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Malaysians, take a bow – you deserve it

August 3, 2020

* Plundering Idiot
* The fall of Malaysia’s ‘Man of Steal’
* The spin about ‘untouchable’ Najib
* Banker convicted for turning blind eye to Malaysian 1MDB funds
* All you need to know about: The High Court’s judgment on Najib’s SRC trial
* EXCLUSIVE! – PN secretly shelves $3.5bn 1MDB case against Abu Dhabi/IPIC in favour of ‘royal negotiations’! 

The events that took place five years ago this week were so alarming that they remain etched in memory.

It was late on a Saturday evening when the call came. The caller wanted to meet – urgently.

“The crackdown has started,” he said. “They are after us.”

When we met, the details unfolded. The then Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisory board member Rashpal Singh had been arrested on his return from London; anti-money laundering secretariat member Jessica Gurmeet Kaur and MACC deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Sazilee Abdul Khairi had also been taken in.

The Star had reported: “Three people linked with agencies in the special task force probing the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) controversy have been arrested to assist in police investigations involving Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the latest police action was also in connection with the ‘leaking of official government information that was misused by certain parties’.”

We exchanged notes: “You have to help us. Abu Kassim Mohamed (who had just retired as the MACC chief) is recuperating after surgery and Mohd Shukri Abdull (photo) (who was the then MACC number two and was in the United States) is busy “fighting from outside with the establishment to protect his officers.”

What could an ordinary scribe do? I was then a member of the MACC’s advisory panel, and I conferred with fellow members. We agreed (not unanimously though) that then chairperson Johan Jaafar should issue a stern statement, which he did.

The then chief secretary to the government, Ali Hamsa had transferred two senior MACC officers to the Prime Minister’s Department. The order was rescinded only after Shukri read the “Riot Act” and threatened to arrest Ali for “obstructing a MACC officer from carrying out his duties”.

Bahri Md Zin, the MACC’s Special Operations Department defiantly stood up against efforts to undermine, stall and disrupt investigations into the SRC case. He took everything on his chin and held the fort, so to speak, until some semblance of order returned.

Unsavoury episodes

Morale was low. Most of the top officers were jaded, worn out and fed-up after a couple of unsavoury episodes and directions that bordered on illegality.

It later appeared that some officers involved in the SRC probe were ordered to “mengadap” (seek an audience with) a lady at her residence in Precinct 16 in Putrajaya. She demanded to be updated on the progress of the investigations.

The then attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail (photo) had already been unceremoniously marched out from his Putrajaya office, and the task force (set up to investigate the 1MDB case) comprising him, Abu Kassim, Khalid and the then Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz was petering towards oblivion.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd who came to bid goodbye to Abu Kassim, Shukri and Mustafar Ali, all of whom were leaving the MACC.

In the meantime, then minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman was already beating the war drums by clamouring for increased penalties under the Official Secrets Act. Everyone was getting worried about the truth that was being published in foreign publications and forwarded by social media platforms to the people would be buried.

Gani’s successor, Mohamed Apandi Ali increased the heat by saying he was considering a heavier sentence for those involved in leaking national secrets and those who reported the news about the secret. Offenders were looking at a life sentence and 10 strokes of the rotan.

But everyone knew that no secrets were being leaked but the bitter truth of how billions have been siphoned out from government coffers by a selected few.

Along with such onslaught, the media too became victims. The Edge, which was in the forefront of unfolding the quagmire of 1MDB deals, was suspended. The weekly together with its sister publication The Edge Financial Daily were suspended for three months.

Earlier, its publisher Ho Kay Tat was arrested and then released without being charged. The hegemonies and dominions within the establishment that controlled 1MDB were at work. Even the minions who were used as puppets were not spared.

All these moves – legal or otherwise – were aimed at preventing the emergence of truthful information on the financial scandals of IMDB and specifically, SRC International. Telephone calls were monitored, MACC officers were followed and for a brief period, many played a cat-and-mouse game with the surveillance team.

Established systems were destroyed, procedures were thrown out of the window, and there was scant regard for rules and regulations. Families were ruined, and many lives destroyed. Careers were wrecked, and lives and lifestyles changed forever for some.

Unsung heroes

Why all the nostalgia and walk down memory lane? The events that unfolded at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur last week have direct relevance to these events five years ago.

With the appointment of Tommy Thomas (photo) as the attorney-general, the wheels of justice which had cranked to halt were revived, and the tributes paid to him and lead prosecutor V Sithambaram are more than justified.

Those bullied, pillorised, chastised and reprimanded for doing their duties responsibly have been vindicated. The days, weeks and even months of isolation and solitude as well as being treated as outcasts have not been wasted.

There are perhaps several hundred unsung heroes who played their role in seeing justice done. Not everyone can be identified and named as many worked incognito behind the scenes, pouring over spreadsheets night after night.

Forensic accountants worked with investigating officers to trace every single transaction through a maze of bills, statements and payment vouchers to put the puzzle together.

There were many other minor players including journalists who (sometimes provided useful leads) supported and disseminated the truth – much to the chagrin of editors controlled and manipulated by the establishment. For a period of time, the acronym “1MDB” never appeared in print or heard in the electronic media.

There were drivers, peons, despatch riders and other individuals whose efforts brought about the change that was desired and long overdue.

The biggest credit goes to you, the Malaysian, who went to the polling booth and helped change the government on May 9, 2018.

If you had not stepped out of your comfort zone and made the change, we would have never heard of all the billions that were looted from our country, the opulent lifestyles of leaders and their wives, the numerous bank accounts and the money laundering, and other excesses which bled the country dry.

To Malaysians overseas, your effort to get those domiciled elsewhere to vote was commendable. Waiting at airports to get the ballot papers so that the change could be made has been appreciated by all Malaysians irrespective of colour, creed or religion.

For a good measure, some of the perpetrators could have, and would have, used the stolen money to escape to freedom in private jets. The spontaneous support of the people prevented this. You, the rakyat of Malaysia, stood up to be counted.

If not for you, in a worst-case scenario, the kleptocrats and thieves would still be running our country, and the looting and pillaging of the country’s wealth would still be going on.

* * *

R NADESWARAN says the damage done to many people’s reputations can never be repaired, but the consolation is that they have been vindicated. Comments: citizen.nades22@gmail.com. – Mkini

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