100 days of nation rebuilding and counting

This govt is filled with new faces, tasked with repairing a country still haunted by the ghosts of its past

By NG MIN SHEN / Pic By TMR File

When Malaysia elected a new government for the first time in 61 years, the initial sentiment was largely composed of shock and joy that the Barisan Nasional-led coalition had been replaced.

As the dust settled, Malaysians then turned to Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto, which included 10 promises to be delivered within the first 100 days of its rule.

With today being the new government’s 100th day in office, it is worth noting that while many of the pledges have yet to be delivered, this is a government filled with new faces, tasked with repairing a country still haunted by the ghosts of its past.

Among the promises fulfilled, one that stands out is the handling of scandal-ridden state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). Investigations into 1MDB and its dealings began right after Pakatan Harapan came to power, with the formation of a 1MDB task force announced by the Prime Minister’s (PM) Office on May 21.

The task force was set up with the aim of probing into the 1MDB case, as well as looking into criminal offences committed by individuals involved in the management of the fund.

It has been revealed that Malaysia’s debt stands at above RM1 trillion — far higher than what was disclosed by the previous administration, with 1MDB being a main contributing factor.

Former PM Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak was also arrested and charged in court early last month, in relation to investigations into SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.

The government has begun discussions with other countries that have been investigating 1MDB’s money trail, including the US, Switzerland and Singapore, to recover 1MDB-linked funds.

Last week, the controversial luxury yacht, the Equanimity — allegedly purchased with money siphoned from 1MDB — was handed over by Indonesia to Malaysian authorities.

The yacht is linked to fugitive billionaire Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low.

On the corporate side, many major leaders have vacated or announced intentions to vacate their positions, largely attributed to the government’s statement that it intends to end industry monopolies and investigate those linked to the previous administration’s financial scandals.

The firms that have seen political or nepotism-based appointees culled so far include a large number of government- linked companies and government-linked investment companies.

Among these are the Federal Land Development Authority, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd, Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM), Petroliam Nasional Bhd, Media Prima Bhd, Lembaga Tabung Haji and Permodalan Nasional Bhd.

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) also saw the resignation of its governor after it was revealed that money from the sale of land to the central bank was used to repay 1MDB debts, while Treasury secretary general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah’s contract was shortened. Mohd Irwan, who is also 1MDB chairman, was then transferred to the Public Service Department, rendering him no longer a board member of BNM.

The government has also cancelled or delayed several mega infrastructure projects, citing the need to review the transparency and financial viability of these developments.

The projects under review include the Kuala Lumpur (KL)-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR), the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and the Light Rail Transit Line 3 (LRT3), while the Mass Rapid Transit Line 3 (MRT3) has been delayed for the time being.

In the telecommunications sector, a memorandum of understanding that was earlier signed between TM and Tenaga Nasional Bhd — the giants of telecommunications and electricity — to deliver on the national broadband agenda has been terminated, giving rise to expectations for cheaper prices and faster speeds in the telco sector.

While Pakatan Harapan may not have fulfilled all its 100-day promises, Malaysians would do well to remember that undoing damage and rebuilding a country takes far longer than 100 days, maybe even more than Pakatan Harapan’s five-year term.