Taking the Mickey out of our money

But that’s not the end of it. Elsewhere in this newspaper, Terence Fernandez exposes how instruments of the state were used to steal land, bordering on fraud. In the next few days, more will follow. How do we put an end to all this?

Citizen Nades – By R. Nadeswaran, The Sun

IN MAY last year, Assistant Superintendents Wan Zainal Wan Mat and Albany Hamzah turned up at the office to record my statement relating to police investigations into the transfer of funds from the Association of Wives of State Assemblymen and Members of Parliament in Selangor (Balkis). They had every reason to because it was theSun that first exposed a major wrongdoing – the illegal transfer of RM9.9 million from the Balkis bank account. To whom it was transferred is academic because the mere misappropriation of funds constitutes an offence. Like efficient police officers, I had expected them to ask me intelligent questions with a view to gathering evidence to prosecute the wrongdoers.

However, that was not the case. Instead, they were more interested in the source of my story and where I had obtained information. They were not ordinary konstabel but officers with rank of ASP, who were directed by the head of the Commercial Crime Division of the police headquarters in Bukit Aman. Debate into their investigations will be purely academic because from their line of questioning, they were not interested in the message but were more interested in nailing the messenger. Despite indisputable proof that almost RM10 million was removed from a bank account, nothing has happened and I am resigned to the fact that there are different values for different people. A jobless mother who shoplifts a tin of infant formula is sent to the slammer while the VIP wives are free to walk around showing off their designer clothes, jewellery and other ill-gotten gains.

But what emerged at the Selangor State Assembly on Wednesday, by the lowest of all standards, should prompt the two ASPs to wake up to the fact that there has not only been illegal transfer of funds meant for the poor, but also abuse of power. If a state-owned company is directed to pay for VIP wives to watch Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck in Tokyo, it no longer is child-play or holiday for the less fortunate and the needy. It is systematic looting of state assets for private pleasures which can be summed up only as total and gross misuse and abuse of power – far more serious than slaughtering cows and distributing the meat to the needy.

Let’s draw an analogy. If say, the Malaysian Red Crescent Society which relies on the public for funds decides to take its senior officials on a skiing holiday in the French Alps, do we as ordinary citizens have a right to question such a move? So, when Balkis, which purports to be a caring organisation committed to welfare of the needy, resorts to cmillion-ringgit holidays, don’t we have a right to ask questions?

Who were the Balkis members who (mis)used our money to take in the sights of Tokyo, Hongkong and Seoul? It could not have been just one person. My guess is that a rombongan travelled first class, stayed in five-star hotels and had a stretch-limousine at their service. Let’s look at what that money could have been used for: a well-equipped health clinic or a feeding programme for 40,000 primary school pupils who go to classes on an empty stomach. Yet, these women can pass themselves off as caring wives of politicians and splash the money on a holiday.

This newspaper has previously chronicled the wrongs in Syarikat Permodalan Selangor Berhad, the Selangor Economic Development Corporation and other state-owned companies. The authorities who are tasked with enforcing the law watched with folded arms for reasons known to only them. It must be said that such abuse is not restricted to Selangor. Even in federal agencies and government departments, people’s money has been used to entertain and enjoy. When the oil prices sky-rocketed a few months ago, the Treasury issued a cost-cutting directive. Compare that directive with the expenses of these agencies and departments and a long list of abuses will appear.

But that’s not the end of it. Elsewhere in this newspaper, Terence Fernandez exposes how instruments of the state were used to steal land, bordering on fraud. In the next few days, more will follow. How do we put an end to all this?

The answer is simple – make the wrongdoers pay for their wrongdoings and misuse of power. But it is easier said than done. First, the powers-that-be must have the will and determination to expose their wrongdoings. Secondly, a set of professional auditors must be go through the accounts with a fine-tooth comb. Thirdly, law enforcement agencies (armed with the findings) must investigate and produce a watertight case. Finally and more importantly, the public prosecutor must give his consent and appoint the best legal brains to bring them to book. Let them repent in jail and reflect how they used the poor and the needy as a front to benefit themselves and their families. But the inevitable question is: Are we serious about seeing justice done?

R. Nadeswaran’s guess is that the perpetrators in the Balkis case would be let off since our law enforcers have a tendency to tutup satu mata. He is editor (special reports & investigations) at theSun and can be reached at [email protected]