The people have a duty to question the government over the use of public funds. And the government has a duty to answer truthfully, says WH Cheng.
The government has decided that the outcome of the 1MDB probe will be kept under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) to prevent leakages, at least until it is tabled in Parliament.
So, why is the government hiding 1MDB under the OSA?
In the course of the investigation, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had promised a thorough probe into every single detail in the 1MDB controversy to determine what went wrong in its asset acquisition activities, which had resulted in debts of RM42bn.
When 1MDB’s RM42bn scandal was first exposed, there was lots of speculation and a guessing game as the government refused to reveal what had actually gone wrong in these deals.
The government also took months to initiate its internal investigation, and the PAC’s probe too was abruptly put to a standstill on various occasions.
In between, we saw the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) being raided, followed by the detention of several MACC officials, along with the confiscation of investigation papers on the grounds of assisting a police investigation into possible leaks.
All such actions initiated by the government not only created a bad impression but also led to more speculation. The government’s actions looked as though it was attempting to cover up something.
Soon, Malaysia became an international laughing stock. The government’s response? It started a crackdown on the people and media that were critical of the 1MDB scandal.
The government is now blaming these critics for damaging its image in the eyes of the public and of the international community.
Some BN leaders also tried to make things worse by claiming that these critics had made false allegations in public, which they said could undermine national stability, cause public unrest, and threaten national security and public order.
Such allegations are totally senseless.
To stop all public speculation, criticism and condemnation of the 1MDB scandal, the government must make public all of 1MDB’s asset acquisitions, the list of all interested parties in these transactions, those involved in the decision-making process, and all the financial transactions leading to all such deals.
Likewise, the PAC too should initiate a public inquiry into 1MDB, its top executives, former senior officials and all those who involved directly and indirectly in its businesses, instead of holding a closed-door inquiry.
To prove that everything is above board and that no wrongdoing was committed, documents should not be classified under the OSA. Why fear public scrutiny? Why be afraid of public criticism? Why so sensitive to public dissent?
If the government had been transparent from the beginning, public criticism, condemnation, speculation or the guessing game would not have happened after all.
So, why blame the public for these negative developments? Why cause fear by labelling critics as those disrupting and threatening national security and public order?
The people, as taxpayers and citizens, have a duty to question the government over the use of public funds. And the government has a duty to answer truthfully.