Following pullout from IACC, will Najib be avoiding all international conferences unless held in the Third World or he can be assured that no “hard questions” would be asked?

One upshot of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s last-minute pull-out from the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Putrajaya is whether this would also mean that Najib would be avoiding all international conferences unless they are held in the Third World or he can be assured that no “hard questions” would be asked?

Transparency International (TI) has confirmed that Najib was told that he would have to face hard questions from participants at the 16th IACC, like the ones that were asked by TI President Jose Ugaz in his opening speech with regard to the RM2.6 billion “donation” in Najib’s personal bank accounts – “Who paid the money and why?” and “Where did it go?”

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Paul Low owes Malaysians a proper explanation as to why he advised the Prime Minister against attending the IACC due to his “personal issues” and “a possible hostile reception”.

What are these “personal issues” – is it that Najib is now regarded by the 1,000 participants at the 16th IACC as one of the corrupt leaders of the world, like Otto Perez Molina who resigned as Guatemala President yesterday mired in a massive, multi-million customs corruption scandal?

And what Low meant about “a possible hostile reception” – did he mean that Najib would have run the risk of being assaulted or manhandled by agitated 16th IACC participants if the Prime Minister had kept to this original promise to officiate at the opening of the IACC, and whether this is not only his personal view but also the concern of the security people responsible for the Prime Minister’s personal safety?

The last two days had been the most embarrassing and even shameful ones not only for the Prime Minister but the whole country, with country’s head of government publicly and internationally flagellated like a rogue student caught red-handed for gross misconduct.

At the first day of IACC on Wednesday, it was the TI President Jose Ugaz who swung the cane for Najib’s failure to answer very simple questions of who gave the RM2.6 billion “donation”, why and where the money has gone to.

Yesterday, it was the TI co-founder Michael J. Hershman, who was former adviser to Najib and the government on anti-corruption matters, who carried out the unpleasant duty of chastisement, telling Najib to come clean on the RM2.6 billion donation that he received.

Hershman said Najib’s inability to address questions about the donation had affected the prime minister’s credibility and advised Najib not to cover up, not to obstruct justice because it doesn’t work.

He said: “Tell the truth about where did the money come from and address the accusation. And if he did something wrong, then asked for forgiveness and face the consequences.”

Stressing that such delays would not make the allegations go away, he said: “The truth will come out and in my experience the sooner it comes out the better it is for the accused and for the country.”

Hershman said the explanations given so far were not good enough.

“If it came from the Middle East, who did it come from? When did it come and for what purpose? These are very simple questions.”

He added that since Najib had control of the account, he must know where it came from.

He said: “There is no reason for a panel for investigations. Just tell the truth. Get it out in the public.”

Considering that Malaysia was in the sixties the second in the pack of developed countries in Asia, we should already be a First World country like South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, but the past half a century has relegated Malaysia perilously close to the rank of Third World countries like Guatemala, which is ranked No. 115 out of 174 countries in TI Corruption Perception Index 2014 (Malaysia is ranked No. 50).

Following the resignation of Otto Perez Molina as the Guatemala President over a corruption scandal, the question that will inevitably surface is why Najib is not taking leave as Prime Minister for the RM50 billion 1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation” scandals to be fully and independently investigated?

As the theme of 16th IACC is “Ending Impunity: People. Integrity. Action”, is the IACC prepared to offer the services of an international commission of inquiry to get to the bottom of both these scandals to give teeth and substance to the IACC theme?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah