The three-day 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Putrajaya were three days of global public relations (PR) disaster for Malaysia, a shameful 72-hour torment on the pride, honour and dignity of Malaysia never experienced by Malaysians in nearly six decades of nationhood.
It started with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s last-minute, panicky and ill-advised pull-out from the opening ceremony of the IACC (in fear of hard questions, “personal issues” and “a possible hostile reception”), replaced by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Paul Low, who started his speech with the cryptic remark: “I am not here to defend the PM. I am here fighting for my job.”
Right from the very beginning of the opening ceremony, Malaysia’s corruption crisis, in particular the “two elephants in the room”, the RM50 billion 1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation” financial scandals, took centre-stage and remained the most obsessive issue throughout the three-day conference, up to the closing ceremony.
Right from the beginning of the IACC, Transparency International President Jose Ugaz opened up with a powerful plea for “honesty and integrity” from the Najib administration, asking Najib pointedly to restore confidence and trust by answering questions about the US$700 million in his personal bank accounts – (1) who paid the money and why; and (2) Where did it go.
This was followed up on the second day by the TI co-founder and erstwhile adviser to Najib on anti-corruption matters, Michael J. Hershman, telling Najib to come clean on the RM2.6 billion donation that he received.
Hershman advised Najib: “Tell the truth about where did the money come from and address the accusation. And if he did something wrong, then asked for forgiveness and face the consequences.”
Hershman said the explanations given so far were not good enough.
He said; “If it came from the Middle East, who did it come from? When did it come and for what purpose? These are very simple questions.”
He added that since Najib had control of the account, he must know where it came from.
“There is no reason for a panel for investigations. Just tell the truth. Get it out in the public,” he added.
On the third and last day yesterday, the criticisms became an avalanche.
Global Investigative Journalism Network executive director David Kaplan said those attempting to cover up the matter are out of touch with the times and that the government cannot conceal information on the RM2.6 billion deposited into PM Najib’s personal bank accounts in the digital age.
Amnesty International secretary-general Salil Shetty asked if the RM2.6 billion in Najib’s personal bank accounts was “grand corruption”.
Transparency International managing director Cobus De Swardt warned that in the absence of answers and an independent investigation, “suspicion of corruption, mistrust and appearance of being above the law will prevail”.
The Chairman of UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) coalition, Manzoor Hasan, wants Najib to step down as Prime Minister to allow the investigation into the RM2.6 billion donation he received to proceed without interference.
Malaysia’s travails went on till the very close of IACC with the Transparency International vice president Elena Panfilova reiterating that Najib has to come clean on the RM2.6 billion in his personal bank accounts.
Malaysia was literally hauled over the coals at the IACC for the corruption crisis in the country as no one in Government could give any satisfactory or acceptable answer – which is understandable when even the Prime Minister had turned tail from the IACC – although Najib’s Ministers could have done a better job.
When the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Datuk Abdul Wahid Omar in the closing address, had to invoke God, saying that those who had committed any crime would ultimately be punished though not immediately, pronouncing “If not today, tomorrow, next month, or five years down the road or 10 years down the road. Rest assured, there is God in this world and the truth will prevail”, it was tantamount to Q.E.D about the corruption crisis in Malaysia.
The last three days had been Malaysia’s most shameful and embarrassing experience – we providing an international platform to be lectured by a Peruvian, Cameroonian, Russian, Australian and American among others as if Malaysia is a rogue student caught red-handed in gross misconduct.
However mortifying the 16th IACC had been for Malaysians for the last three days, it is not the end but the beginning of Malaysia’s humiliation on the international stage unless we are capable of change and reform.
In the digital age, where information travels at the speed of light, the world through the 1,000 IACC delegates from 130 countries, will follow with sharp and keen interest and concern whether Malaysia sinks into the bottomless pit or is capable to get back our bearings in our quest for a society with zero tolerance for corruption.
Malaysia’s corruption crisis, and the failure of the Prime Minister to open the conference and to come clean, has rendered the 16th IACC theme, “Ending Impunity: People. Integrity. Action” a failure, as good as excising the word “Ending” of the 16th IACC theme to reduce it to: “Impunity: People. Integrity. Action”.
Malaysians cannot be bystanders to address and resolve Malaysia’s corruption crisis which has been internationalized by the 16th IACC into a global corruption scandal.
Although the Parliament Secretary has sent out notice for the Parliamentary budget meeting beginning on Oct. 19, Malaysians and the world cannot wait for six weeks for parliamentary action to be taken to address the corruption crisis in Malaysia.
For this reason, I call on Najib to convene an Emergency Parliament within the next fortnight, which should meet for at least two days, to continue from where the 16th IACC left off to find answers to the corruption crisis in Malaysia – and which can, among other things, end the sabotage of parliamentary investigations on 1MDB by filling the vacancy of Public Accounts Committee Chairman and three other PAC members as well as to resolve on the immediate public release of the Auditor-General’s interim report on 1MDB.