Merely shouting about corruption will not get PH elected – Free Malaysia Today

From Ibrahim M Ahmad
Opposition leaders were caught in a bind on Sept 23 after High Court judge Yazid Mustafa discharged and acquitted former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi of all 40 corruption charges levelled against him without calling for his defence.
“I simply cannot imagine what envelope in what size would contain the S$600,000 in cash,” Yazid famously said in his 64-page judgment. He said there was no evidence to prove Zahid received any part of the alleged RM50 million in bribes he was charged with.
It was a decision which initially left opposition MPs dumbfounded. Unlike the loud cheers and gloating which met the dismissal of Najib Razak’s final SRC International appeal, Zahid’s acquittal was met with stunned silence.
One Umno insider joked that telecommunications service providers were scrambling to check their equipment when Pakatan Harapan (PH) politicians suddenly became uncontactable soon after the verdict was pronounced.
Although desperate to see him in a cell next to his predecessor, Zahid’s detractors were not able to slam the judge, having been effusive in their praise of the judiciary’s handling of Najib’s trial and appeals which concluded just last month.
Clever pivot
In a clever pivot, PH politicians instead trained their guns on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), calling on both to explain their failure to prove a prima facie case against Zahid.
In less official surroundings, however, PH apologists were lamenting the judge’s supposed lack of knowledge.
“Does he not know that Singapore has a S$10,000 banknote,” they asked one another.
In reality, Singapore discontinued printing that note on Oct 1, 2014. The charges Zahid faced involved payments he allegedly received between October 2014 (i.e., after the banknote’s discontinuance) and March 2018.
Although existing notes were not withdrawn from circulation, it is likely that their use would have decreased rapidly over time. That may mean they were less likely to be available for use in Malaysia post-October 2014. Such matters make PH’s grumblings much less convincing.
PH might be better off asking its former attorney-general Tommy Thomas why he brought the charges in the first place. Did he not review the evidence before making the call? Or was he more attracted to the prospect of winning big in the court of public opinion?
PH’s strategy going into the upcoming 15th general election (GE15) is plain for all to see. It is reverting to its 2018 playbook, which is to simply shout about corruption. The decision in Zahid’s case, however, has thrown a spanner in the works.
Indeed, corruption is an important issue which must be addressed, but it is not the only one. Politicians seeking to be put into power must offer real solutions on a host of other pressing issues.
It seems that as far as PH is concerned, the 1MDB scandal has been resolved with Najib’s jailing. Everyone thinks that sacrificing Najib will suffice to bring finality to the saga.
Multiple scandals in the past have seen individuals being made scapegoats without the root problem itself being resolved. The rakyat, however, will not stomach 1MDB suffering the same fate.
Parties vying to occupy the seat of power in Putrajaya must show the political will to leave no stone unturned in their quest to uncover the whole truth.
They must promise to tell the rakyat in an open and transparent manner who masterminded the “heist of the century”, exactly how it was done, why multiple government agencies and banks failed to detect and report improprieties in real time, what criminal acts were perpetrated and by whom, what steps are being taken to bring these persons to justice, the full list of those who benefited from ill-gotten gains, what steps are being taken to recover wrongfully dissipated assets from them, the progress of such recovery and how much is expected to be recovered.
On top of that, those vying to lead the next government must tell the rakyat what measures it intends to propose to ensure such scandals do not repeat themselves.
Legal reforms
The judicial system is also in need of some attention.
Former law minister Zaid Ibrahim has for some time now been harping on the need for certain reforms, including calling for the attorney-general (AG) to be divested of his prosecutorial functions to enhance transparency and prevent abuse.
Initially rebuffed as an attempt to create chaos in the wake of Najib’s jailing, it came as only a mild surprise that Bersih, which is quite clearly pro-PH in the battles it picks, is now championing the very same cause.
The NGO is likely acting in response to AG Idrus Harun procuring for Baling MP Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim a discharge not amounting to an acquittal just last week.
My question to Bersih is, why was there no uproar when Tommy Thomas secured Lim Guan Eng’s discharge from his own corruption case in September 2018 after the prosecution had proven a prima facie case against him?
Wide range of issues to be addressed
Neither Umno/BN nor PH can be selective in the issues it intends to champion.
Corruption, no doubt, is an important issue and needs to be addressed in the run-up to GE15, but it is not by any stretch of the imagination the only issue plaguing the country.
In these trying times, economic issues must be given equal focus.
The country is desperately in need of revenue. The long-championed goods and services tax (GST), welcomed by economists when it was introduced by Najib in 2015, was killed by PH purely for political reasons. Is PH brave enough to admit this and reintroduce it?
What other income generators can those vying to lead the next government offer? What are viable industries to invest in? How do we intend to attract foreign investment back into Malaysia? How do we intend to address the severe manpower shortage which our industries and businesses are experiencing across the board?
What solutions can each party offer to address the rise in the cost of living, curb inflation, ensure food security and adequate healthcare, protect against widespread flooding and other forms of environmental damage, improve race relations, eliminate discrimination, reduce crime, empower women, and protect children as well as other vulnerable segments of society?
How can we revamp the education system to produce talent equipped for the rigours of the 21st century? How do we advance meritocracy and address ethnic imbalances in our civil service, business sector and education system?
Regrettably, to date, there has been little or no discussion on these subjects.
Perhaps those at the forefront of national politics do not have the know-how to conceptualise and articulate solutions to these issues.
If so, then they owe the rakyat a duty to step aside and allow those who can the opportunity to step forward and offer convincing answers to the real questions of the day.
Ibrahim M Ahmad is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.
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