Don’t forget 1MDB just yet


By Zan Azlee
Asian Correspondent
14th November 2016

A LOT of things happening in Malaysia are grabbing headlines in the news media, from the martial arts obsessed racist red shirts who break concrete blocks on their heads while demonstrating silat skills and protesting against clean and fair elections, to Prime Minister Najib Razak singing karaoke with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

This is all fine and good. I mean, these are current events and definitely newsworthy to be in the media. What I am trying to say is that, although we can and do consume news that is absurd and amusing to our hearts, we should also not forget the news that is more important and has a more adverse affect on society.

Recently, news just broke about how the Malaysian government has refused to provide information and to collaborate with Switzerland’s authorities who are currently investigating corruption allegations within their banking system that is related to the 1MDB scandal, 1MDB being the controversy hit national sovereign wealth fund.

According to news reports, Malaysia is refusing to provide details to the Swiss authorities because apparently, the attorney-general’s office claims that there is an on-going police investigation by Malaysian police on the 1MDB. And this isn’t the first time they have refused to assist.

The 1MDB scandal has been reported in the news for a few years now and almost anyone with a slight interest in current affairs will now the basic premise of the story. Funds for the organisation were mysteriously obtained and misappropriated. Najib Razak has been linked to it because Malaysia money was alleged to have been transferred to his personal account.

Other notable people who have been linked to it and are currently being investigated by authorities from multiple countries around the world such Singapore, the United States, Hong Kong, Australia and of course Switzerland, include Najib’s step-son Riza Aziz and a businessman named Jho Low. Some celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro have been linked too.

But here’s the thing. After the passing of time, more sensational news seem to be dominating the headlines that the 1MDB story is slowly losing the attention even as more developments start creeping out of the woodwork. And it would seem that the Malaysian government would be happy for the smokescreening.

In the past few months, many people have been trying very hard to keep the issue alive in the minds of the public. Former Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah gave a speech in Parliament in October and he raised certain concerns, issues and information relating to 1MDB.

For this, he was called up by the police and questioned. They have now classified Husni’s remarks as seditious and also allegedly, the speech may have violated the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972. Husni is not the only one in trouble — so are former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and former Minister of Rural Development Shafie Apdal.

Speaker, Pandikar Amin Mulia, has declared any discussion relating to 1MDB as off limits in Parliament since investigations on the case is still going on. He is being criticised for his decision because the investigations are all happening outside of Malaysia. Malaysian authorities have closed investigations and declared no wrongdoing.

Of the three former Cabinet ministers who have gotten in trouble for criticising the 1MDB scandal in Parliament, Muhyiddin and Shafie were actually sacked last year for being too vocal and critical against Prime Minister Najib, while Husni resigned of his own accord from his post and from the Umno party last June.

If one were to look at all the developments of how the case is being handled in Malaysia, it would be easy to assume that the government is trying to kill any interest in the scandal that Malaysians have by stopping all discussion, dialogue or talk surrounding it.

That’s why it is important that the media continue to follow up on the issue and to make it the headline whenever it is deserving so that Malaysians, and the world, won’t forget. Let it be sensationalised and let it be politicised. That is the only way.

Only then will the pressure be on and for the investigations to really bring who is accountable to justice. Remember, the billions of Ringgit involved is the people’s money. Hard earned money from people who expect that money be put to proper use for the good of the country and for the people.

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