Rafizi Ramli's arrest will not reflect well on the BN-led federal government, with elections around the corner, pundits say.
PETALING JAYA: If you’re going to challenge the government, be ready to pay the price. Political observers said this was the hidden message behind PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli’s arrest and court charge yesterday morning.
Monash University political analyst James Chin said that it was no surprise that the book was being thrown at Rafizi for his role in exposing details over the National Feedlot Corporation scandal.
“This is what happens when people try to challenge or embarrass the government. It was expected a long time ago…This is the price you pay for challenging the government directly,” he told FMT.
Calling it an “indirect shot” at whistleblowers, Chin predicted that Rafizi’s arrest was the first of many to come in the near future.
Rafizi was arrested yesterday morning and charged under section 97(1) of the Banks and Financial Institutions Act (Bafia) for allegedly revealing confidential banking details related to the NFC.
Offenders under this section are liable to face a maximum jail sentence of three years and a RM3 million fine. Rafizi pleaded not guilty, and was granted bail at RM15,000.
He later told reporters that the case against him was a diversion from the awarding of the Ampang Light Rail Transit extension project to water-restructuring company George Kent (Malaysia) Berhad, a company allegedly closely linked to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
A day before his arrest, national transport company Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad announced that the contract was going to George Kent; a claim that Rafizi had trumpeted weeks beforehand.
Chin on the other hand did not think that the George Kent contract had anything to do with Rafizi’s arrest, calling it a “coincidence”.
“I don’t think they are that sophisticated,” he said, referring to the federal government.
Agreeing with him was Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) political analyst Mohammad Agus Yusoff, who described Rafizi’s arrest as bad timing.
The Bafia charge, he added, would also give Putrajaya’s critics the impression that the government was guilty of double standard.
He pointed out that NFC chairman Dr Mohamed Salleh Ismail unlike Rafizi, was never handcuffed; a detail that would not reflect well on the federal government.
(Mohamed Salleh is also the husband of Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development.)
“The people see Rafizi as the one who was informing the government that they [needed] to take action against this crime or the abuse of power…This is what the people [are] feel[ing],” he said.
Mohammad said that though Rafizi’s actions may have put him at fault, it did not mean that people were not looking for justice.
“People will not accept this…[This is an issue of] managing perception, and the government has to manage.
“…This is the perception that the government has to manage well…with elections around the corner. If they can’t, people will jump to conclusions,” he said.
Making Rafizi popular
UCSI University political analyst Ong Kian Ming had no doubt that the arrest would reflect badly on the Barisan Nasional federal government.
“…[It] will allow Rafizi to say that Najib is not sincere about his transformation plan,” he said.
He added that Rafizi was probably expecting the government to take action against him for some time.
In any case, Ong said that the arrest and court charge bumped up Rafizi’s street credibility, especially where the coming elections was concerned.
It is expected that Rafizi will stand against former MCA president Ong Tee Keat in the Pandan parliamentary constituency.