BY AKHBAR SATAR
Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) views with grave concern the recent arrest of former Umno Batu Kawan division deputy chief Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan and his lawyer Matthias Chang, the newly appointed attorney-general’s (A-G) refusal to press charges against 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) officials despite two appeals from Bank Negara, and the Conference of Rulers’ statement issued by the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal over 1MDB.
Khairuddin and Matthias were both scheduled to leave for New York and then London on September 18. However both were blacklisted and prohibited from leaving the country by the Immigration Department on police orders.
Later, Khairuddin was arrested and then released, but he was subsequently rearrested under a different act. This was followed by Matthias’s arrest.
Khairuddin was accused of sabotaging the country after it was discovered that he had lodged reports with investigators in Hong Kong, Switzerland, France and the United Kingdom over the 1MDB scandal. Both Khairuddin and Matthias are now arrested under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).
TI-M strongly condemns the use of this law to detain whistle-blowers without trial. If the police have strong reasons to believe the duo are a threat to national security, they should be charged and tried accordingly. Detaining them for 28 days without trial is an abuse of power by the authorities. What has happened to all the government’s promises of non-abuse when Sosma was first introduced?
Sosma was enacted to provide for special measures relating to security offences for the purpose of maintaining public order and security, and for connected matters where action had been taken and further action was threatened by a substantial body of persons.
TI-M does not see the nexus between the objectives of the act and the detention of Khairuddin and Matthias.
Last week the nation was shocked to know that the A-G had rejected a request from Bank Negara, twice, to initiate criminal prosecution against 1MDB officials for breaches of law under the Exchange Control Act 1953 (ECA).
The A-G has yet to explain why the request from Bank Negara was rejected despite Bank Negara making an appeal. The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) was of the view that there was no wrongdoing found or committed by any of 1MDB’s officials.
Given the circumstances of the new A-G’s appointment and his links with the ruling party, he should come clean and be transparent to explain why and what is the justification for not proceeding to press charges against the 1MDB officials when the main regulator for such offences Bank Negara, had given their view that such charges were appropriate.
TI-M applauds the stunning action taken by Bank Negara in revoking three permissions granted to 1MDB under the Exchange Control Act 1953 for investments abroad totalling US$1.83 billion and also issuing a directive under the Financial Services Act 2013 to 1MDB to repatriate the amount of US$1.83 billion to Malaysia and submit a plan to the Bank for this purpose.
However, in an immediate response, 1MDB issued a statement stating that it will not be able to repatriate the US$1.83 billion as the funds were either spent or are going to be used for debt transfer.
TI-M urges 1MDB officials to immediately comply with Bank Negara’s instruction. It is reiterated that, this is not a query from Bank Negara for 1MDB to explain but it is a directive and 1MDB must comply.
TI-M also urges the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to act professionally and work without fear or favour and cooperate with Bank Negara to bring the culprits if any to face justice.
If 1MDB does not comply with Bank Negara’s directives, this will be a very dangerous precedent where parties at fault are able to give excuses and justifications to avoid compliance. It seems the perception of government departments and agencies working in silos is somewhat proven correct. This clear disagreement is farcical and exhibit how disjointed our government agencies are.
Is this how we want to portray Malaysia to the world and also to attract foreign investments? The efforts of Datuk Seri Najib Razak last week in the US will come to naught.
Last week the nation witnessed a rare, yet valuable statement issued by the Conference of Rulers on 1MDB. The rulers decreed that all investigations on 1MDB must be wrapped up soon and the wrongdoers if any are to be charged. The rulers also wanted the findings to be made public, in full and in a transparent manner.
TI-M supports the Conference of Rulers’ decree as there is wisdom in what the rulers have decreed for the best interest of Malaysia. Thus this latest development from another institution under our constitution (at a time where one by one our institutions are being compromised) together with last Friday’s instruction by Bank Negara to 1MDB, is a clear message to 1MDB and the government to end this saga which has taken a heavy toll on the people of Malaysia and its worldwide reputation abroad.
TI-M views very seriously the lackadaisical response of the deputy prime minister on the statement from the Malay rulers. His Facebook status page states the probe on any party whatsoever should adhere to the rule of law, while any demand to speed up or slow down investigations should not happen. This is not consistent with the AGC’s rejection of Bank Negara’s request to initiate action against 1MDB.
TI-M’s stand has been consistent that the 1MDB saga must be fully investigated, any wrongdoings or corrupt practices should be fully disclosed and the wrongdoers should be brought to justice without fear or favour.
This has already taken far too long, such that the trust deficit faced by the current government in the minds of the people is such that the people no longer take seriously any statement by the current government that the issue of wrongdoings in 1MDB being probed and investigated will actually be resolved.
There is a real difference between helping 1MDB to get out of its current financial mess (which seems to be the focus of the executive) and bringing to justice those (no matter how high up the government hierarchy) who have abused their power to use the finances of 1MDB for their own ulterior motives.
Even the recent Yogyakarta Declaration of the 6th Global Conference of Parliamentarians Against Corruption 2015 (GOPAC2015) acknowledged that corruption, particularly grand corruption, is the global tyrant of our time that robs citizens of fundamental human rights and undermines the ability of states to protect the most vulnerable in society.
Let not the people be fooled. – October 12, 2015.
* Datuk Akhbar Satar is president of Transparency International Malaysia.