PETALING JAYA: Political commentator Zaid Ibrahim has given his backing to former prime minister Najib Razak’s call for the appointment of a royal commission to look into the 1MDB affair.
Speaking to FMT, he said Najib’s trial over alleged crimes pertaining to the mismanagement of 1MDB-related funds might not give the public “the whole picture” and a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) could clear up the haze.
“The whole picture is important if we truly want the matter to be resolved,” he added.
He was commenting on Najib’s call for the RCI to be set up as promised by Pakatan Harapan (PH) in its election manifesto. This was one of the 10 promises the coalition said it would fulfil within the first 100 days of assuming power.
Najib made his call in response to DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang’s call for an RCI into what he called “the week of long knives operation of July 2015”, during which key democratic institutions were allegedly undermined to prevent the preferment of charges against the former prime minister.
Last year, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Putrajaya had “to formulate concrete charges” against those involved in the 1MDB scandal before setting up an RCI.
But Zaid said now would be a good time to appoint the RCI since there were no impending elections to raise suspicions of political motives.
“It will be unlike an RCI which was set up prior to the last general election to probe a 30-year-old case,” he said, referring to the 2017 inquiry into the 1990s foreign exchange scandal.
Asked if it wouldn’t be sub judice to set one up while court cases linked to 1MDB were ongoing, the former law minister said the attorney-general could confer with lawyers to decide on an appropriate time.
But he added that the government might as well have an RCI now since people were already commenting on the case against Najib.
“I’m against people making comments during a trial,” he said. “But if you allow Kit Siang’s political aide to make comments, then what’s the difference?”
He was referring to Syahredzan Johan’s sarcastic tweet in response to Najib’s remark about being upset to discover that funds from a 1MDB subsidiary had been deposited into his account.
Suaram adviser Kua Kia Soong told FMT he was not enthusiastic about such an RCI. He said: “I’m not too keen for an RCI on 1MDB unless they can find credible and independent people to be part of it.”
Neither PH nor Barisan Nasional would be neutral, he added.
Klang MP Charles Santiago said Najib’s challenge to the government to set up an RCI was a ploy to make him look like a victim.
“If the government says no to the RCI, he can claim they have no proof and that he is being unfairly treated,” he told FMT.
He alleged that Najib was aiming to improve his image among the Malays who, he said, were increasingly inclined to believe that he played a central role in the 1MDB scandal.
Former Transparency International Malaysia president Ramon Navaratnam said it would be best to wait for the court cases to be over before proceeding with an RCI.