Tycoon’s stance an indictment of Malaysians’ missing moral compass

This is as ordinary folks continue to venerate Najib like a political saint amid him being found guilty by the court for abuse of power and corruption 

pic by TMR FILE

BY ANY account, tycoon Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew has all to lose and little to gain by coming out strongly against ex-Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak (picture) during the Johor elections campaigning. 

There’s an unwritten rule in this country that the corporate sector maintains the veneer of political neutrality. Malaysia is not like developed countries like the US where corporations openly contribute to political funds and stump for candidates. 

In Malaysia, doing so would be suicidal, more so if the attacks are against political figures close to the establishment, such as the superstar Najib now is. 

It is an open secret that the government will stop at nothing to make life difficult for corporate leaders who lean towards opponents of the incumbent top leaders, such as the PM or the finance minister. Lee should know a thing or two about this. 

In 2017, the Inland Revenue Board seized RM126 million of assets owned by Country Heights Holdings Bhd, the company where Lee was the executive chairman. This was over alleged unpaid taxes but Lee maintained it was due to his close association with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was then trying to oust Najib. 

Another tycoon, Datuk Seri Stanley Thai, also ended up in hot soup for openly attacking Barisan Nasional prior to the 13th General Elections (GE13). In 2017, Thai was sentenced to five years jail and a fine of RM5 million for insider trading. He was later acquitted following an appeal but this was after he apologised to Najib and the government. 

In other words, it does not pay for businessmen to criticise the country’s leaders. In fact, many paid a hefty price for taking a public stance. 

But if people like Lee, a life-long MCA member, is willing to risk it all by criticising “Bossku”, a senior and influential Umno leader, isn’t it a shame that lesser mortals like us are keeping quiet? 

Lee has a point when he said in a letter to the Election Commission, that Najib, also known by his “Malu Apa Bossku?” moniker should not be allowed to campaign in the Johor polls. 

Najib is a convict who got a 12-year jail sentence and a RM210 million fine hanging over his head for abuse of power and corruption. 

A senior judge described him as a “national embarrassment”. In the US now, where the trial of Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker Roger Ng is taking place, scandalous details are being revealed, including about Najib being on the take for his role in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd affair. 

And how did many ordinary Malaysians respond to these? We lined up to take selfies with him as though he’s a superstar. We call him “Bossku”, yet in the same breath claim to abhor corruption. We openly yearned for his return as though he’s a political Messiah. 

Have Malaysians lost our moral compass? Why is it that a tycoon like Lee who has so much more at stake, is willing to stick his neck out, while ordinary folks venerate Najib like a political saint? 

Do we stand to lose millions of ringgit, to say nothing of lost business opportunities like Lee, if we speak out against Najib? Isn’t Lee’s open political stance an indictment of Malaysians’ lost moral compass? Let’s hope I am wrong.

But the way we treat the disgraced Najib now says a lot about our moral courage, or lack of. We need to undo this and Johoreans can start by voting against Barisan Nasional (BN), which is heavily reliant on Najib to reclaim its two-thirds majority in the state legislature.

And we know that like the recent Melaka election, the Johor poll is to help BN build up the momentum for the PM to call for GE15. And it is after the GE that Najib hopes to make a comeback. We need to kill this momentum, starting with the Johor election, before the country is ruled by convicts. 

Toh Lai Meng Batu Pahat 

The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board. 


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