“Be Very Afraid!” when “ignoramus” Ministers give empty assurances about special task force investigation when they may not even be qualified to comment because of conflict of interest

“Fear not, ministers will ensure task force does its job” is one headline for the assurance by the Youth and Sports Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin that the special task force probing allegations concerning 1MDB will do its job without fear or favour.

I say, “Be Very Afraid!” when “ignoramus” Ministers give empty assurances about the special task force investigation when they may not even be qualified to comment because of conflict of interest.

Khairy said the task force would have to report to Cabinet and that “we the ministers will be there to ensure that the investigation is done without fear or favour”.

What nonsense is Khairy talking about. How can the Cabinet Ministers ensure that the investigation is done “without fear or favour” when the Cabinet Ministers cannot ensure that the establishment of the task force is done “without fear or favour”?

The 35 Cabinet Ministers cannot be unaware that Malaysians have no confidence in the special task force because its four “Tan Sri” heads of the quartet of enforcement/investigating agencies, namely Bank Negara, Royal Malaysian Police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Attorney-General Chambers are all junior, subordinate and beholden to Najib, whether as Finance Minister or Prime Minister, when Najib is in fact the “accused” in the investigations.

This is why Malaysians want independent and reputable Malaysians to investigate the Wall Street Journal allegation that US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) was deposited into Najib’s personal bank accounts in AnBank within two weeks of dissolution of Parliament on April 3, 2013..

Former Sabah state secretary and former Suhakam Deputy Chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun supports an independent royal commission of inquiry (RCI) consisting of members from both sides of the political fence, including having Tun Mahathir as the RCI Chair.

As Simon rightly pointed out, the investigations should be conducted by those who have a track record in anti-corruption work, who must be independent and they must not be civil servants.

The Attorney-General, Tan Sri Gani Patail, the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed are all civil servants. Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz is the governor of Bank Negara but she’s very much like a civil servant as she works for a government bank.
Being civil servants, they work under the ethos and status of “I am your obedient servant” as far as the Prime Minister is concerned.

The special task force has started off on a totally wrong footing when it is more interested in finding out who leaked the documents to Wall Street Journal, than the truth of the allegations.

If the WSJ report leads to the expose of the first Prime Ministerial misconduct and largest financial scandal in the nation’s history, those who leaked the documents highlighting to the public the enormity of the financial scandal and criminal breach of trust deserve national recognition, gratitude and honours and not harassment and persecution!

Khairy’s claim that Ministers will ensure that investigations are conducted “without fear or favour” is completely far-fetched and not worthy of any belief as the Cabinet Ministers have absolutely no powers determing its establishment, composition and scope inquiry.

Do the Ministers agree that the Prime Minister, as “accused”, should be able to dictate the “scope” of the investigations, when Najib said that the “scope” of the special task force is to investigate the WSJ’s claims against him as to whether he used 1MDB funds for his personal interest?

Do the Ministers know whether the special task force will be investigating whether Najib has personal banking accounts, whether RM2.6 billion were deposited in them, and to probe where the RM2.6 billion came from and where it went to?”

Furthermore, can Ministers tell the public whether the special task force will be investigating into all aspects of the RM42 billion 1MDB scandal spanning the past six years?

If Ministers cannot answer anyone of these questions, how can Ministers ensure that the special task force will carry out its investigations without “fear or favour”?

This is not the time for Ministers to hide their ignorance about the 1MDB scandal and Najib’s role by flaunting empty assurances like the Cabinet ensuring that the investigations will be “without fear or favour”.

As the special task force, its composition and terms of reference, were formed without the knowledge, authority or approval of the Cabinet, the Ministers must do what is proper and right for the country – disband the special task force and set up a Royal Commission Inquiry with powers to get to the bottom of the 1MDB scandal.

Najib had never denied RM2.6 billion deposited into his personal accounts in AmBank but repeatedly said that he had “never taken funds for personal gain”.

Is Najib suggesting that if the RM2.6 billion deposited in AmBank or some parts of it had been used for the 13th general election campaign for Barisan Nasional including all the Cabinet Ministers (an earlier WSJ report specifically making this allegation had not been denied by Najib), this would be consistent with his repeated claim that he had “never taken funds for personal gain”.

However, if UMNO/Barisan Nasional candidates, including all the Cabinet Ministers, had benefited in the 13th General Election campaign from the vast funds deposited in Najib’s personal accounts in AmBank, then the Cabinet Ministers are disqualified from taking part in any decision concerning these monies, including the question of a special investigatory task force because of a clear conflict of interest.

Can Ministers declare whether there is any conflict of interest not only in their deciding, but commenting, on the WSJ report and allegations?

It is sad and tragic that the Prime Minister see what Malaysians and the world can see very clearly as to what are the real options before him.

As the Singapore Business Times said today, Najib owes a duty to Malaysians to unequivocally disprove allegations of corruption against him and must not leave this to investigators probing 1MDB.

In its opinion piece, the Singapore Business Times said Najib does not have the luxury of waiting for – as he last night proclaimed – “the truth to emerge in the end”.

It said: “More than any other high office in the country, it is the top executive who owes his duty and loyalty – and the truth – to the Malaysian people.

“Unlike troubled 1Malaysia Development Bhd and the characters at the centre of the controversy who are not answerable to the people and whose fate lies squarely on the outcome of an ongoing probe, Mr Najib should be held to a higher standard.”

It is now a week since the first publication of the WSJ report and allegation. There has only been a non-denial and non-lawsuit by Najib – both falling far short of the “higher standard” expected of a Prime Minister on the fundamental principles of accountability, transparency and good governance.

The morass of government denial and paralysis cannot go on for another day. Let the four Tan Sris comprising the special task force submit their collective resignation to announce their recognition that the Malaysian public have no faith and confidence in them in the inquiry and to open the way for the establishment of RCI into the WSJ allegations.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah