Has Suaram Done Wrong in Seeking the Truth?

By Kee Thuan Chye
7th August 2013

What wrong has Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) committed for the Government to hound it so doggedly? Why is it now being investigated under the Sedition Act, the act that has been getting a noxious name of late for the fact that numerous people have been charged under it for apparently displeasing the Government?

According to Suaram secretariat member Cynthia Gabriel, who on August 5 was served with a police summons, the investigation is connected to the dinner the NGO held on July 19 to raise funds for Suaram’s ongoing corruption suit in France.

In the suit, Suaram claims that when French naval defence firm DCNS sold two Scorpene submarines to Malaysia in 2002, it allegedly paid RM452 million in illegal commissions to Perimekar Sdn Bhd, a company partly owned by Abdul Razak Baginda, who was charged with the 2006 murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu but was subsequently acquitted.

Whether rightly or not, the murder came to be linked to the Scorpene deal. And as Razak Baginda was closely associated with Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was the defence minister at the time the Scorpene deal was struck – and who, according to a document found by French prosecutors, allegedly demanded that RM1 billion be paid to Perimekar by DCNS before it could meet with him – Najib is also implicated, again whether rightly or not.

Of course if Najib was not involved, he would surely want the truth to be known. He might even call for investigations to be conducted by our own Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). After all, isn’t such a case of great interest to the Malaysian public?

But has there been any move made by the MACC to investigate the matter?

In June 2012, Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo asked in Parliament if the MACC had taken any initiatives since the case was undergoing inquiry by magistrates in France and the information about alleged kickbacks was also “known to the MACC”. But all that he got from the then deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong was: “At this point, I can only say that these issues are being considered by the MACC.”

“Being considered”. After so long, a case that had been impressed on the national consciousness was only “being considered”. Well, it has been a year already since Liew said that. What is the status of that consideration now?

Meanwhile, why is the Government trying to discredit Suaram and its efforts to seek the truth? As we know, this current police summons to Gabriel is not the first time in recent memory that the Government is making things hard for Suaram. As she herself puts it, “Round two of Suaram harassment has begun.”

Round one occurred in September last year when the Registrar of Societies (ROS) was co-opted to investigate Suaram for financial irregularities. Then the Government brought in an arsenal comprising Bank Negara, the Home Ministry, the police, the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM) and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to bazooka Suaram with the threat of exposing its “suspect transactions” and its receipt of funds from unsavoury foreign agencies.

Timed with this assault on Suaram, the Umno-owned newspaper New Straits Times ran a wild story that led off with this sweeping statement:

Investigators probing into the financial background of several non-governmental organisations have uncovered attempts by foreign hands to destabilise the government.

Suaram was named as one of those NGOs implicated, for having received RM1.6 million from the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy. But although the allegation of destabilising the Government was a serious one, the newspaper failed to back it up with any evidence. It failed to make a case about any heinous motives on the part of the foreign funders. Neither did it contact any of the Malaysian NGOs for comment in order to fairly present their side of the story.

It was a classic example of unethical journalism.

Nonetheless, despite all that hoo-ha, nothing ever came out of the investigations made on Suaram by the government bodies. It became all the more obvious that the Government was only out to intimidate the NGO and discredit it.

Round two now looks like further intimidation, but it carries a more sinister import with the invocation of the Sedition Act. But what is the substance of that suspected sedition?

Apparently, it could centre around the speech of Americk Singh Sidhu, who was the special guest at the fund-raising dinner, in which he talked about the Altantuya murder. Or it could have been something that Gabriel herself said at the gathering.

Americk is the lawyer who represented the late private investigator P. Balasubramaniam, who was hired by Razak Baginda to deal with Altantuya when she came to Malaysia to allegedly demand money from Razak for her supposed role in the Scorpene deal. Therein lies the link that might have irritated the Government and given it the excuse to get at Suaram. But even so, whatever Americk or Gabriel might have said at the dinner, it is a cause of wonder as to how it might have contributed to sedition.

Surely, it couldn’t have been worse than Perkasa Vice-President Zulkifli Noordin’s belittling of Hinduism or Perkasa President Ibrahim Ali’s call to burn Bibles. And they’re still walking around untouched.

Is it likely then that the Government is punishing Suaram because it is trying to hide something from Malaysians? And that the sedition threat is only a bogey?

If that is so, the Government should just call off its dogs. Because it comes off looking only worse whenever it tries to suppress Suaram and prevent it from getting at the truth. It will instead strengthen the NGO’s resolve and win it more support from an already doubting populace. And, worse, affirm that what Suaram is doing is right.

* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the bestselling books No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians and Ask for No Bullshit, Get Some More!

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Friday, 9 August 2013 - 9:59 am

    ///Why is it now being investigated under the Sedition Act…///

    That is blatant abuse of power. The Sedition Act, Official Secret Act, etc should be used to protect the COUNTRY and not the regime in power!

  2. #2 by Di Shi Jiu on Friday, 9 August 2013 - 10:10 am

    Kee Thuan Chye,

    Of course SUARAM should not be trying to seek the truth about the Scorpene affair!

    I mean, what if the truth came out? :)

    Truth has some unfortunate characteristics in it’s nature – it hurts, it’s messy, and Malaysians may actually kick out a corrupt, unjust and evil BN government.


    • #3 by cemerlang on Friday, 9 August 2013 - 4:49 pm

      Because nobody likes to be told he or she is wrong. A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.On a low level, it means the ego of a person is shaken. On a high level, it means your power is threatened.

  3. #4 by Bigjoe on Friday, 9 August 2013 - 10:54 am

    What Suaram has done wrong is that it does not allow the spread of poison of lies and untruth that is core business of UMNO and Mahathirist whose religion says its their birth right to spread their vile as they deem fit.

    Suaram wrong is that it does not respect evil incarnate, sociopath’s entitlements, unvalidated self-righteousnes

  4. #5 by Noble House on Saturday, 10 August 2013 - 3:52 am

    Never underestimate stupid people in larger groups. One cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.

    Sometimes I wonder whether we are being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.

  5. #6 by Cinapek on Saturday, 10 August 2013 - 10:05 am

    The more blatant the Govt tries to use its lapdog institutions to intimidate NGOs such as SUARAM, the more it comes across to the public that it has something huge to hide.

    The public is not disgusted with such abuse of power to hide wrongdoings, we are also seriously disappointed with such displays of stupidity by those in Govt who committed these acts. With such low level of competence to do what is right, one wonders how much of these incompetence are affecting the governing of this country. No wonder we are now in freefall. Crime, corruption and shooting are rampant; Fitch has downgraded our ratings, the ringgit has fallen to its lowest in 15 years, our education system is in a mess and racial and religious tension has never been worse.

  6. #7 by Cinapek on Saturday, 10 August 2013 - 10:07 am

    Correction ” The public is NOT only disgusted with such abuse of power….”

  7. #8 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Saturday, 10 August 2013 - 10:13 am

    Umno is god and is therefore untouchable and unquestionable. That is the real issue. So it is completely wrong of suaram to keep on hammering umno’s wrongdoings for umno can do no wrong.

    …. what? I got say wrong meh?

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