repeatedly is the need for a clean government. That it is what all Malaysians want is not in doubt but is it an impossible dream?

In the first place, can a prime minister who came to power on the back of duplicity and betrayal suddenly come up with a cabinet of men and women of integrity and honour?

Muhyiddin’s coalition is also so fragile it can’t agree on a cabinet and can’t even agree to meet to formalize their unholy alliance. Intense horse-trading is undoubtedly going on. Because he is so dependent on UMNO and PAS to stay in power and get through the anticipated confidence motion when Parliament reconvenes, Muhyiddin is going to have to shake hands with the devil to survive.

Cabinet hopefuls may all feign disinterest in a cabinet post and give sanctimonious speeches about only wanting to serve the people but have no doubt that a mad scramble for posts and the spoils of office is well underway.

The big question is whether Muhyiddin will have to accept UMNO leaders who are now facing criminal charges. Will secret deals be made to drop all corruption charges against UMNO leaders in exchange for their continued support? Will Muhyiddin cling to power whatever the cost?

The departure of two key officials (Tommy Thomas and Latheefa Koya) involved in bringing corrupt UMNO leaders to justice is a serious blow to the whole anti-corruption campaign. The special prosecutors appointed by Tommy Thomas might well be next. All this makes it more than likely that many of those now charged with multiple crimes will not only get off scot-free but will soon be back in power.

Whatever the outcome of the corruption trials now underway, the general view is that most of our politicians (and their families) are utterly corrupt.  It is one of the reasons why even Pakatan Harapan was never keen on a UK-style unexplained wealth ordinance that would have put the onus on anyone with suspicious wealth to explain the sources of their income. For the same reason, the political establishment has always been cautious about giving the anti-corruption agency too much independence and power. They all have their dirty secrets to hide.

If a former minister can leave behind an estate worth more than RM1.3 billion while another admits to having a personal net worth exceeding RM940 million, what must the others be worth?

If Muhyiddin is really interested in appointing a clean cabinet, I suggest that he demand all cabinet appointees to publicly declare their assets together with their income tax returns for the last 10 years. No doubt that would immediately eliminate most, if not all, of those now anxious “to serve” that nation.

Whatever it is, after decades of widespread and pervasive corruption, the idea that a clean government can be formed is simply absurd. There are just not enough clean men and women available to Muhyiddin to fill a Myvi what more sit around the cabinet table. Muhyiddin might as well be trying to shovel smoke.

[Dennis Ignatius |Kuala Lumpur |6th March 2020]