Something has gone very wrong with Malaysia.
How did a country which was hailed as a model of Asian development and set to be one of the “Tiger” economies in the early nineties had so lost its way that it is today battling with a surfeit of negative developments and running the serious risk of becoming the “sick man of ASEAN” en route to become a failed state?
Three events illustrate that this Malaysian disease is reaching a terminal stage.
Firstly, there was yesterday’s charge of artist Bilqis Hijjas for dropping yellow balloons with the words “Justice”, “Democracy” and “Free Media” onto an event attended by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife.
This is a reflection of a government which is petty-minded and insular instead of being visionary and inclusive.
Why can’t Najib be charitable and big-hearted enough to laugh off the incident and forgive Bilqis, instead of being vengeful and vindictive, demanding his pound of flesh for Bilqis’ creative and patriotic infraction?
Better still, if Najib could have met up with Bilqis and assure her that he is as concerned as her and others with the goals of justice, democracy and free media!
Bilqis is being charged under Section 14 of the Minor Offences Act 1955, which carries a maximum fine of RM100 for those convicted, and she is released on RM500 bail – five time the maximum fine for the offence!
Is Najib and his legion of highly-paid publicists aware that in harassing, persecuting and prosecuting Bilqis for an offence whose maximum fine is RM100, the Prime Minister will be attracting adverse publicity at home and abroad equivalent to millions or even tens of millions of ringgit?
This is a classic case of “Cutting off the nose to spite the face”!
Secondly, there was the re-arrest yesterday of former UMNO Batu Kawan divisional deputy leader, Khairuddin Abu Hassan under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) moments after he was released by the court in Jalan Duta Court Complex in Kuala Lumpur.
Khairuddin was re-arrested under Section 124K and 124L of the Penal Code which deal with sabotage and attempting to sabotage the state respectively.
Under Sosma, Khairuddin can be detained without trial for up to 29 days – a new-fangled detention-without-trial Internal Security Act (ISA) in action.
The Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar has said Khairuddin’s police reports on 1MDB scandal overseas could be seen as an attempt to sabotage Malaysia’s economic stability and sovereignty.
Khairuddin’s lawyer, Matthias Chang believed this was why the former Batu Kawan Umno deputy chief was released after being held under Section 124C of the Penal Code and re-arrested under different sections, as the sabotage charge couldn’t stick under Section 124C which is related to acts detrimental to parliamentary democracy.
Chang is not too far wrong when he said that using Sosma against Khairuddin was a clear intimidation and abuse of police powers by the government as well as a reflection of Najib’s increasingly repressive regime.
Khairrudin’s re-arrest will attract global attraction for it will be reminder to the over 1,000 delegates from over 120 countries who were in Putrajaya for the three-day 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) from 2nd – 4th September where the Malaysian Prime Minister became the case study in a country where the 16th IACC theme “Ending Impunity: People, Integrity, Action” is conspicuous by its absence.
In fact, the twin mega financial scandals of the RM50 billion 1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation” in Najib’s personal bank accounts were developing almost every day that the Prime Minister had to back out in the last minute from officiating the opening of the 16th IACC so as not to face “hard questions” on these two scandals.
Khairuddin, who had earlier submitted evidence and lodged reports with the Swiss, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Singapore authorities in connection with the 1MDB scandal, was not allowed to leave the country when he wanted to fly off to the United States to meet with Federal Bureau of Investigations.
Is the arrest of Khairuddin for lodging reports with foreign countries connected with 1MDB relating to offences of corruption and money-laundering compatible with Malaysia’s commitment to international anti-corruption efforts and conventions?
If Khairuddin could be arrested for wanting to report to foreign governments about transborder corruption and money laundering, which shows that Malaysia is against any international anti-corruption efforts, why did Malaysia host the 16th IACC in the first place?
New York Times has reported that a US federal grand jury is probing corruption and money laundering allegations surrounding Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and those close to him, including his stepson Riza Aziz, under the US Department of Justice’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.
Malaysians are still waiting for the Police, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Wisma Putra, the Prime Minister’s Office or the Prime Minister himself to give a clear and satisfactory statement as to whether Malaysia has got a kleptocrat as a Prime Minister.
Thirdly, the great secrecy of the embattled Prime Minister’s trip to London and New York, whether he left before or after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, why his departure was shrouded in such secrecy and mystery totally incompatible with a head of government leaving for an overseas mission?
Is this because of the warning by the former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad that the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib could be arrested by Interpol in foreign countries investigating Najib for alleged corruption and money laundering?
Be that as it may, there can be no doubt that Malaysia is in the throes of an unprecedented multitude of national crisis, whether political, economic, nation-building or the question of good governance.
The great challenge for Pakatan Harapan established two days ago by DAP, PKR and Parti Amanah is to turn the crisis-ridden Malaysia into an opportunity to initiate fundamental political and socio-economic changes to transform Malaysia into a vibrant, progressive and forward-looking nation instead of heading in the direction of a failed state.
This is the magnitude of the task and challenge confronting Pakatan Harapan.