SHAFIE Apdal questioned the logic behind the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) probe into the Rural and Regional Development Ministry, after the ministry had passed the performance test set by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu).

In an interview with The Malaysian Insight, Shafie said the ministry’s performance had always exceeded expectations, from the aspect of numbers and values of each project executed.

It was based on this that the Parti Warisan Sabah president believed the probe into the alleged embezzlement of some RM1.5 billion was “selective prosecution”, carried out to destroy his political future.

“(The) elections are drawing closer. All of this is being done to tarnish my name and weaken the struggle of Warisan,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

Some RM1.5 billion of federal funds were believed to have been misappropriated from a RM7.5 billion allocation for Sabah.

Shafie was the federal minister in charge then until he was dropped from the cabinet by Prime Minister Najib Razak in July 2015. He was among Najib’s first cabinet member formed in April 2009.

The MACC probe was launched when Warisan is about to celebrate its first anniversary next week.

“I don’t know. Where is the misappropriation? You can check my bank account or come over to my house and see,”  Shafie said when asked the alleged embezzlement.

He, however, said he had expected repercussions for being critical of Najib and the scandal surrounding state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and defending the people’s rights.

“I’m not trying to defend myself. I’m only stating the facts. Don’t be selective when making decisions (to investigate). This is political. It is definitely very political.

“It has nothing to do about seeking justice. Don’t tell me only one ministry (is being investigated). How many ministries are there? How many projects were released by the Finance Ministry? It’s worth billions. I categorically deny all the allegations.”

On Tuesday, MACC remanded seven people to facilitate investigations into the case, including Warisan vice-president Peter Anthony and Youth chief Azis Jamman. Azis is also the former Semporna Umno Youth chief before he left the party with Shafie to form Warisan.

Shafie’s younger brother, Hamid Apdal, was also remanded for five days.

Also detained in the probe are Tawau Umno Youth chief Ariffin Kassim and Tenom Umno Youth chief Jamawi Jaafar. The two others arrested along with Anthony on October 5 were a 54-year-old businessman and a former ministry secretary.

MACC also froze RM180 million in several bank accounts owned by the companies under investigation.

Shafie said he is prepared to face any possibility as his actions now are no longer for himself, but the people.

“Regardless if I’m around or not, believe me, even if I am the only one detained, hundreds perhaps thousands of Sabahans will continue this fight against all the injustice.”

Below are excerpts from the interview:

TMI: Are all these corruption allegations true? 

Shafie: I expected all of this to happen. Since the day I brought up the issue and voiced the concerns of the people, I had expected all of this to happen. And, it has now become a reality. But I am prepared.

This is not for me. It is not about Shafie Apdal. It is about the livelihood of the people and national interests.  

Even if I’m around or not, believe me, if I were the only one arrested, hundreds, perhaps thousands of Sabahans will continue to fight against all the injustice.

I know MACC is being used as a tool of the government.

We know Sabahans are quite used to a change of government, from one party to another. I believe Sabahans are prepared for another round of change of government.

I think they (Barisan Nasional) can also feel it now. I am certain months of studies have been done to see whether BN can withstand the challenge from the existing leaders and the opposition.

If not, they would just remain quiet. But believe me, Warisan is fighting to form a good government, a good future for the people in Sabah and more importantly, adherence to what has been agreed to by past leaders of this country as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and 20 points.

This is what is being owed to the people of Sabah.

I believe the struggle is not only limited for Sabahans only, but also for every Malaysian.

This is why he (Najib) keeps repeatedly saying Sabah and Sarawak are BN’s fixed deposit.

TMI: But why all this action now?

Shafie: Elections are drawing closer. All of this are being done to tarnish my name and weaken Warisan’s struggle.

My performance as a minister was beyond expectation, not only in terms of project but also value of the projects.

The reports were signed by Najib himself after being presented to Pemandu, the body which analyses the performance of all ministries.

It is getting more obvious now because polling day is drawing closer. And the people know what is happening.

I am confident, no matter what actions are taken by the authorities, the bottom line remains. Those who will determine who comes to power, will not be MACC or Najib, but Malaysians.

I am alone, there are probably my children, my family and that is all. But I am confident, I am not alone in this struggle or those who want change to happen, especially in Sabah.

The more I am pushed, I am confident not only the people would sympathise but more will understand and appreciate the struggles of Warisan.

I have served for a long time. I have sat in Najib’s inner circle. Imagine the information I have come to know. I am not afraid nor will I surrender. If I am brought to court, it will be even better.

TMI: How did the allegation of the misappropriation of RM1.5 billion come about? 

Shafie: I don’t know? What misappropriation? You can check my bank account or come to my house and see.

There’s a case in the Sabah Water Department but is there any misappropriation? Is there anyone investigating who had approved the projects?

If the money is from the Rural and Regional Development Ministry, that’s corrupt. But if taking money from the state Water Department is not corruption, then it’s good.

TMI: There were rumours that you and Muhammad Taib (former Selangor menteri besar Muhammad Muhammad Taib) would re-join Umno. 

Shafie: I have received numerous messages. There are those who said that we are both are old friends. I am not a perfect person.

At this age, it is more important defending the people and national interests. The reward may not be in terms of title or power. If I wanted something, I would remain quiet and just be a “yes man” to keep myself in power.

But I love this country and the people more. I have made it clear earlier, I entered politics for the people. Anwar Ibrahim knew I was against him.

Former prime minister Pak Lah (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) knew I wanted him to resign as minister during the Umno Supreme Council meeting. I know the burden and implications of my actions, and how they will impact (on), not only myself, but also my children.

I know the people understand the situation more. I hope in the (next) elections, they will act and use their rights as Malaysians, as how I have used mine to be a vocal politician.

I know that things are bound to happen when we try to defend the rights of the people.

TMI: So, is it true that you are re-joining Umno? 

Shafie: No. I have made this clear earlier.

TMI: Since leaving Umno, have you been persuaded to return to Umno? 

Shafie: Yes. But there is no need to talk about it. There are various messages and things were done to get me back into Umno.

But what is important is not putting our worldly needs first. We also have to think about the afterlife. I can’t bring my ministerial position to the grave. No matter how big the land, or how big is my car.

When I am asked on judgment day, the angel won’t address me as “Yang berhormat, Umno vice-president or your honourable minister”. They will only ask me what have I done while I was alive, that’s all.

TMI: The various efforts made to get you to return to Umno… what were you promised? 

Shafie: There is no need to talk about it. But there are many. I do not encourage people to deliver such messages to me.

I must reiterate my stand that it is not about position or wealth but for the people and country. There is something really not right with our country at present and we can’t keep quiet and just leave it.

TMI: What is your message to Umno now? 

Shafie: If Umno does not experience failure, there will be no remorse. They will never get to taste the hardships of the people. Just like humans, if they don’t fail, they won’t change.

Umno must lose in the (next) elections so they that they can repent.  

TMI: Warisan chose its own road and refused to work with Pakatan Harapan or any other party in Sabah. How far can it go?

Shafie: From all the actions taken until today, I believe they (BN) are already feeling the pressure of Warisan. There are also other opposition leaders in Sabah, there’s Jeffrey Kitingan (Sabah Star), Yong Teck Lee (SAPP), Lajim Ukin (Harapan Rakyat Sabah), but why are the attacks only targeted at me?

It doesn’t matter. Warisan is only a small party, we are not really big. But I am certain that all the time I visited kampung, it was only to help the people. This had always been my work, then and now.

Don’t talk about Sabah, in the peninsula, too, I did the same. There are elected representatives, Umno division leaders who have come to my home early in the morning seeking allocations for water supplies and others.

The ministry has always helped them. Now don’t tell me that helping the people is corruption.

Check all the projects under the ministry if there had been any case of graft. Don’t just check in Sabah. Ask how much allocations the division chiefs received, how much we have given to the people?

TMI: If Warisan continues to be under siege, will you expose what you know about Umno? 

Shafie: I will leave that to Allah. I’m not afraid of dying. Only Allah determines when I will die. There is no problem for me. 

I know, and I know a lot about Umno. I was once in the Najib’s inner circle, I was once the vice-president of Umno, I had also been a minister for a while, not just as senior minister but also a junior minister.

TMI: Are you considering this move (exposing what you know)? 

Shafie: Let’s just wait and see.

TMI: If you are arrested by MACC, what will happen to Warisan

Shafie: We have our men. If one is taken, a thousand more will rise. Look at what happened in the Kota Kinabalu court recently.

That is only the party’s vice-president, imagine if the president is being detained.

TMI: MACC says it has evidence… 

Shafie: This has yet to be proven. What transactions, where has the money gone? I can’t comment based on the allegations that I took money. This has to be proven first.

If this can be done, I can also say Najib took RM2.6 billion. What is the proof? It has been deposited into his bank account. Had this been investigated? No, there was nothing.

TMI: You have been part of the system which you now criticise? But why choose now to be more vocal on the people’s concern, or about the people in Sabah? 

Shafie: I have always been vocal at the Umno general assembly. Look back at all my speeches. I have always reminded (Umno leaders) not to forget those in the kampung.

I am not voicing out only for the people of Sabah. I had also raised the plight of the people in Pahang, back when I was still a minister.

I had gone to Bera and looked at the indigenous people there going about their daily lives without water. I have sent the children of native families to study overseas, and to do their doctorate courses.

I converted a Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) building into a hotel. Now Mara has its own wealth. But before this, they owed various parties billions of ringgit when I was still a minister, but now the institution has started to accumulate its own cash. Still I am the one blamed?

There are many things needed for Sabah and Sarawak. I had voiced many times about allocating sufficient sums to both states.

Imagine, the billions spent in Kuala Lumpur? Just how much has been allocated to improve the facilities in rural areas? I have made my voice heard. Don’t ever say I have done nothing for the well-being of those in rural areas.

TMI: Is Shafie Apdal always like this or only when he is no longer in the government or Umno? 

Shafie: Oh, Najib knows. He knows my character. He knows I’m vocal. Even Pak Lah and Anwar Ibrahim know this. You can ask them about me.