The RM2.6bn ‘donation’: What goes around comes around

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Cartoon by Zunar/Malaysiakini

The prime minister will have to seek in his reflections what is it about his words, deeds and behaviour that has attracted such an enormous credibility issue, says K Haridas.

Should one, as a law-abiding Malaysian, fear expressing critical concerns? The Rukunnegara, which outlines our shared convictions, proclaims that the rule of law must be upheld.

Receiving RM2.6bn is no small matter, and whether the recipient is the prime minister and finance Minister or you or me does not matter. Intelligent Umno members must not gloss over such facts. The law is neither subjective nor arbitrary but must ensure that justice prevails.

Where laws have been transgressed, then accountability is the order of the day for all Malaysians. Bank Negara should not fear and must inform us if they were duly informed about this account in the prime minister’s name and the amounts deposited. “Yes” or “No” – and as a regulatory body, they owe all Malaysians this duty of care. It will be seen as a dereliction of their duties if they do not do so.

Moral dilemma

The prime minister is facing a moral and ethical dilemma and he knows this as well as many Malaysians. He is perhaps dragging this issue in the hope that Malaysians will forget. There are others creating distracting issues to deflect focus on this issue. Powerful elites have both the means and capacity to protect their skins.

No, the prime minister – as someone who has talked so much about integrity and having even established a portfolio under the prime minister’s department that looks after integrity, transparency and human rights – has to respond to the legitimate concerns of Malaysians both for the good of the nation and for himself personally. He need not be defensive if the truth is told.

We are one of the few nations – or maybe the only nation in the world – to have a minister for integrity, transparency and human rights. The way things are progressing makes a joke about the seriousness given to this task. The prime minister and his minister in charge are now both caught between the talk and the walk and the yawning gap that seems so evident.

All this remains the prime minister’s creation. When he chose to give your life to the public sphere, to be a politician and serve the public interest, it is only right for the public at large to ask and clarify concerns with him unlike the Umno general assembly held recently. This is even more so when the individual concerned is both the prime minister and finance minister of the nation.

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Ideally, as many have remarked, the prime minister should have stepped aside and let the investigations proceed. He has sullied his name and image in the manner he has delayed the workings of the so-called independent task force, dismissed the sitting attorney general, appointed a new attorney general and then moved four members of the parliamentary accounts committee to become members of the executive. Every action that has been taken by him does not exemplify openness, transparency and integrity.

Thereafter we have had countless editions of explanations justifying the receipt of the RM2.6bn – ranging from fear of the DAP; the Jews; for the last general elections; to ensure Umno’s continued presence; protecting Islam; fighting Isis (even before they came into existence) and the haze – which only thickens and hides the truth. It was also indicated that the donation was given to the party president to hold funds in trust for the party.

But Umno’s financial statements for years 2013 and 2014 do not mention anything about this amount. We are informed from the public domain that these amounts were transferred in batches between March 2013 and February 2015 (as indicated by the Wall Street Journal) to the prime minister’s personal account with AmBank. The largest portion of US$681m was transferred in March 2013, two months before the 13th general elections.

The remaining amounts were received between December 2014 and February 2015. A trustee who holds money for a society is also accountable. Does the prime minister not realise that all this continues to show him and the nation in very bad light. Surely Bank Negara will have access to detailed transactions as to withdrawals. Why is it that there seems to be a lack of will to get to the bottom of this issue?

Why is it that the prime minister seems unable to do the right thing and have his name cleared? Even in Umno, under his leadership, they seem to censure debate and discussions on this critical subject and remove and punish people who want to know. All this is done in bad faith and does little to enhance the credibility of the prime minister. An open session at the Umno AGM would have been in the best tradition of Islam to clear the air.

A message for Najib

I would have thought that it is only appropriate to include your deputy president and your close team in the receipt of such large amounts and not work alone. This in itself raises questions, and the several reasons attributed to the receipt of such a large amount raises legitimate concerns. The length of time taken to secure disclosures also discredits the prime minister. All his talk and reference to Islam and love for the party and its cause is not backed up by the actions and revelations so far.

How long, Mr Prime Minister, is this going to continue? You speak about Islam – then, do the right things according to the tenets of Islam. No one is questioning your beliefs but many are concerned about your conduct and behaviour.
There is a mismatch evident between the story and the action. It does not hit the mark and meet the expectations of many independent non-political Malaysians. This issue has now gone on for several months, and the more you speak the worse seem to be the consequences.

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What is it that makes the prime minister an exception and conveys the perception that he is above the law? Many of his spokesmen and ministers are likewise saying things about this issue that only further confuses the public.

Mr Prime Minister, RM2.6bn as political donations is not a joke! You received it because you are the prime minister. Otherwise, they could have well given it to Hadi or Anwar. So, as the recipient, you are accountable. The component parties of the BN are silent perhaps because they may have benefited from this money.

Umno’s accounts only show an annual donation of RM82m. Where is this money today? There is also indication that the money was also transferred out from Malaysia. How can we trust you to be the finance minister when you show such a poor sense of accountability? With your years of experience in politics, surely you would have realised that this was a great risk to take – or were you so confident that the regulatory and enforcement authorities could be neutralised by sheer power or that this would remain a private initiative of yours?

Where is all this money parked presently and what is left of it? If it is a donation, then the nation is interested, and if it is a political donation then the BN is equally interested. The amounts exceed the limits spelt out by the Election Commission.

The impotency and the lack of debate amongst the coalition member parties show how discredited they have all become. Even they do not provide a check that could have averted this political drama that affects them all.

If the donor decided to give the money to you in your personal capacity, this does not absolve you from accountability. You are still the prime minister of the nation, and there are duties and responsibilities relating to accountability that you still have to discharge. The donor is liable to tax and has he paid this to the Inland Revenue (LHDN)? Has a tax notice been prepared?

The definition of what amounts to corruption under MACC rules are clear, and it would be a great surprise if you have an exemption in this regard. Your inability to face up to this challenge is going to cost the nation dearly.

Your defensive position conveys the perception that you intend to take action to protect your skin. This is because you do not seem to trust an independent investigation into this issue. Would Islam be against such an initiative? What would this involve?

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Perhaps, you have already put in place people who will ensure that prosecution will not take place and that any who highlight contrary views could be silenced as was evident at the recent Umno general assembly. The media will be the next, and a more authoritarian approach could follow to ensure that dissent will be stifled at all levels.

Even if I were caught in a muddle like this I would try and see how I could get out. This is only human, but in the end I may be indicted by adequate circumstantial evidence or cleared of any wrong based on justice.

What more are you going to sacrifice to save your skin at the cost of the nation? Alternatively, if you are vindicated by an ‘independent investigation’, reflect on what this could do for you and your future. Show the moral courage born out of you faith, reveal your spine and stand up for the truth. People will respect your convictions and judge you in a fair manner.

Will this looming shadow over you add credit to your image and role as the prime minister? The more you disengage from telling the truth and protecting your interests using state institutions, the worse it will be for the nation and its image. The existence of a ‘charge sheet’ has now been corroborated by a statutory declaration. How is this going to be clarified when the deposed attorney general remains silent?

Your late father was so keen to hand over power to Parliament rather than legitimise it under the then National Operations Council. What are your intentions in rushing through the bill relating to the National Security Council in such a clandestine manner with no discussions with stakeholders?

Enormous credibility issue

All this is being watched by citizens at large, and bad motives can easily be imputed especially when the trust deficit continues to increase.

The Umno general assembly revealed a lack of any checks and balances thus reflecting the powers of the president as all powerful. A subservient executive committee further damages the image of the president. The party has a code of ethics but those in charge are focussed on taking action against those party members who question the conduct of the president.

This cannot continue in this 21st century and in a nation aspiring for ‘developed status’ by 2020. What goes around comes around, and as you sow, so shall you reap.

The prime minister will have to seek in his reflections what is it about his words, deeds and behaviour that has attracted this enormous credibility issue. Nothing happens for nothing. You cannot wish it away and the best for him is to face it and take what comes as a ‘Bugis warrior’.

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K Haridas

K Haridas, an Aliran executive committee member, is the current chair of the Business Ethics Institute of Malaysia and of the Malaysian chapter of Initiatives of Change International.

1 COMMENT

  1. TQ ALIRAN FOR YOUR STRUGGLE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE OVER THE DECADES. KEEP UP YOUR GOOD WORK. GOD BLESS.

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