Dr Mahathir says the rule of law does not exclude anyone
Pic By AFP
THE Malaysian government has not dismissed the possibility of recovering the billions stolen from the various criminal breach of trust (CBT) and corruption cases filed against former government leaders and administrators, said Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“(We know) they are hiding the money. If we can get them, we will get them,” he told the Malaysian media in Bangkok in conjunction with his two day official visit to Thailand yesterday.
The PM was asked about the CBT cases involving over RM6.6 billion filed by prosecutors against former PM Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak and former Treasury secretary general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Siregar Abdullah.
Yesterday, Najib and Mohd Irwan were jointly charged under Penal Code for CBT of government funds.
The funds are said to be related to payments for the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), gas pipeline projects and payments to International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC). The ECRL and gas pipeline projects had been scrapped and Malaysia is trying to recover the money from both deals.
The 65-year-old Najib and Mohd Irwan pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The former PM is already facing dozens of charges, but this is the first time Mohd Irwan, 61, was charged for any wrongdoings.
Mohd Irwan is viewed as a close ally to the leaders of the former government. He was also the chairman of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and was said to be instrumental in securing the payments owed to 1MDB creditors.
Questions over the payments of around US$3.5 billion (RM14.57 billion) to Aabar-British Virgin Island (Aabar-BVI) have been a key contention surrounding the 1MDB scandal.
IPIC, a Abu Dhabi-based fund, had denied that Aabar- BVI was part of its companies.
Commenting further on the latest charges filed against Najib, Dr Mahathir said the rule of law does not exclude anyone.
“There is a rule, a law and it can be upheld in the courts. The prosecutor must have enough evidence against Najib and others. This is serious.
“We have no wish to take revenge on anyone. The rule of law applies to incumbent PM and former PM,” he said, adding that rulers are not exempted from the laws.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir said the resolution to the South Thailand conflict is Malaysia’s way of reciprocating Thailand’s assistance in fighting terrorism.
“When we were facing terrorism, Thailand helped us to solve the problem. Now, it is our turn to help Thailand to solve the violence in South Thailand.
“It is a thing we agree. We don’t like violence that is happening as it affects the livelihood of the people in both countries,” he said.
However, Dr Mahathir said that there is no timeline for the resolution of the conflict as it is a complex issue.
He said the conflict involves more than just one separatist group and this complicates any pursuit of a single solution.
The PM said Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor was appointed to spearhead talks due to his experience in dealing with terrorism and his appointment is accepted by the Thai authority.
The insurgency in South Thailand has been a concern for both Putrajaya and Bangkok.
Violence over the last 14 years in Thailand’s three Southern provinces of Patani, Yala and Narathiwat had killed more than 6,500 people and left thousands injured.
It had dragged the people in the areas to sustained poverty and hardship. Malaysia had highlighted that backwardness and underdevelopment were among the reasons for the separatists to take up arms against Bangkok.
The Muslim-majority region is demanding for a separate state, or an autonomy to rule, an idea which has been shot down by Bangkok’s past administrations.
During his visit to Bangkok, Dr Mahathir also announced the easing of border controls including adding new infrastructure and extending the operating hours at the Bukit Kayu Hitam crossing to facilitate the movement of people and goods.
Mohamad Azlan Jaafar is the deputy editor-in-chief of The Malaysian Reserve.