Has Hasan Arifin been appointed PAC Chairman with a pre-fixed agenda to exclude Tony Pua from PAC’s 1MDB investigations?

I want to congratulate the new BN MP for Rompin Datuk Hasan Ariffin on his election as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for he has an unenviable task – as he does not have months, but only weeks, to establish himself as an independent and intrepid PAC Chairman whose remit is the integrity of government finances and who will uphold it against transgressors, whether the Finance Minister or Prime Minister.

When accepting the appointment as PAC Chairman particularly at these trying national times, Hassan must be armed with the maxim “Let justice be done though the heavens fall” in discharging his duties as PAC Chairman, because it will be a test whether he is prepared to lead the PAC to serve the higher national interests if this conflict with his loyalty to the party, the UMNO/BN government coalition and the Prime Minister himself.

Ariffin should be aware that an inquiry into the 1MDB transactions is in fact an inquiry into Najib’s role in 1MDB, Najib’s most controversial brainchild.

He should not accept his appointment as PAC Chairman if he is not prepared to rise above party interests if they conflict with national interests, such as to take a stand against the transgressions if any of the Finance Minister-cum-Prime Minister, especially as he seems to be pivotally involved in all 1MDB’s key and strategic decisions.

Having been blocked for some three months from conducting 1MDB investigations by the simple expedient of the Prime Minister promoting the PAC Chairman and three members as Minister or Deputy Minister in the sudden Cabinet reshuffle on July 28, Malaysians who want the PAC to immediately get on with its 1MDB investigations without any further delay, must have cringed at Ariffin’s comments after his appointment envisaging the possibility that the PAC under him might not even be able to meet at all this year.

In his first press conference as PAC Chairman yesterday, Ariffin strenuously denied allegations that the Government was out to delay the PAC’s 1MDB investigations and dismissed them as “mere perception”.

Ariffin’s defence of the government is a great boon to the Najib government but this is not the PAC’s job nor is it a service to his developing the image and stature of an independent and intrepid PAC Chairman acting without fear or favour and not just a mouthpiece of the Najib administration.

Ariffin had said: “The Government has promised that it will be investigated, and the government MPs have said that we will speed up investigations and produce a report for the Dewan Rakyat.

“I cannot say when exactly I can call for a PAC meeting, because I have to wait for the other appointments, but if I can call for one within this sitting, then certainly I will.”

I am utterly shocked and confounded that we have a PAC Chairman who has absolutely no sense of urgency, no understanding that time is of the essence in the 1MDB investigations, and who could entertain the thought that the PAC might not be able to meet in the current meeting of Parliament, when he said: “If I can call for one within this sitting, then certainly I will.”

The question of his being able to call a PAC meeting within this sitting should not arise at all, for a pro-active, committed and even aggressive PAC Chairman should assure MPs as well as the nation that there will be no further delay in PAC investigations into 1MDB, and that he would make it his personal commitment to have the first PAC meeting under him in the month of October itself.

It is understandable that Ariffin is waiting for the Parliamentary Selection Committee, which was reconstituted yesterday in view of the changes in the Deputy Prime Minister, the MIC President and the Parliamentary Opposition Leader, to meet first to appoint new members to fill the other three PAC vacancies, before calling his first PAC meeting.

In view of the urgency and importance of the resumption of PAC investigations into 1MDB, Ariffin cannot just sit and wait. He should either urge the Selection Committee to appoint the three new members in the shortest possible time – and I can see no reason why the Selection Committee cannot meet this week or latest by next week – or he should set a date for a PAC meeting by the end of this month, regardless of whether the three PAC vacancies are filled or not.

This is the type of pro-active and dynamic leadership which Ariffin should demonstrate as the new PAC chief.

Surprisingly, Ariffin has shown that he could be pro-active, but in a very wrong manner which raises doubt about his independence and intrepidity.

This was when Ariffin told the press that the PAC will discuss the fate of DAP PAC Member of Parliament Tony Pua with regard to his membership, raising the question whether Ariffin has been appointed PAC Chairman by the Najib administration with the pre-fixed agenda of excluding Tony from PAC’s 1MDB investigations.

It is an open secret that Najib’s loyalist faction in UMNO want Pua excluded from PAC’s 1MDB investigations, accusing him of breach of ethics in using PAC information in his statements.

Former PAC Chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamad is on public record as saying that Pua had never used PAC information in his statements, and that Pua had actually highlighted important matters regarding 1MDB from parliamentary answers and other sources.

Nur Jazlan said:

“I personally think he has helped to highlight the issue on 1MDB, which the majority of Malaysians today believe PAC will dismiss the issue in favour of the government. We are working well as a team

“Pua performs dual role as a MP for PJ Utara and a PAC member. And as far as I am concerned he has not used any information obtained from PAC hearings from 1MDB in his statements.

“Whatever information he uses in his statements are obtained from parliamentary answers and other sources.”

Ariffin should ask BN MPs or UMNO circles who want Pua removed from PAC’s 1MDB investigations to lodge official reports to PAC against Pua for disclosing PAC information in his statements.

DAP welcome and support that these allegations be investigated to ascertain as to whether there is any truth in the allegations against Pua or whether they are pure falsehoods and fabrications.

If no UMNO MP or official dare to file official charges against Pua for disclosing PAC information in his statements and speeches,, why should Ariffin talk about deciding Tony’s fate at the first PAC meeting he is to chair?

This is where the question arises as to whether Ariffin is acting according to the dictates of a pre-set agenda to exclude Pua from PAC’s 1MDB investigations?

Ariffin should realize that not only Malaysians, but the informed world, is watching his every single step as PAC Chairman – to determine whether he is an independent and intrepid public servant of the nation or otherwise.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah