Hornbill Unleashed

August 3, 2017

It takes a patriot to tell the truth

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:02 AM

On a wintery morning 10 years ago, I stood up in a pub at the heart of Frankfurt, raised my glass to Malaysians domiciled in Germany and some local Germans, and made a toast: “To Malaysia!” Being a Malaysian, I had often been ridiculed overseas for certain shortcomings in our human rights records, our governance and corruption and the judiciary, which at times, I found difficulty in defending.

But in Frankfurt, I was a proud Malaysian (and still am). For the first time, someone in position and authority owned up to his mistake or folly (whichever way you want to look at it) and took responsibility and resigned.

Adultery, it has been said in jest, is two wrong people doing the right thing, but the then health minister Dr Chua Soi Lek’s indiscretion was no laughing matter. He openly admitted his wrongdoing and openly sought forgiveness before deciding to do the right thing – quit all positions in the party and the government.

Fast-forward to today – the last thing we need is for the prime minister to remind us not to belittle the country. But when facts are presented, it should not be misread or misinterpreted (as always) as attacking the government. Hence, no one should chastise anyone from stating the facts, however unpalatable they are.

On Tuesday, theSun online quoted the premier as saying: “Many people who visit the country realise that the picture being painted by these people is not true. They realise that Malaysia is not a failed state.”

As one who has been often invited to speak at conferences and seminars both locally and overseas, I am always bombarded with questions related to corruption and governance. Would I be running down the country if I told the audience that corruption is rife and governance hardly exists in our system?

For a moment, do not even think of the colossal losses running into billions by what has been termed as a “state sovereign fun” – 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). Let’s look beyond and the string of financial misfeasance is there for everyone to see. From the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) to the breeding of cows and from buying apartments for students at inflated price to the plan to the purchase of submarines – we have heard or read about them all. On a much smaller scale, the auditor-general’s reports published quarterly are catalogues of poor or non-existent governance.

Has anyone taken responsibility and done the needful? We boast so much of our Westminster system but yet we choose to be selective in our application of its principles and doctrines.

What about, so I tell the audience, the audit report being classified under the Official Secrets Act? How does one defend that decision except by inferring that “there’s something serious that the government wants to hide”?

A research paper from the House of Commons states: “A minister is ultimately responsible for all actions by a ministry. Even without knowledge of an infraction by subordinates, the minister approved the hiring and continued employment of those civil servants. If misdeeds are found to have occurred in a ministry, the minister is expected to resign. It is also possible for a minister to face criminal charges for malfeasance under their watch.”

So, how many ministers have resigned when scandals involving their ministries surfaced?

A rosy picture

Ever since the 1MDB scandal broke, the prime minister and his cabinet colleagues have been trying to paint a rosy picture of the happenings and spoke as if everything was hunky-dory. The prime minister went on record saying that its money had been used to send 5,700 Muslims for the haj pilgrimage, build houses and sponsor students’ education since 2011. But when you take RM1,000, it’s small change giving RM5 to lesser mortals.

A week after this grand standing, for the first time, there was a confession of sorts. Speaking at an investment seminar, the prime minister told the participants: “At 1MDB, it is now clear that there were lapses in governance. However, rather than burying our heads in the sand, we ordered investigations into the company at a scale unprecedented in our nation’s history.”

Really, Mr Prime Minister? What about all those roadblocks to prevent the truth from emerging like banning The Edge and blocking access the now-defunct Malaysian Insider? What about the arrests of editors Ho Kay Tat and Jahabar Sadiq?

In an email interview recently, I was asked: “Is there any truth to allegations that the prime minister issued a personal cheque to lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to the tune of RM9.5 million?”

My reply: “The claim was made by Sarawak Report and it has yet to be confirmed or denied by both the PM and the lawyer. The latter promised to issue a statement soon after the matter became public but has not done so. In the case of the prime minister, he has sued Malaysiakini and other individuals but has not done so against Sarawak Report or the Wall Street Journal which was the first organisation to accuse the prime minister of receiving 1MDB funds in his private account.”

I will stand by this statement and defend it to the hilt because what I said was the truth. Does this make me a lesser Malaysian or a purveyor of untruths against the government?

Australian journalist Nick McKenzie and I had worked (among others) on two big scandals that made headlines in both countries. One involved the polymer currency notes and the other was the apartments bought by Mara.

In both instances, I was asked my views on the check and balances in our system which would have deterred many nefarious activities. My answer was: “This country lacks leaders with the political will and determination to put an end to these reprehensive activities. In many cases, there is ‘institutionalised’ protection accorded to the wrongdoers.”

At the launch of my book ‘Curi Curi Malaysia’ in London in April, I addressed over 100 Malaysians. I was asked to give my take on the PKFZ issue. “As journalists, we can only expose the weaknesses and the financial irregularities. We can’t go beyond that. Seven people were charged and all were acquitted. What more can be said?”

Then I added: “If no one is guilty, where did the money go? Why is it still in a mess? More importantly, why is the government continuing to service the bonds which were taken by the developer?”

Was I wrong in my assessments? Was I running down the country? Was I being unpatriotic? I will leave it to you, the discerning reader, to decide.


Source : Malaysiakini by R Nadeswaran
R NADESWARAN says that being truthful and demanding accountability doesn’t make him a lesser Malaysian. All right-minded citizens expect the government to lead by example by setting the highest standards of governance.


 

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1 Comment »

  1. If the Agung allows the extension term for the CJ and Court of Appeal Chief, our Judicial shall definitely go to the dogs.

    Comment by Mata Kuching — August 3, 2017 @ 4:54 PM | Reply


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