Lessons to be learnt from Najib’s SRC affair

You see, we want to be able to put in jail not everyone who transgresses the law, only some who are not helpful or useful anymore to our political ambition.

Zaid Ibrahim, Free Malaysia Today

The Court of Appeal has confirmed Najib Razak as guilty of abuse of power, corruption and money laundering charges.

Although there can be instances where the law is an ass, as Charles Dickens would like us to believe, I have no intention of commenting on our judges’ verdict.

I have difficulty, though, regarding the part of the judgment where the donation from the Saudi royal family was considered a fabrication and not tenable. I suppose Malaysian ministers seeking “donations” for the coming elections are better off asking from a Chinese businessman or contractor. They are more believable.

Remember that this case does not mean much despite many rejoicing and expressing happiness on social media at the verdict. It does not mean ministers and the prime minister, from now on, will never abuse their powers. A swallow does not make a summer.

The case is an indictment against Najib, but it is also an indictment against our country’s justice system. It is an indictment of the kind of people we are.

When Najib “instructed” his boys in SRC to pay RM42 million into his account in Ambank (as the prosecution put it), that instruction would not have been carried out if our senior civil servants working in MoF and government-linked companies like SRC had integrity, and those with depraved values not holding high posts. They would have reminded the then PM that that would be wrong and criminal. They did nothing of that sort.

When Ashok Ramamurthy of ANZ bank told Bank Negara about the billions being remitted into Ambank from overseas, what did Zeti Akhtar Aziz and her colleagues at Bank Negara do? Nothing to suggest some illegalities were involved. There are now reports that Zeti’s family received hundreds of millions from Jho Low. Some are quick to say Zeti is not on trial, only Najib. This is not justice; someone who received RM42 million goes to jail for 12 years, but those who received hundreds of millions are not touched.

When Ambank received billions of ringgit from sources outside the country, did they do anything to report the matter to the authorities? Or were the hundreds of millions they (allegedly) received as fees for facilitating this fraud too much to expect for them to do the right thing? Why did Bank Negara impose a paltry fine on Ambank for the so-called “non-compliance”? Did this pat on the hand induce Ambank to play ball?

Anyway, the lessons from this case for our prime minister and ministers are plenty. The meaning of abuse of power under the MACC Act is broad. It catches you quickly if the right attorney-general is found.

We know from experience that the prime minister is all-powerful. No major decisions can be made in our country without a nod from the PM. Such position of the PM is ripe for abuse.

For example, if the government decides to give Ericsson the monopoly for 5G contracts, then the PM will make such a decision. Suppose those close to the PM, his relatives, his political party or groups of ministers in his camp, would benefit from such an award (whether directly or indirectly), then the PM would be guilty of abuse of power and corruption.

Suppose the PM appoints certain individuals to top government posts, as advisers to buy him loyalty and political support, that would be an abuse of power.

Be careful now because what happened to Najib could happen to other ministers when the time is ripe.

Let’s assume the country wants to get rid of abuse of power. In that case, the best thing to do is to give security of tenure to the position of attorney-general so that he is not worried about being sacked if he disobeys the dictates of the prime minister. The separation of the office of AG and the Public Prosecutor is key, and must be done, but I doubt if this will happen.

You see, we want to be able to put in jail not everyone who transgresses the law, only some who are not helpful or useful anymore to our political ambition. This is what sickens me about the country. Selective prosecution is the order of the day. If Umno and BN feel sorry about what happens to Najib, then they must for once promise to undertake complete reform of our institutions. They must know the value of honesty and integrity of civil servants and political allies, and only such good men and women can assure fairness and justice for all.

But then again, if Umno is only interested in power, and if that means going to bed with those who have no integrity or loyalty, they will do that. They incessantly talk of the unity of the ummah to attract PAS support, although the ummah they bring along with them will put them in jail one day.

However, if they truly want a dominant party that cares about the country, then they must put the right values in the forefront. They must put the right kind of people in the forefront. They must change their ways.

Then the conviction against Najib would give some meaning, and some useful lessons for the future.