The decaying spoils of war

pic by BERNAMA

HAVING acknowledged that the frontliners are the real heroes during these trying times, Malaysians would also want to remember this week and the last as a Barbers’ Week, acknowledging those in the trade for showing wisdom beyond some of those among the political elites.

In opposing the possibility of resuming their trade during the third phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO), these barbers reflected a full grasp of directive beyond what some of the policymakers themselves seem capable of, the exception of course being Health DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

The seemingly endless bungling made by the political elites since the crisis erupted threatens to unravel some of the wiser and apt decisions made. Regardless, it underscored that during crises, the populist gets exposed and the competent rises to the occasion.

And this crisis is not going to end just because the MCO ends or restrictions and controls are loosened.

The impact of the Covid-19 crisis is expected to spread until next year and that not only concerns the aspects of containing the spread, but also in dealing with the economic and social meltdown.

In short, all the best hands are required on deck and the less interference from the political elites, the better.

Hence, the concerns and protests of some segments of the nation on the move to reward all MPs who supported the formation of the current unelected government to cushy positions in government-linked entities have gained traction.

It is actually quite a chilling reminder of how things could go very wrong post-MCO when PAS secretary general Takiyuddin Hassan, who is also the de facto law minister, publicly declared that all MPs who are not holding government positions would be made heads of government-linked companies (GLCs).

He even went to the extent of detailing the move, pointing out that currently, out of the 18 PAS MPs, half of them are already positioned. Takiyuddin said he was informed that the remaining nine will be given position in GLCs, adding for good measures that they are qualified.

Even though the current government may feel it is not obliged nor bound to the manifesto of its predecessor, ie the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, surely it is aware that even in past administrations, the appointments of politicians to GLCs had always been frowned upon and the financial debacles suffered during the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd) infamy amplified the danger of such patronage and reward system.

Takiyuddin’s unabashed announcement of such plans is a reflection that without the rewards, the possibilities of the current prime minister (PM) defending his position may be in jeopardy.

Surely, such rewards would not stop with PAS. Umno would expect the same and so would all the other participants in the government that was not voted for. And if they are not rewarded, then their support for the new government would be withdrawn and the collapse is inevitable.

Amid the concerns over these appointments, a piece of good news emerged — the return of US$300 million (RM1.29 billion) of misappropriated 1MDB funds. The announcement of the fund’s repatriation was made by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) as part of its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiatives.

PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in thanking the US government, said as of now, the government has managed to recover a total US$620 million (RM2.68 billion) of 1MDB money in the form of sales proceeds or assets.

Obviously, all the efforts made by the PH government, which Muhyiddin was part of until just over a month ago, had come to fruition and had been justifiably carried out despite attempts by Umno, which until today had not admitted that their leaders had committed financial wrongdoings vis-à-vis the 1MDB scandal.

The American would not have given Malaysia the billions of ringgit from their own coffers, nor if they were seized from sources other than Malaysia’s. In other words, the monies were returned because a crime had been committed and it was committed under the watch of those who are today part of the new government.

Being part of the government that today accepted the funds recovered by the American Kleptocracy Assets Recovery Initiatives meant that they would also have to admit that they had then served a kleptocratic government.

Since Umno en-bloc formed the current government, it would be quite interesting to know what is the position taken by the Umno ministers in the Cabinet regarding the 1MDB scandal and the return of the fund by the American authorities.

Of course, the easy way out would be to leave it to the courts or better still, blame it all on Low Taek Jho aka Jho Low and pretend that they were not part of the cabal that defended Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak and denied any wrongdoings were committed when the nation were up in arms when the scandal exploded.

The worst among them would be those who went out of their way to convince the nation that the scandal was merely an attempt to defame Umno and its leadership, and that no money was stolen nor misappropriated. Their crime is as much as those who committed the misappropriation.

Instead, they will, if not already, will be rewarded. And that leaves the nation at the crossroad between survival and decay.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.