Before the resolutions of all the scandals at the various govt-owned agencies, many more will be thrown under the bus
Pic By AFIF ABD HALIM
There is nothing better than a scintillating, intrigue-filled and twisted scandal like 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) to entertain us after years of cringing and brain-damaging daily recycled expansionary economic growth and “all is good” narratives.
In fact, so “dodgy” were the revelations from the 1MDB’s pit that we could easily find the kindness to even forgive Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan for his creased up statement — “Harga Barang Boleh Turun Kerana GST”.
1MDB will be remembered not just as the most expensive scandal or a terrible faux-pas or quoting the US attorney general: “This is kleptocracy at its worst.” It is Malaysia at its worst.
A web of multilayer transfers to bogus overseas accounts in moneylaundering favourite havens. Proposed shaddy ventures in Mongolia and Venezuela that would make horcruxes and unicorns more digestible.
At least US$4.5 billion (RM17.91 billion) funnelled to individual accounts, corporate heads, government leaders, their children and many more.
Suspicions of criminal mismanagement, fraud, bribery involving public officials and 1MDB top ranks, intertwined with Arabs, movies, gambling, actresses, jewellery and yacht.
Locally, investigations are being conducted by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Council of Eminent Persons, the fund owners, Finance Ministry and other appointed groups.
Hundreds of people are already seething through the 1MDB money and paper trails.
Investigations in no less than six countries have received an extra dose of viagra to pursue the villains and co-conspirators.
Malaysia has stated it will work with foreign bodies to unravel the scandal; prosecute the guilty parties; recover as much money; and return it to the rakyat.
But what is eye-catching is the rate of the revelations. Only a few weeks ago, 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy crowed about how successful his 1MDB roadshow was.
“But it is clear that following this series of informational roadshows, people are happier, so our objective has been realised,” he was quoted as saying after a roadshow in Taman Lucky, Bangsar.
Many had shared the same sentiments. Government-linked companies’ (GLCs) CEOs produced a music video titled Hebat Negaraku. An airline tycoon painted one of his planes blue. But a week is a long time in politics.
On Wednesday, the new Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng revealed what many people had suspected — 1MDB is insolvent and it could not honour its debt obligations. The fund has interests of over RM900 million due in the next few months.
The government has already bankrolled the “already insolvent” fund to the tune of around RM7 billion.
Another US$7 billion (RM27.86 billion) worth of debts must be paid over the next five years.
Lim had also said that 1MDB directors had described the sovereign fund’s investments as “a scam”. These involved the supposedly US$940 million worth of investment “units” held in BSI Bank Ltd in Singapore and US$1.56 billion worth of overseas investment funds belonging to 1MDB Global Investments Ltd.
1MDB has definitely lost the plot. Suddenly by choice or necessity, people are rediscovering their conscience. More and more people are willing to “throw someone or others under the bus”.
It begs the question — are they doing this to save their skin, those cushy positions and high-paying CEO jobs that come with perks like annual holiday passageway. It is easy to see these people changing sides. Where were these individuals when the common people demanded responsibility, clarity and explanation.
Where were these CEOs, senior officials and department heads when the public demanded them to uphold their fiduciary duties above the will of their political masters.
Former editor Datuk A Kadir Jasin recently wrote about the billionaires and “Tan Sris” who he labelled as “hypocrites and backstabbers”. The people who shunned Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, but now start to crawl back to his side following his return as the PM.
“Cari makan is important, but dignity as a virtue is not to be ignored. I cannot imagine millionaire Datuks and billionaire Tan Sris kowtowing to dedak eating konco (henchmen) of Najib (former PM Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak),” Kadir wrote in reference to Dr Mahathir’s berbuka puasa event on Tuesday.
According to the inner circle, the PM’s office has received many requests from people who suddenly become “friendly parties” to be included in the invitation list for the breaking fast.
Many of them had never been interested in Dr Mahathir’s berbuka puasa since he left office in 2003. It is a very interesting period. Seeing people scurrying for cover, looking for a place in the new Malaysia and trying to protect their interests, irrespective at the expense of others.
Before the resolutions of all the scandals at the various government- owned agencies, many more will be thrown under the bus. It is the ugly and dark side of us.
Let’s hope the country will never endeavour these similar episodes. And those selected to lead the government departments, government-linked investment companies, GLCs and agencies will put their fiduciary duties above all the shenanigans. That is the only way forward for Malaysia.
Mohamad Azlan Jaafar is the deputy editor-in-chief of The Malaysian Reserve.