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Courting the 1MDB elephant in the room

Image: freemalaysiatoday.com

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Mustafa K Anuar wonders why, despite an ongoing global investigation, the powers that be in Malaysia are shying away from this proverbial elephant.

It has been more than a year now since the humongous scandal surrounding 1MDB was brought to light.

A few countries, particularly those in which related money laundering was alleged to have occurred, have already initiated legal action against certain individuals allegedly involved in the mismanagement of this sovereign fund.

And yet, for reasons best known to them, the powers that be in Malaysia tend to shy away from this proverbial elephant despite it being made known to the world by whistleblower website Sarawak Report and the US Department of Justice. Many things have happened especially in Malaysia since then; some ludicrous, others inviting more pressing questions.

Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah, for instance, called upon Prime Minister Najib Razak to walk the talk when the latter recently preached to ordinary Malaysians not to take what rightly belongs to the rakyat. She insisted that Najib cease to be hypocritical and instead explain the billions that were found in his personal bank accounts.

If the allegations of corruption – which involve a maze of companies and business schemes that implicate Najib – are eventually proven true in a court of law, then the advice offered would sound rich coming from the very person mired in the controversy.

In an apparent move to placate the disbelief, curiosity, sniggers and even anger among many ordinary Malaysians over the 1MDB scandal, the sovereign fund recently appointed its new (and fourth) auditor, Parker Randall.

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Public expectation – at this juncture of the financial scandal, which has assumed a global dimension – is that this newly appointed auditor would carry out a thorough forensic investigation into this investment fund outfit that has overstretched itself big time.

But there’s a lingering doubt among concerned Malaysians, such as Anil Netto, who wonder how a relatively unknown auditing outfit called Parker Randall could or would dare to actually handle such a big and sensitive case. This supposedly nosey Parker has a gargantuan task on its hands.

The controversies and certain mysteries that hover over 1MDB have made many realise the importance of freedom of information and media freedom. Without these freedoms, politicians and civil servants and others in position of power would not be held accountable.

It is only when there is transparency in governance that the interests of the majority, especially the weak and the marginalised are secured and protected.

As pointed out by writer Anas Alam Faizli, in a social context where governmental secrecy reigns supreme, the role of whistleblowers cannot be overemphasised in our desire to have culprits brought to justice and good governance in the country established.

This is why Aliran is deeply disturbed by the harsh sentences meted out to Universiti Malaya students who demanded that the main culprit in the 1MDB scandal be brought to justice. This concern among students squares with the fear among the majority (including Bersih activists and supporters) in the country who want justice and freedom to be upheld and politicians and political leaders to be accountable..

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Faced with these and other challenges in and outside the country, we must stand resolute for change, to quote the newly elected Aliran president Dr Prema Devaraj.

Mustafa K Anuar
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
13 January 2017

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