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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Saluting Our Heroes And Heroines of 1MDB


Saluting Our Heroes And Heroines Of 1MDB


M. Bakri Musa



My commentary on Sultan Nazrin’s speech on corruption at the launching of Kamal Hassan’s book Corruption and Hypocrisy in Malay Muslim Politics on September 22, 2022 (“Raja Nazrin Missed A Splendid Opportunity”) elicited many responses. Most are supportive of my views but a few took exceptions, in particular my observation that despite the Sultan’s strong anti-corruption message he has yet to revoke Najib Razak’s Perak royal honorific. Then there were those thinly-veiled bigots who saw in Raja Nazrin’s “non-action” as reflective of the new norms of a degraded Malay culture and societal values.  


            Nazrin’s non-action rightly deserves wide attention and even more careful scrutiny. First, he is one of the few Malay rulers who have had the benefit of a superior education (Oxford and Harvard), the other ruler being Negri Sembilan’s Tuanku Muhriz (Law, Wales). Second, Nazrin and his fellow rulers were apprised of this 1MDB scandal not once but twice and as early as October 2015, months before the United States Department of Justice first filed its own charges. Third, Nazrin had experienced at a personal level the ugly effects of political corruption. Who could forget the pathetic image of him (then deputizing for his father, Sultan Azlan Shah) waiting, cooling his heels in the Perak State Assembly Hall antechamber while his Assemblymen and women were literally battling it out as who was the rightful Speaker. That bizarre May 2009 saga saw Pakatan’s Sivakumar being dragged out physically clinging onto his Speaker’s Chair.


            The Council of Rulers was envisioned to be a third House of Parliament. However its power had been severely clipped since the constitutional crisis of the 1980s. Nonetheless the collective moral and other sways of the sultans remain. Those would remain and be enhanced only if the sultans were to exhibit exemplary moral, intellectual, and leadership qualities. Attending elite universities reflect the second. As for moral, it would help if these rulers were not to cavort with foreign beaus and then abandon their babies, or be accused of keeping slaves in their palaces. That was the serious charge levelled at the Kelantan palace years ago by the family of an Indonesian beauty who caught the eye of one of the princes. As for leadership, sultans must demonstrate that on important national issues. Corruption is the national issue today.


With respect to 1MDB and Najib Razak, then MACC Chairman Shukri recalled his disappointment at the collective response of the Council of Rulers back in 2015. Nonetheless the Ruler of Negri Sembilan did withdraw Najib’s royal title right after he was formally charged in October 2018; Selangor’s sultan merely suspended his. Meaning, Raja Nazrin and his other brother rulers have had years to ponder this issue. They should now issue a powerful statement and initiate strong actions with respect to Najib and others involved. Non-action is not an option. 


That would be an insult to those brave diligent officers in MACC as well as in the Attorney-General’s office who had paid dearly for their early courageous investigations. Shukri in particular had many death threats. When he went to New York City to seek the help of the Americans early in the investigation, he was “tailed” by agents of the Malaysian government, and had to seek the protection of the New York City Police! He saw the chilling effects of his colleagues being transferred out, put into administrative “cold storage,” or forced into retirement and silence lest their retirement nest egg be taken away. That was the fate of former Attorney-General Gani Patail, former head of MACC Abu Kassim, and others. Aware of the fates of Prosecutor Kevin Morais, model Altantuyaa, and banker Hussain Najadi, it is not a surprise that these brave public servants, Shukri excepted, have remained silent. 


Then there were the two government auditors, Nor Salwani Muhammad and Madinah Mohamad, who took great personal and career risks in keeping a copy of the original audit report before it was “sanitized.” The original copy proved pivotal at Najib’s trial. 


There is still yet an unknown and unheralded hero, the individual who tapped Najib’s phone. I pray and hope that he is also a Malay. Our culture is very much in need of such brave figures. It was his (or her) action that enabled another heroine, Latheefa Koya, to release the chilling contents of those phone taps. See:   https://youtu.be/7BRgHz1qB-4


I recall these brave individuals (there are others not mentioned) because one, our culture desperately needs such heroes now to counterbalance such groveling incompetents as former Attorney-General Apandi Ali and MACC Chief Dzulkifli Ahmad. Two, to rebut the thinly veiled bigotry heard these days. “Yes, what do you expect from these corrupt, incompetent Malay-Muslim public servants?” 


That aside, my two original queries nonetheless remain:  Why are the corrupt so admired in our culture, and the converse, why are the honest, brave and talented as represented by Shukri and others not honored and rewarded? 


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