When all things fail, political economists and scientists, the world over, will follow the money.
In other words, when certain phenomenon cannot be explained, a critical look at the money trail will shed light on the issues.
Take 1MDB for instance. Former Selangor menteri besar Khalid Ibrahim, in an article in Free Malaysia Today, argued that the business model of 1MDB was based on “over gearing” of debt.
What does “over gearing” mean? Simple. Lots and lots of debts, borrowed up front, on the basis of the guarantee provided by the Ministry of Finance – which is also run by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak – that all derelict payments would be absorbed by the Malaysian government or, in plain language, by the people of Malaysia.
Khalid, who was also a former CEO of Guthrie Bhd, argued that while troubling, the business model is not entirely unheard of.
Yes, everybody borrows to start his or her business. But then the issue is, what happened to the money, be it in the form of debt or unit funds? For the lack of the better word, Khalid didn’t follow the 1MDB money trail.
When the money allegedly disappeared in large sums, Khalid still referred to them as debts. Debts to the tune of US$11 billion at least, which Malaysians have to pay. Not individuals who have squandered or sequestered the money. But the Malaysian government.
Elsewhere, Khalid also whitewashed the claim that 1MDB did not default on its last few payments. Now, if there was no default, then the answer is even simpler: show Malaysians the transactions.
Khalid argued that the payments were made to Aabar IPIC, and it was the Aabar IPIC that was slow to transfer them to the account of IPIC proper.
Fine. Pakatan Harapan is willing to give Khalid the benefit of the thought. After all, as a former businessman, he should know what he is saying.
But where are the records of the transactions? Khalid could not show any. Instead, he took to parroting the narratives of 1MDB president and CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy. Now the issue is this: if the payments were not late, why isn’t Arul Kanda showing these printed transactions?
Khalid further argued that 1MDB has been “politicised”. Well, if systematic truth-telling is indeed politicisation, then Pakatan Harapan is guilty as charged. We just tell the truths. Full stop.
But Harapan is also telling the truths based on evidence and corroboration from some six civil and/or criminal investigations, and across party divides too.
If Bersatu and other coalition members in Harapan cannot agree on the truth about 1MDB, would they have unified into a cohesive group? They would not. For the parties would stand accused by their members of betraying their own ideals.
No free lunch
Lastly, Khalid argued that corporate investigation of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) into 1MDB is not “a free lunch”. By this token, the DOJ must be launching a legal, though slow motion coup, against President Donald Trump.
But Trump is clearly in office, and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has been placed on the watch to investigate the Russian links of Trump.
If the DOJ can exercise such broad investigative powers, with the Attorney General Jeff Sessions even recusing himself from the investigation that drew the ire of Trump, then the DOJ does work and operate well.
Why should one ascribe some nefarious motives to DOJ on 1MDB? The comment of “no free lunch,” is a cop out, and a wild and apologetic attempt by Khalid to cosy up to PAS and Umno.
Both parties are living in denial that larceny, corruption and malfeasance are just bad management. If bad management is the root of all abuses of 1MDB, shouldn’t Najib resign, at least from the Ministry of Finance, if not as prime minister as well?
Khalid provided zero evidence to excuse the culpability of Najib and Umno.
No amount of corporate copywriting and public relations can overlook one simple fact. If Bandar Malaysia is the jewel in the crown of 1MDB, why does it have to be parcelled off to the Ministry of Finance?
The answer is simple. 1MDB is incorporated as a company with limited liability. If it defaults, time and again, which it is, all its strategic assets would have to be auctioned off under the hammer to pay back and pare down its debts.
1MDB wants to put up a brave front, with Arul Kanda as a brand champion that it is doing well. And, the likes of PAS and Khalid Ibrahim have been given exclusive presentation on why 1MDB can still pay off its debts.
When each of them exit from the meetings, none can provide a statutory declaration that they have had no vested interest in giving 1MDB a clean bill of health. None.
Instead, they release press statements and op-eds in a coordinated manner to excuse the criminal liabilities of all and sundry.
RAIS HUSSIN a supreme council member of Parti Peribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu). He also heads its Policy and Strategy Bureau.