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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Liquidate 1MDB And Appoint A Special Prosecutor

Liquidate 1MDB And Appoint A Special Prosecutor
M. Bakri Musa

With former Prime Minister Najib, his wife, Deputy, and other former top officials now facing dozens of serious charges, the Mahathir Administration can no longer be accused of focusing only on the small fries in its fight against corruption. There is however, a price to be paid for that.

This 1MDB mess consumes an inordinate amount of attention and resources from the Administration to the detriment of its other responsibilities. I suggest liquidating 1MDB and appointing a special prosecutor (or extend the terms of the present one) to investigate and prosecute all matters pertaining to 1MDB. That should free up the government.

For all its frenetic activities and high profile arrests, no financial institution has as yet had its license yanked or anyone convicted. At least Singapore and Switzerland have shuttered a few banks and sanctioned the individuals involved. Singapore even jailed a few. America meanwhile has seized hundreds of millions of assets allegedly linked to 1MDB.

            1MDB is a humongous mess, with labyrinthine international tentacles stretching from Cayman Islands to London and New York. Its transactions flout the borders of legality through its multiplicity and complexity. Regulatory agencies have proven themselves woefully impotent.

Malaysia must get to the bottom of this and punish those culprits, and do so severely to deter others from even thinking about committing those same offences. If Malaysia succeeds in unraveling and exposing this grand robbery scheme, she would make a significant contribution towards making complex international financial dealings more transparent and thus less subject to corruption.

            Mahathir was wise in enlisting a distinguished private attorney to lead the prosecution. I hope that prosecutor would seek lawyers, accountants, and forensic experts from the private sector to help him. Bypass the tainted, incompetent civil service with its “Saya menunggu arahan” (I await directives) mindset.

Najib’s Attorney-General, the now disgraced Apandi Ali, had destroyed what little credibility and professionalism there was in the local public prosecutors’ office. Besides, many of those remaining were Najib’s enablers. They could sabotage the investigations. Indeed if not for their earlier collusion, or if they had been a wee bit professional or faithful to their oath of office, this boondoggle would not have happened in the first place. Najib is not that smart to have executed this massive heist on his own. He was smart only in recognizing and exploiting the fact that his ministers and top civil servants were dedak-dependent.

Beyond expanding the powers of the current special prosecutor to investigate all matters pertaining to 1MDB, Mahathir should also liquidate the company and its myriad subsidiaries and associated entities.

            A special prosecutor would be far more efficient and effective than a Royal Commission. With the former, charges could be brought in as soon as sufficient evidence is adduced. With the latter, we would have to wait for the full report, which could be months or years. With a special prosecutor, the investigations and interviews would be private. The evidence would be public only during a trial.

            I would livestream the trials and give running commentaries in Malay so kampung folks and others would be apprised of the scheming of their leaders and institutions. These crooked leaders have betrayed citizens’ trust in them. A public trial would expose them.

            Liquidating 1MDB would contain and minimize the financial and other liabilities. The trial would also be a splendid teaching moment, educating citizens on the associated massive “lost opportunity” costs.

            This colossal disaster did not arise out of the blue. The climate incubating it had long been nurtured. It began during Mahathir’s first tenure as Prime Minister. He cannot escape the blame and responsibility. There had been many mini 1MDBs in his time, from the London Tin debacle to the Bank Bumiputra flop. Because those were tolerated and the responsible individuals not punished (neigh, they were amply rewarded!), we have this current massive scandal.

However, were Mahathir to be successful in punishing those responsible for 1MDB, and introduce laws that would prevent future recurrences, he would have expiated to some extent his earlier sins. He has started that process just by getting rid of Najib. He should go further and ensure that Najib is thrown into the slammer for good.
            It is human to make mistakes. However, refusing to learn from them would be the depth of stupidity. Liquidating 1MDB and appointing a special prosecutor would be the first step in this much-needed learning process.


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