PH still the better choice, warts and all

A number of political developments and events have unfolded over the past few weeks, casting a pall over Malaysia Baru.

They are causing great stress, strain and concern to the people.

1. The Rome Statute

Malaysia will not be ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – a month after acceding to the treaty.

A visibly upset Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government “was forced” to withdraw from the treaty following confusion created by those with political interests.

The foreign minister, meanwhile, revealed that the forces of “the deep state” were busy scheming a coup against the government.

Mahathir also alluded to the involvement of royalty in opposing the treaty.

People are obviously unhappy with this development. Like the ICERD affair, the Rome Statute has fallen victim to spins and misinformation.

Even Umno’s Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah was on record as saying that the royal institution has been misled by overzealous quarters, who include some academics.

Tengku Rithauddeen said that mischief had triumphed over truth in the case.

2. Tabung Haji, Felda and LTAT

Lembaga Tabung Haji continues to be a troubling issue with the latest announcement of 1.25% returns to the depositors for 2018. It is the lowest return in history – the depositors had been enjoying an average return of about 6-7% dividends over the last few years.

The reasons behind this are easy to understand.

TH has been in the red for a few years now on account of abuse and financial mismanagement. They have been operating with a deficit of about RM4.1 billion for 2017, with liabilities of RM74.4 billion outstripping assets of RM70.3 billion.

They have been declaring good dividends over the past few years, not from income but from non-income sources, which is illegal under the Tabung Haji Act 1995. Accounts have been doctored to misrepresent, mislead and distort the true state of affairs.

At a recent special briefing for Pakatan Harapan MPs, it was revealed that the fund had suffered losses amounting to RM10 billion which were kept off the books.

On Felda, the government announced that it had to inject RM6.23 billion following soaring losses and debts over the past decade.

This included the latest police report by Felda on Najib Razak and its purchase of Eagle High Plantations at a highly inflated price of RM2.3 billion, whereas the market price was only RM440 million.

Then, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu dropped another bombshell when he announced that the audit report for the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) has to be re-declared because its report last year was manipulated.

It remains to be seen how many billions more have been squandered.

It is unfortunate that the PH government is the bringer of bad news, left with the unenviable task of cleaning up the mess.

Yet, many are gullible enough to believe the spins and lies being churned out by some political parties bent on blaming PH for the mess.

3. MA63

The bill to amend the constitution which sought to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners in the Federation of Malaysia was defeated in Parliament with only 138 MPs voting for it while 59 abstained.

How this will pan out remains to be seen, and it will require all the skill, wisdom and foresight of all parties concerned to work out a solution or a compromise.

4. Other troubling issues

In the countdown to the Rantau by-election tomorrow, we see racism and religious bigotry rearing their ugly heads.

PH is still saddled with the legacy of financial and administrative mismanagement, questionable development projects, massive corruption and mega scandals, and a compromised jury and civil service.

The high cost of living continues to be a bane. One cannot fail to mention the real threat of global economic slowdown and trade wars between superpowers.

Silver lining

Yet, there is good reason for us to feel upbeat about the prospects ahead as we look at some of the other significant unfolding events.

1. Mahathir on Anwar

A few days ago, Mahathir reiterated that his successor would be Anwar Ibrahim, in another statement to show his commitment to the two-year timeline.

The naysayers and prophets of doom will be unimpressed by this latest development. We can expect them to continue with their conspiracy theories, spins and deception. They will stop at nothing to create a wedge between the two men and sow seeds of discord between the component parties of PH.

2. Najib’s trials

Najib’s klepto trials are finally underway with the seven charges in relation to SRC International involving RM42 million, while another six CBT charges in relation to 1MDB involving RM6.6 billion will begin next month.

The remaining charges will also be tried this year.

The people have been waiting for this, after months of debate and trial by media.

We shall see when the hard facts are revealed whether the realities will take a bite at the facade of beliefs and perceptions about the cases.

And at the end of the day, we will get to see whether the people will continue to cheer and support “Bossku” as some do now.

3. ECRL

There are indications that both China and Malaysia are now close to a resolution on the East Coast Rail Link, with the project expected to cost less with a deal for China to buy our palm oil.

4. Other positive news

The controversy surrounding Ronald Kiandee’s chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee is resolved.

Right commission Suhakam made a brave finding on how state agents abducted Pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat.

The PH government has finally agreed to launch further investigation into the matter when the police get a new chief next month, so that investigations are not compromised by the involvement of current and previous police chiefs in the cases.

There is now greater urgency to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission to address grouses and take enforcement action against the police.

Fireman Muhammad Adib’s inquest has also debunked the many allegations by some quarters, especially the extremist groups who see a racial slant to the tragedy.

We will realise that there is more good than bad under PH in the New Malaysia.

But people are impatient and expect immediate results.

There is still a long way before the next polls. And there is reason for us to remain upbeat that things will get better as we move forward.

When it comes to the crunch, the PH government is still our best bet for a safer and better future. Warts and all, PH is still a better choice than Umno/BN and PAS. They remain trapped in a time warp with the old mindset of racial chauvinism.

Wan Haron Wan Hassan is a senior practising lawyer, active in civil society movements.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.