By Chandra Muzaffar
A public debate on 1MDB between a Member of Parliament who has been raising a lot of questions about it and the President of that state-owned company is not going to provide the answers that the rakyat are looking for. We want to know the truth and nothing but the whole truth about the activities of 1MDB and its present and past subsidiaries and how they are related to the 2.6 billion ringgit in the Prime Minister’s personal bank account. A debate by its very nature will compel each side to defend its position however skewed it may be and will not force the parties concerned to establish the truth that we all seek. An honest discussion between Tony Pua and Arul Kanda conducted through a format that allows the two to share facts and examine the processes involved in the various financial transactions associated with 1MDB and its subsidiaries may be a better idea than resorting to a modality that requires the two to score debating points.
But even such a discussion is no substitute for a comprehensive investigation. What is so disappointing is that the various attempts at investigating the controversy are not proceeding the way they should. The former Attorney-General, Tan Sri Gani Patail, could not complete the task he had undertaken for reasons beyond his control. Bank Negara’s recommendation for action submitted to the current Attorney-General will not be acted upon though the Bank itself is convinced of the strength of its case. The previous Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was stymied in its inquiry and the new PAC has yet to resume its work. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) continues to investigate one of the crucial ex-subsidiaries of 1MDB which is now under the Ministry of Finance, fully cognizant of the fact that its work has been hampered by the disappearance of critical witnesses. The Auditor-General has done a preliminary report but his full report is only expected at the end of the year at the earliest. The Police is
also supposed to be investigating activities related to 1MDB but it is unclear what it has done so far and what its remit is.
There are many other developments which have taken place in the last few months which give the impression that the powers-that-be are not on the same page as the people about revealing the whole truth vis-a-vis the 1MDB controversy from A to Z. The transfer of public officials determined to carry out their duties in connection with 1MDB; the arrest and detention of a 1MDB critic within the Establishment and his legal counsel; the dismissal of the former Deputy Prime Minister and a Minister who had demanded action against alleged 1MDB culprits; and current attempts to marginalize and even remove 1MDB dissidents within UMNO, all indicate that those who pursue the truth on this major issue of integrity must be prepared to pay the price. In this regard, it is important to remind UMNO leaders that it would be a transgression of one of the party’s hallowed traditions to prevent the party’s current elected Deputy President, Tan Sri Mahyuddin Yassin, from officiating at its Wanita, Pemuda and Puteri Assembly next mon
th. After Tun Musa Hitam resigned as Deputy Prime Minister from Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s Cabinet in early 1986, he opened the Wanita-Pemuda Assembly that year in his capacity as UMNO Deputy President. Even in the following year which witnessed the most intense factional struggle in the history of the party, with the UMNO President and Deputy President in different camps, it was Musa as Deputy President who opened the joint Assembly.
When attempts are made to set aside traditions and institutions are trampled upon by the mighty, the people should focus upon the way power is used and abused. They should do all that is possible through the constitutional channels that are available to persuade the powers- that-be to uphold integrity and to fulfil their roles as trustees of the people. This is far more important at this stage than getting distracted by a debate that will do little to enhance elite accountability that the people yearn for.
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar has been analyzing issues in Malaysian politics for four and a half decades.
2nd November 2015.