June 12, 2017
The Unsung Heroes of 1MDB
by R. Nadeswaran/aka Citizen Nades@www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT | Two years is too short a time for events to be written as history, especially when a subject is constantly at the fore with one revelation after another. Any other issues would have “died” and would have been sent to the annals for “safekeeping”, but the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) cannot be consigned to the archives – as yet.
Even as Malaysians are fed with more information, or “allegations” as the officialdom wants to term them, it gets more intense day by day as details are provided in instalments with saucy details.
But before the adage that “Malaysians easily forget” is played out as we head towards the halfway stage of the year, there’s plenty we need to remind ourselves about.
The dark days of the beginnings of the 1MDB probe will one day be in our history books for certain, but Malaysians have to be continually reminded of how several personalities in important positions who were held in high esteem were brought down to their knees for political expediency.
Two years ago – July 4, 2015 to be exact – the the Attorney-General, Abdul Gani Patail announced that investigations had commenced into the allegations of funds transferred to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s personal bank accounts.
The multi-agency special task force consisted of Gani and three other tan sris: the then-governor of Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), Zeti Akhtar Aziz; the Inspector General of police (IGP), Khalid Abu Bakar; and the then Chief Commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Abu Kassim Mohamed.
A day earlier, responding to reports in The Wall Street Journal, the Prime Minister retorted: “I have never taken funds for personal gain as alleged by my political opponents – whether from 1MDB, SRC International or other entities, as these companies have confirmed.” He was to repeat the statement on July 8, reiterating: “I have never taken 1MDB funds for personal gain.”
But 24 days after the formation of the special task force, Gani joined the ranks of the unemployed on the grounds of his health; Zeti’s retirement from the Central Bank was confirmed; and Abu Kassim suddenly found a new vocation – lecturing at the International Institute Against Corruption in faraway Vienna. Khalid was the only one who was left unscathed.
On August 4, Gani’s successor Mohamed Apandi Ali disbanded the task force, and the Police more or less became the final arbiter in the matter of 1MDB.
It was the beginning of the drama and the spectacle which continues to be played out, the latest being revelations or allegations (whichever way you want to look at it) that the Prime Minister paid lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah a staggering RM9.5 million.
On August 1 2015, former adviser to the MACC Rashpal Singh had a police welcome party waiting for him at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport when he returned from a private visit to London.
What was his offence? Having tea with the editor of the whistleblower website Sarawak Report. Officially, he was supposed to have handed over state secrets, an allegation which never went beyond his arrest and subsequent release on the same day.
Also taken in were Jessica Gurmeet Kaur, a member of the secretariat for administration and finance of the anti-money laundering task force at the Attorney-General’s Chambers, and Ahmad Sazilee Abdul Khairi, a deputy public prosecutor seconded from the AG’s Chambers to the MACC.
Both were arrested, and subsequently released. The office and home of at least one of them was raided, and documents related to MACC’s investigations were reportedly removed.
Two MACC officers were transferred to the Prime Minister’s Department on a 24-hour notice, only for the order to be rescinded when the chief secretary to the government was reminded that he could be held liable for such actions under the MACC Act 2009, which were tantamount to “obstructing an officer from carrying out his duties”.
MACC officers became the focus of police investigations into allegations of the leaking of confidential information, and involvement in a supposed conspiracy to overthrow the government. Such actions did not go down well in the cabinet. The usually-sedate ministers kept silent.
But as the morale in MACC plunged, some token comments from a senator (who had no party affiliation) made sense. The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of governance and integrity, Paul Low was quoted as saying the police “are showing high-handedness”, and that it “is important that [MACC] do what they need to do”.
The chairman of MACC’s consultation and corruption prevention panel, Johan Jaafar, expressed “dismay over the spate of raids and arrests by the police”, and “reiterated the need for the agency to be allowed to execute its duties unhindered”.
But the war drums were already being beaten. Terse statements were made insinuating that officials within had leaked government secrets and details of the investigation. No evidence was provided. but the media made it appear as though some of these people had committed treason.
Then came the bombshell: Apandi was quoted by Sin Chew Daily as saying he was considering increasing the punishment meted out to those convicted of having leaked state secrets under the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA). This included life imprisonment and 10 strokes of the rotan. Who were these punishments aimed at?
Right-thinking Malaysians considered these proposed changes as an act of intimidation against straight civil servants, who were supposedly leaking information.
Apandi also warned the media and said the OSA would also be used against reporters who refused to disclose their sources for the leaked information they used in their reports.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman stoked the fire in a written reply in the Dewan Rakyat, stating: “The AG’s Chambers is of the opinion that it is time that the provisions relating to penalties in the OSA be reviewed in line with current developments in the spreading of information in a borderless world, and the frequency of leaks of government secrets in this present time.”
But all these “threats” have failed to stop the flow of information, complete with documents to support the claims. Attempts to discredit the sources of such information have failed. Even using Singapore as a conduit and bearer of good news has fallen flat, because the attempts were so blatant that everyone could see through the whole exercise. Similar efforts from elsewhere to suggest something sinister and conspiratorial have also failed.
As we move on, more revelations and disclosures can be expected. Some may just be blatant lies; others may be figments of someone’s imagination and perhaps some truthful statements. The ordinary Malaysian has to decide for himself or herself, and separate the wheat from the chaff. In the meantime, let us pay tribute to those who stood tall in confronting adversity.
While Malaysians remember the dreaded Operation Lalang of 1987 and pay tribute to those who found themselves incarcerated for the wrong reasons, let us not forget what happened just two years ago. During the last week of July and the second week of August, many were unjustly punished for carrying out their responsibilities.
They paid a price for diligently doing what they were supposed to do. No one overstepped the line but yet found themselves entrapped in the system. To these brave, honest, innocent, and dedicated men and women who were wronged, society will continue to recognise, acknowledge, and remember your courageous efforts.