PKR Youth leader Datuk Adam Rosly is not the first politician to get into trouble for owning an over-the-top house, nor will he be the last because politicians rarely learn from the mistakes of others.
FEW people outside of PKR had heard of Datuk Adam Rosly, but all that changed when pictures of his new house in Ampang went viral.
The house has been variously described as a “Disneyland castle”, a “Legoland model” and even a “palace”. It is a bit of all three in a parody kind of way.
However, the intriguing part was that Adam, who is Ampang PKR Youth chief, is already a Datuk at the age of 28 while the source of his wealth remains a mystery.
But everyone loves a millionaire and the handsome politician, who recently became a father, also owns a fleet of luxury cars including two Mercedes Benz, a BMW, a Mini Cooper and a Range Rover.
Like many people of his generation, Adam tends to live out his life on social media, happily posting pictures of himself doing political work, at the wheels of his new Benz, having a lobster meal and of his second home in Putrajaya.
His detractors have claimed that the house is worth RM7mil, but Adam said he got it at a bank auction for only RM1mil.
It was a house screaming to be noticed. The mish-mash architecture with three conical roofs stands out like a sore thumb among the humbler structures in the Malay urban kampung enclave of Ampang.
There are six Astro dishes on the roof, and part of the roof on the second floor is designed for outdoor entertaining.
PKR politicians are blaming their former colleague Badrul Hisham Shaharin, better known as Chegubard, who posted pictures of the house on Facebook last Sunday. It was like he had set off a firecracker and before you could even say “OMG!”, the media circus had arrived in Ampang.
Chegubard is one of those loose canons in politics, except that he enjoys a certain degree of credibility because he shoots at both sides of the political divide. He is an alpha male who says it like it is.
For instance, he had slammed the recent Pakatan Harapan convention as a “premature ejaculation”, in the sense that it was celebrated despite not achieving the desired conclusion.
Within days of Chegubard’s Facebook expose, Datuk Seri Jamal Yunos, the Red Shirts leader and poster boy of the Malay right wing, was demonstrating outside the house and ferrying reporters in a helicopter to take pictures of the house.
Adam’s house is now as famous as the Balinese palace in Shah Alam and the undervalued bungalow in Penang.
The first thing that came to mind when PKR politician Khairul Anuar Ahmad Zainudin heard about Adam’s house was the “istana Datuk Zakaria Deros” scandal in 2006.
Khairul was then in the Youth wing and had demonstrated outside the palatial residence of the late Umno politician on the outskirts of Klang town.
“I always tell my friends that two things caused the fall of Khir Toyo – the broom incident and ‘istana Datuk Zakaria’,” said Khairul.
The late Zakaria was a popular Umno assemblyman who got into trouble with the law as he built the house without approval and had not paid assessment for 12 years.
The house – which had a swimming pool, 16 bedrooms, 21 bathrooms and bowling lanes – became an allegory of all that was wrong with Dr Mohd Khir Toyo’s government.
An ornate arch over the gate to Zakaria’s house had the words Damai Abadi (eternally peaceful), but the house brought only infamy to his family. His career crashed and he suffered a fatal heart attack several days after Selangor fell in the 2008 general election.
That sad episode ought to have been the ultimate cautionary tale for all politicians, but history tends to repeat itself in politics.
The late Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat and his simple kampung house was lauded by all, but which politician would want to live like that?
“When Nik Aziz died, that era died with him. Be realistic, politicians want to move up. No one in his right mind expects a politician to live like an ascetic,” said social historian Dr Neil Khor.
But what is it about politicians and their residences that people find so fascinating?
During the 2009 Umno Youth election, pictures of Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir’s chic and deluxe house with its resort-style swimming pool were circulated to raise questions about his personal fortune.
The aerial shots of Mohd Khir’s villa were also the work of opponents in the Umno Youth contest. The pictures later fell into the hands of DAP politicians, who used it to build a case against him.
“When there is inequality between the haves and haves-not, there will be distrust for those who have unusual wealth. If you are a 28-year-old politician and your main calling card is a castle in Ampang, it creates doubts,” said Dr Khor.
Moreover, as political commentator Eddin Khoo pointed out, houses and cars are the more visible parts of a politician’s life. They cannot be stashed away in the cupboard like cash and jewellery.
Khoo finds it totally unacceptable and uncivilised to stalk somebody’s house the way Jamal did to Adam.
“Having said that, why do politicians need to show off their wealth or demonstrate this sort of noveau riche values? It really reflects our political culture when people use wealth as a demonstration of power,” said Khoo.
Adam has since taken down pictures of his house and cars from his Instagram account on the advice of his party colleagues.
For a while, he seemed to be enjoying the publicity and fame, and had thanked his friends for sharing the video of his impromptu press conference with Ampang MP Zuraidah Kamaruddin after lodging a police report against Jamal.
Despite the controversy, he is quite well-liked in the Youth wing and has used his wealth on welfare programmes in the community.
He is apparently very ambitious and has tried to style himself after Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, who is his idol.
He tries to talk like Azmin and do the things the Mentri Besar does like visiting problem areas and people in need. He even brings along his own photographer and bodyguard. He speaks well and has posted pictures of himself giving a tazkirah in a surau.
According to a PKR Youth politician, Adam had lobbied a righthand man of Azmin to offer himself as a candidate for the Bukit Antarabangsa seat, where Azmin is the assemblyman, if it becomes available.
That is bizarre, to say the least. Adam is not well-educated but he obviously believes that his wealth can help him to move up in politics.
Speculation about Adam’s wealth and lifestyle will probably go on for a while longer. He has not really explained the source of his wealth besides saying he is a “successful businessman” and that there are many rich young men like him.
As for his Datukship, he pointed out that, like Jamal, he got the title from the Pahang palace this year.
Accounts that his family is in the furniture export business or that he has an affluent adopted father who is a Tan Sri have all come from other people.
But PKR does attract many well-to-do middle-class supporters, especially around the Klang Valley.
One young and wealthy Selangor PKR Youth member, who became a Datuk recently, joked that he prefers to keep a low profile as he does not want helicopters flying over his house or Jamal rattling his gate.
Chegubard has scoffed at the explanations offered: “If there are so many young millionaires, it means the economy is booming and there is no more need to oppose the regime.”
However, Adam may soon be overshadowed by a new sensation. Chegubard has threatened to expose the wealth of another division Youth leader who reportedly has a reputation for collecting middleman fees.
This particular Youth leader is also fond of dropping the Mentri Besar’s name and several businessmen have complained to Azmin, who has asked them to lodge police reports.
“Our party likes to talk about integrity. Before we came to power, we condemned those who abuse their power. We should walk the talk now that we are in power,” said former PKR Pandan division chief Zakaria Rahim.
Supporters of Pakatan Harapan have asked Jamal to go check on the even bigger houses of Barisan Nasional leaders instead of picking on PKR politicians.
But the point is that Pakatan rode to power promising to be different or, as Donald Trump would put it, to drain the swamp.
Incidents like these are of no help to the party and Zuraidah, who is Adam’s division chief, could not counter the questions raised about her Youth chief.
Instead, she took to accusing Jamal of also driving an expensive car and demanded to know where he obtained funds for the helicopter ride. She also called him a few choice names like “Jamal Gorilla”, “Pinocchio” and “big bully”.
Too much power caused Barisan in Selangor to go into decline and lose power. Likewise, the new regime in this golden state is starting to sound like the one it replaced.
“When we talk about change, it is not just change from one government to another. We also need to transform the political culture,” said Khoo.