When silence is not golden

By Jackson Ng

TAN Sri Robert Phang is on a war path against anti-graft, having his statements published in newspapers and internet news portals the past two weeks.

The social and anti-graft activist appears to have hit the raw nerve of the government with the latest allegation that Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail had gone on a trip to Mecca with former Malaysia Airlines System (MAS) chairman Tajuddin Ramli’s proxy Shahidan Shafie.

Tajuddin is locked in an alleged RM8 billion MAS scandal which was exposed and backed with confidential documents recently by blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin.

For the A-G to be allegedly associated with a possible criminal and for him to remain silent on the allegations,
unable to even go on record to deny the allegations, is worrying.

The public’s perception is that the allegations are true because the A-G is unable to act or deny against the allegations.

Phang has said he had received many calls from friend who showed concern for his well-being, advising him to be cautious with anti-graft issues.

Phang is a panel member of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisory committee. It is his duty to fight graft without fear or favour. In fact, after more than a year after the establishment of the MACC, Phang is clearly the only member who has consistently displayed some guts in the fight against graft with his relentless public statements, some even critical of the MACC.

The others have taken the publicity-shy stance rendering themselves as MACC puppets or showpieces. They are only interested in keeping their appointments.

What is more worrying is the “blind support” of the government from Minister in the Prime Minister’s
Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz.

In defending the A-G, Nazri had been quoted as saying that he was not accountable to Phang or the people, only Parliament.

For a politician to say that, he must really be “blind”. If politicians are not accountable to the people, why then are millions of Malaysian citizens called to the national polls once every five years to elect their representatives to Parliament and the state assemblies?

The Mecca trip is not the only anti-graft issue that has been unfavourably targeted at the A-G directly or indirectly. In recent months, many allegations linked to anti-graft or abuse of power have been raised via internet news portals.

All have been met with muted response from the A-G, MACC or the government.

To the public, silence is taken as admission of guilt. Why then the silence?

The office of the A-G must uphold its dignity because it is the integral part of the judicial system.

Justice in any country is being watched by the world. Nazri’s “blind support” statement is thus worrying because as a senior minister, whatever he says is taken as the government’s stand.

In this case, the world is not only continuously watching an laughing at Malaysia’s judicial system. The more serious investors, both foreign and local, are not amused.

Their confidence on our judicial system is eroding daily with one scandal after another being exposed in the borderless IT.

Like what Phang has urged, the A-G and the government must come clean on all the allegations to maintain the confidence of investors who are the lifeline of the country’s economic progress.

As we lose more foreign investors to our neighbours, the more the government and people will suffer.

Clearly, justice and the fight against graft are issues that need the serious attention of the government, not silence.


Jackson Ng
Former journalist