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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.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

No Joy, Only A Colossal National Shame

 No Joy, Only A Colossal National Shame


M. Bakri Musa


Five and a half years after the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) filed its largest ever criminal complaint relating to the embezzling of One Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB, a government-linked company), Malaysia’s Court of Appeal today (December 8, 2021) unanimously upheld High Court Judge Nazlan Ghazali’s earlier (July 2020) conviction of former Prime Minister Najib Razak. He fined Najib RM210 million and sentenced him to 12 years in jail. Ghazali however let Najib out on bail to await his appeal.


            Najib should not have been granted this privilege considering the scale of his crime and his subsequent behaviors. That the Appeals Court Judges had to admonish his high-priced lawyers and Najib not to treat the courts as kedai kopi (coffee shop) was instructive.


            Now the Appeals Court is repeating the same mistake made by Judge Ghazali by allowing Najib a stay of execution. He should have been stripped of his expensive Armani suits, put in an orange prison garb, have his mug shot taken, and be driven straight to prison. That smug silly grin must be wiped off his face, to serve as a much-needed antidote for us Malays, especially those in United Malay National Organization (UMNO) still intoxicated with their current revelry of “Malu apa bossku?” (What is there to be ashamed with my boss?)


This being Malaysia, one cannot separate the racial element. The only way the Appellate decision could have been more powerful would be had all three Appeals Court Judges as well as the prosecuting team (or at least its lead prosecutor) been all Malays. Malays very much need a shock therapy and a powerful antidote to our current mass delusion that we are a pristine and innocent lot, only that we had been “cheated” by those crooked Jews at Goldman Sachs and the ever avaricious Chinese personified by the likes of that moon-faced Jho Low. This mass delusion has been amplified by those government-issued ulama who had received the dropped crumbs from the plundering of 1MDB in the form of free Hajj trips.


Seeing Najib in orange and his mugshot making global headlines would awaken us from our collective denial and slumber, as well as disabuse us of our hitherto blind trust in and assumptions of this crooked leader, and others like him.


            Those who still believe in Najib’s innocence and that these charges are politically motivated have much to explain. At least three other jurisdictions (US, Singapore, and Switzerland) had much earlier secured guilty pleas or convicted the other principals involved in 1MDB. Goldman Sachs, Najib’s premier enabler institution, has already admitted guilt and paid restitution to Malaysia.


Then there were those obscene images of the piles of boxes stuffed with foreign currencies hauled from Najib’s personal residence soon after the 2018 elections. Najib had used the excuse that those were political “donations” from his friends and admirers abroad, to be used for his and his party’s campaign. While those learned Appellate Judges could not be persuaded thus, it was an easy sell to those simple kampung folks. Except for one inconvenient fact:   what could those villagers do with those Euros, pound sterlings, and US dollars? Those pisang goreng village hawkers would not recognize their value. Beyond that, you would be blind and stupid to think that giving out cash during an election is not plain outright corruption regardless whether the country has any specific statutes governing that or vote-buying specifically. Elsewhere such infusion of funds from abroad to influence a domestic election would have been deemed treasonous.


Leading up to as well as during his lengthy trials, numerous legal challenges, and appeal, Najib’s supporters clung to the “innocent till proven guilty” mantra. Two observations on that. One, that is a courtroom standard. In positions requiring the highest trust and fidelity, as with the nation’s leadership, the standard must of necessity be much more stringent and considerably higher, as with not even a hint of impropriety. Two, Najib is a convicted criminal since July 2020. That conviction has now been sustained by the Court of Appeal. What would be their excuse now for continuing to support him?


Already we are hearing snippets of this new “truth,” as with Najib being responsible for the nation’s economic growth. That is a pathetic and poor version of Mussolini making Italian trains run on time. Najib is a crook, plain and simple; nor could he make Malaysian trains or anything else be punctual. For those who still harbor a soft spot for this plunderer, remember Malaysia is still (and for decades to come) being burdened by the humongous debt incurred by 1MDB. Imagine the lost opportunity costs had those precious funds been spent on schools and universities.


While Najib is not at all embarrassed by his many unsavory deeds, Malays (in particular those in UMNO, the party he led for many years) should be. Najib’s successor to lead the party, one Zahid Hamidi, is himself facing his own series of criminal trials. Mohammad Hassan, a former car salesman from my father’s hometown of Rantau, Negri Sembilan, is now helming UMNO.


Tok Mat, as he is fondly referred to, is trying to carve an enlightened reformist image but with minimal impact, being overshadowed by both Najib and Zahid. Tok Mat’s courageous as well as most meaningful act now would be to summon an emergency meeting of his party’s Supreme Council to expel Najib from the party. While he is at it, he should do likewise with its current interim president, Zahid.


If Tok Mat does not have the gumption to do that, then UMNO Youth leaders must demand such a meeting. UMNO Youth was once dubbed the party’s “ginger group,” to spice up leaders who have made themselves too comfortable in their positions. This is the time for the young in UMNO to heed Sukarno’s wisdom:  “Give me a thousand men and I’ll move the mountain. Give me ten young men, and I’ll shake the world.” I am assuming that those UMNO Youth leaders are young men and not pubescent boys or stunted adolescents.



The Sultans as well as the Agung should follow the lead of Negri Sembilan Ruler Tunku Muhriz who much earlier in October 2018 withdrew the state’s highest royal honor on Najib to “safeguard the honor and dignity of the Negri Sembilan royal institution.” A short simple statement that spoke volumes. The Sultan of Selangor who had merely “suspended” his on Najib should now rescind the award.


The Oxford and Harvard educated Perak’s Sultan Nazrin never tires of pontificating on the evils of corruption. It would be far more effective if he were to retract Perak’s honors heaped upon Najib. Most of all the Agung must set the highest example by stripping Najib of his Federal as well as Pahang state honors. That the Agung and those other sultans and heads of states have chosen to remain silent remains the nation’s glaring blemish.


Kudos to the Johore palace. It saw Najib’s evilness early and did not dispense any honors upon him. On the academic side, only one local university saw fit to honor Najib, the now shuttered Limkokwing University. Bravo to our academics and scholars!


Malays must take an unequivocal moral stand against corruption and breach of faith among our leaders. Time for them to punish this pengkhianat (traitor), Najib Razak.


Doing all those would not help recover the colossal loss from Najib’s embezzlement of 1MDB, but at least it would show the world that at least our society has some morals and a sense of outrage. 


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