By ZB OTHMAN / Pic By AFIF ABD HALIM
I was enjoying a tall glass of iced tea last night at the only Malay eatery in Cyberjaya that, up to very recently, doesn’t have TV3 on the television 24 hours of the day.
The food is barely passable, but the staff are friendly and have been well-trained to top up my glass as fast as it empties.
This is where I am on most Sunday nights, savouring the last hours of the weekend, in my quiet corner — my own golden pond.
So, it is with some irritation that I realised the random stranger at the next table, was trying to make conversation. Out of the blue. He wanted to talk about the Election, the old Prime Minister, the new Prime Minister, 1MDB, Jamal the Fugitive and the National Debt — all the things I’m actually trying to forget for the next hour or so.
He had a “Hebatkan Negaraku” T-shirt on and sounded like some who just needs to share his anger.
“Five lorry loads man, did you see they loaded up five lorries with loot?” he said, to which I politely nodded and pretended to read my mobile.
To me, he sounded like someone who just woke up and been told things that were previously hidden, but now bared naked under the sun, warts and hidden Birkins. It’s like the whole country is Neo and we are all seeing those little green numbers cascading down the screen.
Now he knows why so many ministers were saying really silly things and why things were not allowed to be mentioned at all in Parliament.
He says this while all the time watching the television which ironically was showing a recap of the weekly news.
Top of the news is the RM114 million cash, and goods that are expected to be worth even more, that was seized from property linked to the former prime minister who incidentally seemed more preoccupied with some chocolates missing from his fridge than thinking of an alibi that would remain water tight for more than two seconds.
Then the newsreader glee-fully told us that our national debt is RM1 trillion after some hidden items were added to it.
Next, we find out that 1MDB, that bad penny that has haunted us for the past five years, has outstanding debts of some RM42 billion and has now only one employee — the ever evasive Mr Arul Kanda Kandasamy, who doesn’t look like he has RM42 billion to pay for it.
It gets worse. We, the people, have paid like RM7 billion to 1MDB debtors while Arul Kanda, its single employee, have been telling the country all sorts of nonsense.
Even the questioning of the former prime minister for graft was just a footnote when the head of the MACC had a tearful tell-all in the same building. And I won’t even mention the fugitive status of one Jamal Yunos and one Musa Aman.
We’ll be talking to China, and Singapore, about some of those deals that in hindsight sound like they were drafted on the back of an envelope in some dingy back room, yes I’m talking about the ECRL, the HSR and Bandar Malaysia to name a couple. I hope Mr Robert Kuok has not lost any of his deal-making skills when he renegotiate those deals with China.
Then, there’s this back and forth about how much debt the nation is staring at. Is it RM600 billion, is it RM1 trillion?
On a personal level I don’t see a difference, both are very very big numbers and as long as I don’t see Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng tearing out his hair, I’ll not panic yet and rest assured that having assessed the true extent of the sickness, the doctor can now plot a cure.
All the while members of the previous administration have found their nerve again, emerging from the shadows to take pot shots at the new government, probably some PR Black Ops being done here.
Already I can sense a restlessness, an undercurrent desire to see somebody being held responsible for all these bad things. The guy wants to see some retribution for the abuse of the highest order at the highest office of the land.
“When are they going to bring out the handcuffs?” said the guy at the next table as I called for the bill.
- ZB Othman is the editor-in- chief of The Malaysian Reser