The statement by UMNO Vice President and Rural and Regional Development Minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal raised eyebrows all round.
It is not just his repudiating the principle of collective Ministerial responsibility, but even more significant, his striking a posture which is tantamount to Shafie breaking ranks with the Prime Minister and declaring that he is not prepared to “swim or sink” with Najib on the 1MDB scandal and that if Najib is to drown, he should do it alone without dragging down others.
This is the only interpretation of Shafie’s protest against claims that the entire Cabinet should be held responsible for the 1MDB scandal, saying that it would be unfair to do so when he and his colleagues were just as unclear as the public over the firm’s controversial and opaque deals.
It is shock enough that a senior three-term Cabinet Minister does not understand the principle of collective Ministerial responsibility but it boggles the minds of Malaysians that Shafie could assert both ignorance and innocence about the enormity of the 1MDB scandal, claiming that he was in the position of the ordinary aggrieved Malaysian on the ground that he was as unclear as the public about the 1MDB scandal.
How could this be when the Cabinet at its meeting on 4th March this year cleared the troubled fund of wrongdoing, making all the 35 Ministers individually and collectively for the 1MDB scandal!
Immediately after the Cabinet meeting, I had questioned the 35 ministers if they knew what they were doing and if they had understood 1MDB’s dealings in the last six years before issuing a “clean bill of health and integrity” to the company.
I asked: “Were they presented with any Cabinet papers on 1MDB to read and study before the Cabinet meeting?
“Were they given access to the ‘thousands’ of 1MDB transactions and email which London’s Sunday Times and Sarawak Report have said they have obtained access to, despite attempts by 1MDB at the end of last year to call in all of its computers, employee laptops and servers to wipe them clean of such transactions and emails?”
After the Cabinet meeting, where the Ministers were briefed by 1MDB and its auditors Deloitte, Najib said the Cabinet had cleared the state-owned strategic investment vehicle of any wrong; that the Cabinet was satisfied that allegations made against 1MDB were related to transactions by third parties, such as PetroSaudi International and that the Cabinet had ordered the Auditor-General (A-G) to verify the fund’s accounts.
How can Shafie, more than two months later, now claim that he was just as unclear as the public about the 1MDB scandal, and to use this to disclaim the applicability of the principle of collective responsibility.
Why then did Shafie joined the rest of the Ministers in issuing a clean bill of health and integrity to 1MDB at the Cabinet meeting of March 4?
This question is also pertinent to the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who joined the rest of the Cabinet to declare 1MDB clean and healthy, when he was in no position to do so, as illustrated by his speech to four UMNO divisions on May 16 where he warned that although he did not understand the full intricacies of the RM42 billion 1MDB scandal, it was “the last straw to break the camel’s back” and would cause the downfall of the UMNO/Barisan Nasional government if a solution is not found quick and fast.
It is clear from the statements from Muhyiddin, Shafie and other UMNO/Barisan Nasional leaders, the Prime Minister and his 35-strong Cabinet have failed the 29 million Malaysians big time, and they are still not prepared to get out of their denial syndrome to put an end to the 1MDB scandal.
I had asked earlier this morning whether there any Cabinet Minister is prepared to “bell the cat” at the Cabinet meeting tomorrow, insisting that Najib should “tell all” to the Ministers and immediately testify at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the 1MDB scandal, as it is now established that the Prime Minister is the final approving authority for all 1MDB deals, transactions and investments.
Malaysians can only await the outcome of the Cabinet meeting tomorrow – whether there is going to be more of the same government irresponsibility, lack of accountability and transparency or whether the Cabinet is prepared to enable the country to start anew where the people can have trust, confidence and faith in those who govern the country.