PETALING JAYA: Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown has branded as propaganda opposition claims that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government is “overly obsessed” with 1MDB, one year into its administration.
Rewcastle-Brown, who broke the news about the scandal surrounding 1MDB, said making such a claim would enable Barisan Nasional (BN) and PAS to use it as a “public relations slogan”.
She said corruption was rampant in Malaysia.
“Pakatan Harapan was never going to be able to wave a wand over a decade of odour and more, particularly when left with all the economic headaches associated with rampant corrupt practices,” she told FMT today, one year to the day PH won Putrajaya.
“However, thanks to this government, Malaysia has escaped becoming the neocolonial satrap of China through a debt trap that has caught several other countries, and it is slowly getting back on its feet.
“The government is, in many ways, an uncomfortable mix of different elements, which has led to hiccups and reversals and compromises on certain agendas, which remain to be pushed forward,” she added.
1MDB is at the centre of a global scandal involving claims of embezzlement and money laundering, which have triggered investigations in at least six countries including the US and Switzerland.
Malaysia has also charged several individuals, including former prime minister Najib Razak, in connection with the scandal following PH’s victory in the May 9 general election. Najib has always maintained he is innocent.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been highly critical of the benefits of certain Chinese projects in Malaysia and had vowed to renegotiate terms.
Under Mahathir’s orders last year, Putrajaya called a halt to work on three projects: the US$20-billion East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) and two pipeline projects worth US$2.3 billion. The ECRL has since been given the green light to proceed but at a lower cost.
MCA’s Chan Quin Er earlier today said it was good for PH to have finally realised that “crying corruption for everything” was not adequate to hide its failure to innovate new programmes, amid a string of BN policies being continued under different names.
Umno’s Shahril Hamdan last month said there was a “palpable sense of fatigue in Pakatan Harapan always using 1MDB as the first port of call”. He said this was a scapegoat for bearish economic sentiment.
Rewcastle-Brown said corruption was something Putrajaya had to tackle if the country was expected to becoming a leading nation in Asean, adding that “political obstacles” would only make this more difficult.
This was especially so if these obstacles were placed by “those who were invested in it”, she said. She also said that once PH succeeded, it would be praised.
“It is so much easier to criticise and complain than offer constructive support,” she said.
“And there are those who hope memories will be short and people will forget the fear of living under a criminal regime ready to lock up those who spelt out the truth. The price of liberty is high but is always worth it.”
Commenting on claims that the PH government had been slow in reforms and was gradually compromising on pledges made during the general election, Rewcastle-Brown said this was not a bad thing.
“(This is) compared with radical changes and disruptions, which often do not succeed and can even be counter-productive,” she said.
She urged Malaysians to give the PH government more time to do better.
“Slowly but surely is my advice to my Malaysian friends, and another cliche, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. So, stick fast to principles and purpose and you will have a better country in five years’ time.”