1MDB and a message from a spy thriller

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How can the Umnoputras expect the thinking rakyat to accept their version of the truth about 1MDB when over the years they have been taking the rakyat for a ride, wonders Teo Chuen Tick.

In the movie Bridge of Spies, lawyer James Britt Donovan consoled a distraught Francis Gary Powers, who had just been released in a spy exchange, on the flight back to the USA, by telling him he was innocent and had not revealed any secrets to the Soviets: “You don’t have to bother what the others think of you, you yourself know what you have done!”

State Department officers and the military personnel present gave Powers the cold shoulder because the spy pilot had been captured alive instead of killing himself with a self-inflicted scratch from a poisoned pin hidden in a dime coin as instructed. They suspected Powers had revealed state secrets to the Soviets.

Fast forward to the present political scenario in our country. He who was destined to rule has been protesting his innocence to the rakyat about the allegations of misuse of 1MDB funds.

Sadly, in the case of this leader, all his protestations have been in vain among the thinking rakyat. Many are unable to accept the various accounts floated by his sidekicks about how such a large donation went to the leader’s personal account – to be used for the rakyat’s benefit?

We see the wisdom of Donovan’s advice reverberate through time. In this case, the leader is indeed bothered about what others think of him because he himself knows what he has done. We see this leader’s desperate attempts to cling to power – trying to subdue opposing views by using the Sedition Act and accumulating more powers in his hands through the National Security Council.

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When Donovan, an insurance lawyer, was asked to defend the caught Soviet spy Rudolfn Ivanovich Abel, he displayed a dogged commitment to the ideals of justice and fairness that he felt should be accorded to any criminal.

It was at the height of the Cold War in 1957. Donovan and his family endured hate attacks during the trial and, even though Abel was guilty, the lawyer took the fight all the way to the Supreme Court because he felt Abel’s constitutional rights had been violated when he was arrested.

Though Donovan lost the fight, the chief justice praised him for his dogged determination: “In my time on this court, no man has undertaken a more arduous, more self-sacrificing task.”

When we survey the political scene in our country, we can see individuals in Donovan’s mould undertaking the thankless task of fighting for fairness and justice amidst the Umnoputras use of all the institutions of state to subjugate the rakyat.

Zaid Ibrahim, Ambiga Sreenevasan and Maria Chin Abdullah come to mind. They are successful people in their own right; they can very well sit back and enjoy the fruit of their labour. But they are willing to put their heads on the chopping block and work to bring about a change for the better in our country.

Yes, that goal still seems distant, but we must not lose hope amidst the gloom and doom pervading now. Change for the better may yet come – a nation where all have their fair place under the Malaysian sun.

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Another inspiring aspect of the story is how the respect Donovan and Abel had for each other was crucial to the success of the spy exchange. Donovan accepted Abel as a patriot from the Soviet Union who was only doing his duty in the United States when he was caught. To Donovan, Abel was not a mercenary – he was not spying for personal gain.

Donovan insisted that the exchange would not take place if a student, Frederic L Pryor, who had just been detained in East Berlin on trumped-up espionage charges, was not released simultaneously with Abel. Neither Donovan nor Abel knew Pryor and Donovan actually went against specific orders from the CIA, who were more concerned with only getting back Powers.

But Abel just asked Donovan a simple question – whether Donovan wanted Pryor to be released as well. When Donovan answered in the affirmative, Abel stayed on the American side of the bridge – when he could have just walked to freedom to the Soviet side – until it was confirmed Pryor was released at Checkpoint Charlie.

This is what is lacking in our political scenario now – the loss of respect for the powers that be. Yes, they are employing all means possible to intimidate the thinking rakyat but they can’t force the rakyat to respect them.

How can the Umnoputras expect the thinking rakyat to accept their version of the truth hook, line and sinker when over the years they have been consistently taking the rakyat for a ride. They have consistently talked down to the rakyat and made promises that are not kept.

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How can the Umnoputras expect the thinking rakyat to take their word that all is well with 1MDB amidst the revelations of wrongdoings by the Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report?

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