pic by ARIF KARTONO
IT WAS thought to be a joke when an online news portal reported that former Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak (picture) was challenging his one-time mentor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to a debate.
However, it turned out that it was not a joke, though Dr Mahathir’s reply — that there was no reason for him to debate Najib since the latter has had all the charges against him proven in court — seems to imply that Dr Mahathir found the idea of a debate with Najib somewhat a joke.
Much as his interest in debating Dr Mahathir is at best a dismissible political triviality, Najib’s other attempts to get mainstream are not to be taken as lightly.
Armed with a coterie of supporters, who must have smoked or drunk a very potent unidentified source of amnesia (POTUS of A — not to be mistaken with the President of the United States of America’s acronym) to render them unaware of the ongoing exposé of his financial shenanigans locally and abroad, Najib is living up to his moniker or tagline “Malu Apa Bossku (What is there to be ashamed of, my boss)”.
Then there was another development that was earlier brushed aside as a joke, of rumblings that Najib would be made the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club (BNBBC) chairman.
It turned out that it was not a joke either. Najib is the BNBBC chairman and basically the key in determining the direction some 23 BN MPs will vote in the august house.
In effect, Najib, who about three months ago was convicted by the High Court to 12-year jail and RM210 million fine, has managed to regain his footing in mainstream politics.
All that Najib is banking on is to overturn the decision with his appeal to the higher courts and if he managed to do just that, he is on for a home run.
The nation had judged Najib, even before he was produced in court, that he was guilty of all the crimes he was accused of and the citizenry punished him by getting him and his alliance out of office.
The court cases that followed and legal actions across the globe on 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)-related crimes were testimonies that validated the pre-election accusations.
If doubters and his supporters remained sceptical that Najib had committed the crimes as affirmed by the High Court, surely the abundance of proof coming from the legal processes abroad and the billions of dollars returned should erase any doubts.
But that is not to be so.
Of course, there are still those who have remained consistent and committed in putting an end to the political journey of the kleptocrat and they can see through Najib’s attention-seeking manoeuvres.
One active social media player has, since the 1MDB case emerged more than five years ago, remained vigilant whenever Najib tries to do a makeover of himself.
When Najib suggested that the government should allow the citizenry to withdraw from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) monthly, she was unforgiving in her comments, reminding Najib of the public funds that had been siphoned vis-à-vis the 1MDB infamy.
She had obviously not forgotten and she correctly pointed out that as much as she supported any idea to ease the pain of the rakyat during these difficult times, but Najib should remember that those EPF funds are monies from their own earnings.
If Najib was truly concerned about the wellbeing of the people, he should retrieve and return the billions of government funds that were channelled through 1MDB and went missing.
In other words, Najib had lost his credibility and right to talk about how to assist the Malaysian public because he had been found guilty of the said crimes.
While she is not a lone voice, and despite all the revelations, Najib remains acceptable to a segment of society, and his party and allies do not have the moral conviction to stop him from being one of the faces of the party and coalition.
But the whole episode is not merely about the court case and his conviction. Najib is, at the end of the day, a symptom to the whole chain of political values, ethics, principles and a basic sense of right and wrong.
It is a question as to how does a nation, whether forced upon them or otherwise, reconcile the fact that a leader who was found guilty locally and disparaged explicitly abroad could still remain in the thick of Malaysian politics and now, even a peep back into the mainstream.
To expect Najib to be remorseful and withdraw is obviously out of the question, and he has proven to shamelessly live up to his moniker tagline.
To expect his supporters to stop him in his tracks is something that is not going to happen as it has been established that they inhale or drink POTUS of A.
To expect the BN component partners is too high an expectation as they are as wimpish as their numbers.
To expect the PM, his party and allies which formed the new backdoor government, it is under their watch that Najib and other kleptocrats are getting a lifeline.
Furthermore, as much as the kleptocrats are dependent on the PM and his alliance for a lifeline, the PM and his merry men are dependent on the kleptocrats to remain in office.
In fact, even the Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim-led Pakatan Harapan is perceived to have compromised themselves when in the quest to get Anwar to be the 9th PM, they seem to coyly accept their dependency on the support of the kleptocrats.
With the Covid-19 pandemic causing mayhem on the lives of the all and sundry, and the issue of legitimacy staring straight into the face of the PM and his Cabinet, it is doubtful that they are any more concerned whether the kleptocrats are beginning to stake their claims.
And all the anger and disgust the Opposition members were earlier on expressing over the backdoor government, of traitors and betrayal, are somewhat defused and replaced with compromises for extra funding and the likes, all said to be in the interest of their constituents.
They are not any better than their colleagues who jumped ship whom they had accused of betrayal and being traitors. Yet, they too have now been made an offer they couldn’t refuse.
It is merely who relented sooner than later.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.