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Nades: A fearless writer who’s stayed out of trouble

 | April 1, 2017

Citizen Nades says he's not anti-government, but anti-bad-governance.

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Award-winning investigative journalist R Nadeswaran, once described as the Scariest Man in Malaysia, is a man some politicians hate with a passion. For 17 years, he kept readers enthralled with his Citizen Nades column in The Sun. At the same time, the column was essential reading for the members of the Malaysian cabinet.

Nades deserves the title of the Conscience of the Nation, which was bestowed on him in 2009 by a former Appeals Court judge at the launching of his book on the PKFZ scandal.

He has exposed hundreds of scandals in Malaysia and overseas.

Last December, he retired from The Sun to focus on his second book, Curi-Curi Malaysia, which details some of those scandals.

Nades has always made it clear that he is not anti-government, but anti-bad-governance.

Despite his exposés, he has not been barred from travel, unlike the cartoonist Zunar. None of his works has been banned, and he has never been arrested for sedition.

In a recent interview, he denied that he had friends in high places and said, “Even friends in high places will not come to help when you get into trouble. They wouldn’t want to be associated with a trouble maker, would they?

“No, I don’t have such friends. But there are ordinary folk who will come to my aid, should I be pulled up for what I stand for. Touch wood, I have stayed out of trouble by being careful. But never say never.”

According to him, investigative journalism often starts with a tip-off or a lead, which could arrive by post, or be hand-delivered. Most of the time these tip-offs are anonymous. Some people telephone or send e-mails and others arrange to meet him and hand over documents.

The story which gave him the most sleepless nights was the one about the Malaysian white elephant just outside London – the Brickendonbury, a “RM490 million high-performance sports centre for training Malaysian athletes”. He said that with so much at stake for several people, they even roped in so-called foreign experts to say the project would be good for Malaysia.

With the exposé gaining traction, the perpetrators threw in Najib Abdul Razak’s name for good measure. They lined up PR consultants, advisers and what-not to push it through. When all their other tactics had failed, they threatened to charge Nades and his editor with “acting against national interests” although there was no such offence on the statute books.

Nades said those responsible were highly embarrassed.

He consciously avoids race, religion and political issues so as to be able to write uncensored, but he said he would be prepared to investigate any scandal if it involved the people’s money, but would leave it to experts if a problem required a religious interpretation.

Nades, who started off as a stringer for the sports section of the Malay Mail, has more than 45 years of journalism under his belt. But he also found time to study law and he graduated in 1996.

With his deep understanding of Malaysian governance, Nades was asked how Prime Minister Najib would fare in GE14. He said, “I don’t know, but hopefully, the rakyat will make the right decision.”

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

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