Former prime minister Najib Razak has been charged with 32 counts of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power, and money laundering-related offences over transfers of RM42 million from former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International and RM2.28 billion from 1MDB into his bank accounts.
His wife, Rosmah Mansor faces 17 charges of money laundering and tax evasion amounting to RM14 million over the transfer of 1MDB funds into her bank account.
It is, of course, up to the courts to decide if they are guilty or not.
I am more concerned about a foundational matter that has eroded our system of governance, our values.
Najib faces not one or two charges, but 32. And we keep hearing that more are on the way. Rosmah faces 17 charges. We don’t know if more are on the way.
I am a simple man, so I find it difficult to understand how one attorney-general (AG), Apandi Ali, can clear Najib of any offence pertaining to the RM2.6 billion “donation” and the RM42 million from SRC International while another AG, Tommy Thomas, can throw 32 charges at Najib.
In January 2016, Apandi told a press conference that after thoroughly studying papers submitted to him by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) he had ordered the cases closed as there was no case against Najib.
Surely it can’t be a matter of interpretation? Is Apandi right and Thomas flawed in bringing these charges against Najib? Or was Apandi part of a massive cover-up, as alleged by Najib’s critics?
It would be interesting to hear Apandi’s story under oath or if he were to write a tell-all memoir.
If the AG is so powerful that he can keep such a massive scandal from going to court, isn’t it time to clip the wings of the AG?
Then too, I’m wondering how one AG (Apandi) can charge Lim Guan Eng, formerly in the federal opposition and currently finance minister, for corruption and another AG (Thomas) can, just as easily, drop the case. I am wondering how easy it is for one AG (Apandi) to charge activists under the Sedition Act and for another (Thomas) to withdraw the cases.
Am I wrong in asking if the whole system is flawed? Would I be wrong in wondering if those involved in framing the charges, or even dropping them, have been acting in the service of justice?
Is all this just part of a political game?
I am sure many of those in the AG’s Chambers (AGC) involved in preparing or framing the charges against Najib and Rosmah are the very same people who were in office when Apandi cleared Najib. I am sure many of those involved in framing the charges against Guan Eng and the recently freed activists are still with the AGC.
I am a simple man, so I am wondering how these learned men who apparently backed Apandi’s decisions then as legally and, I assume, ethically sound now back Thomas’ reversal of those decisions? Am I wrong to wonder about the capabilities or ethical standards of some of the learned people populating the AGC?
Can activists and ordinary citizens be arrested and charged at the whims and fancies of heads of public enforcement agencies who kowtow to ministers or prime ministers?
There seems to be a major flaw in the system and it is time to rectify it.
Although at least two MACC leaders – its then chief Abu Kassim Mohamed and deputy head Mohd Shukri Abdull – are known to have stood up, although not successfully, to pressure to quit probing 1MDB transactions, I am left wondering why the MACC did not do more before the general election.
I saw the televised raids on premises said to be connected to Najib and Rosmah and the seizure of money, jewellery and luxury items. After PH took over, the police have been quick to investigate the allegations against Najib and Rosmah.
As a simple man, I am wondering what took the police so long to act despite numerous reports and accusations about 1MDB transactions since 2014? Supposing Najib had won the general election again, would police have acted against him? It raises many questions about the attitude, standards and even ability of the police leadership.
It would be interesting to hear former inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar’s story under oath or read a tell-all memoir from him.
And what role did former Public Accounts Committee chairman Hasan Arifin play in all this? What role, if any, did the courts play? Of course, questions remain about the role and ethical standards of members of the 1MDB board and its executives, and also the role of Bank Negara and the banks which allowed such transgressions to take place.
There is much that needs to be set right.
As a simple man, I am also wondering about Najib’s cabinet members. How is it that, given the fact that there appears to be sufficient evidence to level 32 charges against their then leader, they seemed quite contend to be in the “business as usual” mode? How many of them held themselves, or still hold themselves, to high ethical standards? Or do they believe that political power triumphs over all?
Were they afraid of the prime minister? Was there some incentive for them to remain silent? If the prime minister wields so much power that cabinet members and heads of departments and agencies are afraid to act or speak up, or can be easily subdued or persuaded against performing their duty, then it is time to clip the wings of the prime minister.
As a simple man, I am waiting to see changes in the system that will ensure such situations and scandals never occur again, no matter who is the prime minister, no matter who becomes the AG, no matter who heads the police, MACC, PAC or any other government agency.
A Kathirasen is executive editor at FMT
The views of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT