Every other day, the people of this country are jolted, shaken, stirred and dazed by the information put out by foreign news portals and newspapers. Like junkies hooked on opium, a good section of the population eagerly awaits the next fix via the Internet.
From the extravagance in the casinos in the United States running into millions to the six-figure ringside seats for a boxing match from allegedly stolen Malaysian funds, we have heard it all. But has there been an explanation by the parties involved?
The discovery of cash in the millions at the homes of officials of the Sabah Water Board made the transfer of RM2 million into the account of an unemployed housewife child’s play. Has anyone explained?
How would you describe such overindulgence? Crazy or madness or insanity? Yet, these people whose hands are tainted continue to lead lives, living up with the Joneses and pretend as if nothing had happened.
To the average Malaysian wage earner whose taxes have been used to pay for such opulence, there’s cause to be concerned. Not that there is no evidence to proceed.
From across the Causeway, came some dribs and drabs, if pieced together would give us some inkling into this whole fiasco and the key players and perpetrators who should be brought to book.
The trial of banker Yeo Jiawei last year revealed the many fears of that had been previously allayed and dismissed by our leaders. Following coverage of the trial through various media, it is now apparent that someone had put his hands in the till of what was supposed to be our sovereign fund – 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and its then subsidiary, SRC International Ltd.
Yeo, described in court as former BSI banker for 1MDB, said in open court that the first structure he did for the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund was for US$100 million for SRC International Ltd. The scheme devised was for SRC, then a subsidiary of 1MDB, to invest in a fiduciary fund called Enterprise Emerging Market Fund (EEMF).
He told the court that SRC asked that EEMF extend a loan of US$100 million to a company called Blackstone whose beneficial owner is Eric Tan Kim Loong, an associate of Low Taek Jho or Jho Low. (We were to know later that Eric is allegedly Jho Low.)
From the box, Yeo said: “I asked what if the investment became zero and what would happen?” SRC then gave an indemnity that shielded BSI from responsibility should all the money be lost. Has anyone explained why SRC, a government-linked company, be giving such indemnity?
Low is also among the people named in civil lawsuits filed by the US Department of Justice, which alleged that more than US$3.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB.The latest episode of lawyer Muhammed Shafee Abdullah allegedly receiving RM9.5 million from the prime minister’s personal bank account once again reinforces the need for some plausible explanation.
The quantum of fees paid in legal cases is something that is not tariffed. Like a willing buyer and a willing seller, the fees is agreed upon and no one can fault Shafee on the quantum. Like most other professions, there is always confidentiality with the client. But the mind wonders what kind of legal work would justify the quantum.
It is not in the least suggested that there had been any wrongdoing, but the timing of the payment leaves right-thinking Malaysians to ask if there was something sinister. Adding fuel to the already burning fire is the re-release of the exchanges of SMSes between Shafee and the prime minister immediately after the murder of a Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaariibuu.
There has been hardly any riposte from the alleged giver or the taker. By maintaining stoic silence hoping the issue will fade away is no longer an option. While generally Malaysians tend to forget easily, this issue will continue to haunt the government, the leaders, parties involved and above all, citizens who are quick to make up their own minds after reading such reports.
These reports can be easily and summarily dismissed as “rubbish” or “one-sided” concocted by those who have axe to grind with the government. But when details including cheques and bank statements are thrown in for a good measure to support such accusations, it becomes a different ball game altogether.
Malaysians are suffering from a disease called the truth deficiency syndrome. This has certainly been vindicated by the revelations in the court proceedings and what has been reported in prestigious and credible newspapers like the New York Times, the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.
At the height of the release of the findings of the Public Accounts Committee hearings and the related Auditor General’s Report last year, no effort was spared to paint a picture which depicted otherwise.
So many other issues have been exposed. Has there been any response?
First, there was this accusation of a foreign conspiracy to overthrow the government; then we were told that the Western media is giving the wrong picture by publishing false reports; and there were even preposterous claims that the West was jealous of the progress made by the government.
Some may have accepted a “Yahudi” (Jewish) or “Western” plot to de-stabilise the government. But with advent of the Internet and instantaneous communication, like-minded citizens have dismissed these as mere propaganda for political expediency.
The problem is that no one in the officialdom comes forward to address the claims. Usually, they are third parties, “hound dogs” or minor officials who come to the fore, making valiant but yet disastrous attempts to allay the fears of Malaysians.
Banning newspapers and blocking websites is not even a solution. Sarawak Report, Malaysian Chronicle, OutSyed the Box and other portals have been blocked, but one does not need a degree in rocket science to get around this.
It has been said before and it is worth repeating: The people must have trust and faith in the government. For this to happen, it must be open, transparent and accountable to the people.
Mistakes have been made. Misinformation has been fed. Laws have been broken. Punishment must be meted out. Put simply, the people have not been told the truth.
Turning a deaf ear to the issues that have and will continue to emerge does not bode well for the government, the prime minister and the cabinet. As more and more dirt continues to be unearthed, it will come a time when any government announcement will be treated with contempt.
The government must look to the future and that starts with coming clean on this whole 1MDB issue which has had tongues wagging – correctly and incorrectly – for the past three years.
Only the truth will help to re-build our country to be a united nation. Perhaps, an amnesty programme will help the emergence of the truth which will put an end to all the politicking and other issues that are distracting us from achieving our goals.