Home Newsletters 2016 Newsletters 1MDB – still many questions for Najib to answer

1MDB – still many questions for Najib to answer

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The magnitude of the sums involved in the 1MDB financial scandal makes it imperative that the culprit(s) are brought to book, says Henry Loh.

Many Malaysians, especially those who have been keeping abreast with the infamous 1MDB financial scandal, would have been bemused to see The Star’s ironic 20 May headline, “Throwing the book at the corrupt.”

The news item highlighted the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s effort to work with the education and the higher education ministries to include anti-corruption modules in school subjects like language, moral and religious studies from the primary level. Their focus would be on integrity and good governance.

This initiative, at first glance, would seem like a classic case of doing too little, too late. But then others may say, better late than never. So perhaps it is best not to pour cold water on this noble objective.

But this MACC proposal also leads one to ask, “Why is it that so little has been done to allow the facts about the 1MDB financial scandal to surface?”

Have the MACC investigations over the 1MDB scandal not been thorough enough? Or are we looking at obstacles placed in the way of the MACC making it difficult for it to take action against the culprits? Exposes by the Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report have revealed lots of information; so why are these leads/allegations not followed up on and duly proven true or false?

Muhyiddin’s and Shafie Apdal’s sackings from the cabinet because they asked difficult questions point to the fact that something is very wrong.

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The ‘early retirement’ of the previous attorney general and the appointment to the cabinet of the previous Public Account Committee chairman – thereby stalling the PAC probe into 1MDB – are just a couple of the many examples revealing how some of our important institutions lack independence and effectiveness.

Concerned citizens are on a quest for the facts and the truth behind the 1MDB scandal. In an effort to get a little closer to the truth, we need to pressure the government to declassify and release the complete auditor general’s report on 1MDB.

We would also like to know why ‘certain information’ was allegedly directed to be deleted by Bank Negara from the finalised PAC report on 1MDB. The PAC report seems to point squarely to the ex-CEO, a certain Shahrol, for the financial mismanagement and irregularities at 1MDB. The report also highlights the failure of the 1MDB board of directors to scrutinise the management’s activities and its financial flows.

The role of 1MDB’s financial advisor, who happens to be the prime minister, receives little or no mention. Hence it is no surprise that WH Cheng has asked some difficult questions.

The magnitude of the sums involved in the 1MDB financial scandal makes it imperative that the culprit(s) are brought to book. The prime minister’s admission that indeed a sum of US$681m (RM2.6bn) had actually been credited into his personal account has been expediently explained away as a donation from a Saudi Prince with a note that US$620m was then returned.

So the official position is that this donation has nothing to do with 1MDB. Are we expected to just accept that as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

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Meanwhile the financial mess created by 1MDB will eventually burden the Rakyat if the sovereign fund is unable to repay the massive debts that it has incurred. It involves billions of ringgit and already 1MDB has defaulted on the interest payment (s) for a US$1.1bn loan obtained from an Abu Dhabi sovereign fund entity.

That the financial mess created by the 1MDB scandal would need to be cleared up by the finance ministry (as the sovereign fund’s obligations is guaranteed by the ministry) will eventually mean that the Malaysian public and/or the country’s natural resources will bear the burden. If this happens, it will surely be at the expense of more public hospitals, schools, universities and other infrastructure.

As lawyers, opposition politicians and civil society activists clamour for the truth ,the government is resorting to more repressive measures with the intention to intimidate and harass. The list of individuals being investigated by the police for sedition or any “activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy” seems to be growing, with no sign of abating.

Those who post critical comments on social media could be next. They could be targeted under amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act. Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asian division of Human Rights Watch, argues freedom of speech is under threat in the wake of revelations of financial scandals.

Internationally, ordinary Malaysians’ struggle for truth, freedom and justice was given a shot in the arm when Bersih 2.0, the coalition for free and fair elections , was selected as co-winner of the prestigious Gwangju Human Rights Award 2016.

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As chairperson of Bersih 2.0, Maria Chin Abdullah set out to Gwangju, Korea to receive the award. But she was stopped at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and was informed that she was barred from leaving the country.

Officials did not give her any explanation as to why she was being barred other than to inform her that the directive came from Putrajaya.

But thanks to modern technology she was able to submit a video of her acceptance speech to the organisers of the Gwangju human rights award 2016. Do watch the video and take a look at the Bersih statement concerning Maria’s travel ban.

So despite PM Najib trying to go about his duties and responsibilities as though it is BAU (or business as usual), his recent trip to London has proven otherwise. A short video clip from a Channel 4 News showed that the international media are also keen to find out the truth about the corruption allegations directed at PM Najib.

This video has racked up over 13,000 views – an indication that many are still concerned about the mega financial corruption scandal and want the culprit(s) to be made accountable and brought to justice.

If we care for this country, we must continue to struggle for institutional reforms and for truth and justice to prevail.

In solidarity,

Henry Loh
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
22 May 2016

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