pic by BERNAMA
FOR some Malaysians, epiphany came when the High Court discharged and acquitted former Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman (picture) of all 46 counts of corruption and money laundering levelled against him, which involved a total sum of US$50.1 million (RM212.87 million).
Others would claim that they had their moments of realisation a month earlier when Riza Aziz, the stepson of Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak, was discharged, not amounting to acquittal, of five money laundering charges involving US$248 million linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) when he agreed to return US$107 million.
Regardless who first became aware of what’s brewing, the popular sentiment, or at least what was seen on social media, was the injustice of it all. Some put up caricatures comparing Musa’s acquittal to a labourer sentenced to 15 months for stealing petai or stink beans.
Others quipped sarcastically that the labourer could have bargained for a discharge, though not necessarily amounting to acquittal, if he had just returned some of the petai.
Beyond these cases, some are anticipating more “disturbing” decisions in high profile cases involving political leaders from the previous administration.
Attorney General (AG) Tan Sri Idrus Harun, in justifying the Chambers’ (AGC) stand in both Riza’s and Musa’s cases, has fuelled this anticipation. Idrus referencing his decisions to earlier opinions made by his predecessors, Tan Sri Tommy Thomas in Riza’s case and Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail for Musa’s, gave rise to narratives that he is setting a precedent.
In particular is Najib’s 1MDB and SRC International Sdn Bhd cases, whereby prior to the change of government in May 2018, then AG Tan Sri Apandi Ali had cleared Najib of all wrongdoings in relations to these cases.
To Idrus’ detractors, by using Thomas’ and Gani’s opinions in justifying the direction taken by the AGC in dealing with Riza’s and Musa’s cases, he is paving the way to use Apandi’s opinion when dealing with Najib’s cases.
Of course, these are only speculations and conjectures, but whether Idrus or Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s government like it or not, public concerns over the developments are weighted against them.
Whether Idrus is aware or not, the critical views over the developments of these high profile cases are not merely confined to the issue of justice or rather injustice per se. It is of political significance given the manner Muhyiddin and his backers had taken over the government from the elected Pakatan Harapan coalition.
Not only is the coup a cause of chagrin among those from the other side of the fence, its claimed numbers that are suspect add to the drama.
Again, whether Muhyiddin and his backers want to admit it or not, their ascension to power would not have been possible without the tacit support of those who had been responsible for turning the nation into an international kleptocratic infamy.
If there are opinions that Muhyiddin owed it to the kleptocrats to be and remain the prime minister, they would not be baseless nor doled out of envy.
There are six high profile cases involving MPs that make up the numbers for Muhyiddin. Apart from Najib, they are Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Tengku Adnan Mansor, Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Rahim, Datuk Seri Bung Mokhtar Radin and Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan.
If they were to be found guilty, Muhyiddin’s razor-thin government loses its majority and that would spell the end of his prime ministership.
Furthermore, all and each of them are influential within Umno, the biggest contributor to Muhyiddin’s cobbled up coalition, the self-styled Perikatan Nasional. Any one or more of them being incarcerated would see some of their closely aligned MPs abandoning the coalition.
The only way for Muhyiddin to relieve himself of being held at ransom by these influential personalities is by getting other MPs to cross over, giving him a more comfortable majority so that he can make do without the six.
But in pursuing this, whether perceived or otherwise, accusations of literally paying a price for this loyalty does not put either Muhyiddin nor his government in good stead, especially when it sprouted out of a previous government that secured the people’s mandate for aggressively placing anti-corruption and abuse of power as its raison d’etre.
And even if Muhyiddin can secure a relatively safe majority, that is not a guarantee. If Zahid or Najib were to be convicted, given that they are the president and past president of Umno respectively, it is doubtful that other Umno MPs will stay loyal to Muhyiddin and the coalition.
In other words, if their leaders were to be convicted, they will pull out of the coalition and push for a snap election, an idea that has been floated for some time now.
To them, they would rather take chances thorough an election as they have nothing to lose anymore. Given the way rule of law were compromised when they were ruling the nation before the last general election, a victory would equal to being exonerated.
However, if they could get exonerated now without going to the polls, it would definitely be a better option by any counts. The crux of the matter is aptly, albeit cynically, captured in a cartoon strip that said the labourer should have opted to steal millions rather than petai.
It is not funny and it stinks to high heaven.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.