One should thank the lawyers of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, for providing some relief to the long drawn-out (six years?), sordid, dreary and astronomical 1MDB scandal which is claiming more and more casualties in its wake, destroying reputations for integrity and even political and professional lives and futures.
The highly-publicised letter from Najib’s lawyers to Dow Jones, the owner of Wall Street Journal (WSJ), has become not only the toast of lawyers but of the international civil society as well.
There was no categorical demand for retraction of the WSJ report last Friday that Malaysian government investigators have found almost US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) deposited into Najib’s personal accounts at AmBank, unconditional apology for the defamation of the Prime Minister, undertaking of no repetition of the defamation and payment of damages, but a most extraordinary (Eric Paulsen of Lawyers for Liberty described it as “bizarre”) letter seeking clarification!
No one can describe the situation better than lawyer Azhar Harun (better known as Art Harun) who commented on Facebook this was the first time he found lawyers asking their potential opponent the meaning of what they had published. Almost every sentence made him cringe.
He said: “If I were acting for Dow Jones, I would advise them to reply as follows : Dear lawyers, inability to grasp and/or understand what we had published is not a known or established ground for defamation suits. Thank you.”
If more “relief” is needed, there is the top banker, CIMB Islamic Bank chief executive officer Badlisyah Abdul Ghani for everybody to joke about as Badlisyah joined the long queue of 1MDB casualties when in a matter of hours, he had to eat his own words for accusing WSJ of falling for false documents with regard to its report claiming that RM2.6 billion were deposited into Najib’s personal accounts in AmBank.
As if Fate has pity on Malaysia in having to suffer from the 1MDB scandal, Malaysians were presented with another “manna” today – the announcement that Najib is scheduled to speak at a high-profile international anti-corruption conference themed: “Ending Impunity: People. Integrity. Action” in Putrajaya from Sept. 2 amid allegations that he embezzled US$700 million in state funds!
What type of an example of “Ending Impunity: People. Integrity. Action” Malaysia can present to the world and some 800 international participants who will attend and be engaged in plenary debates and workshops on ending impunity for corruption?
Or is Malaysia to present a live example as to how difficult or even impossible in a country like ours to end impunity for corruption, unless there is a total change of government?
The Minister for Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Datuk Seri Sabri Yaakob said yesterday that the Cabinet Ministers at their meeting yesterday were all behind Najib in facing the WSJ allegation.
The 35 Cabinet Ministers have proven their loyalty to Najib but they have failed the country and people in their abject subservience and betrayal of the democratic principles of accountability, transparency and good governance.
Have Najib taken the Cabinet Ministers into confidence and fully informed them about his role in the RM42 billion 1MDB scandal as well as the WSJ report about some RM2.6 billion deposited into his personal bank accounts in AmBank two weeks before Parliament was dissolved for the 13th General Election on May 5, 2013?
As there had been no denial, dare any Cabinet Minister stand up in public to say that Najib had admitted that the WSJ report was true as far as his personal bank accounts in AmBank were concerned, and the deposit of RM2.6 billion on March 21 and 25, 2013 into his personal accounts – just before the dissolution of Parliament on 3rd April, 2013?
If not, how can the Cabinet Ministers give the Prime Minister “blind support” on this issue?
Furthermore, do the Ministers know where the RM2.6 billion deposited into Najib’s personal accounts in AmBank come from and where they have gone to?
If the Cabinet Ministers are totally ignorant about whether the RM2.6 billion had been deposited into Najib’s personal accounts in AmBank within two weeks of Parliament’s dissolution on 3rd April 2013, where the astronomical sums of money came from and where they have gone to, the Cabinet Ministers are guilty of abysmal dereliction of duty and should collectively resign in shame and dishonor.
Najib yesterday spelt out the scope of the special task force constituting the quartet of investigating agencies (Bank Negara Malaysia, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Malaysian Royal Police and Attorney-General’s Chamber) is to investigate WSJ claims against him whether he used 1MDB fund for his personal interest.
This is totally unacceptable.
Instead of pioneering world’s best practices to end impunity for corruption which could be show-cased in international anti-corruption conferences, we are doing the exact opposite like having a task force or an anti-corruption investigation that answers or reports to the accused!
What’s more, allowing the accused to dictate the “scope” of the investigations!
The special task force into the WSJ report should investigate into three areas: firstly, whether some RM2.6 billion were deposited into Najib’s personal accounts in AmBank two weeks before the dissolution of Parliament on April 3, 2013; secondly, where the RM2.6 billion came from; and thirdly, where the RM2.6 billion have gone to.
The Cabinet Ministers were as guilty of irresponsibility and misconduct in allowing Najib, as the accused, to decide on both the form and scope of the investigation.
The Cabinet Ministers really do not understand the axiom that Justice must not only be done but seen to be done.
The task force investigating into WSJ report comprising Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, MACC head Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed and Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail are all subordinate and answer to Najib as the Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister.
This violates all principles of natural justice.
The investigation into the WSJ report should be conducted by independent Malaysians of impeccable character who are not subordinate or answerable to Najib, armed with wide-ranging terms of reference.
There should be an emergency meeting of the Cabinet within the next 48 hours to put these things right, appointing credible investigators and the widest scope of investigations, so that Malaysians can stand tall in the world when we talk about ending impunity in corruption instead of bowing their heads in shame as of now.
Najib as Prime Minister should also go on leave immediately until the outcome of the investigations.
If not, the IACC International Anti-Corruption Conference in Putrajaya on Sept. 2 should be scrapped altogether, as if Malaysians are not ashamed enough about rampant corruption and rampant impunity in the country.