CIVIL SOCIETY SAYS AYE TO RCIS ON 1MDB, BMF AND FOREX LOSSES

CIVIL SOCIETY SAYS AYE TO RCIS ON 1MDB, BMF AND FOREX LOSSES
Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser, 9 Feb 2017

At last, the two political coalitions in the country have been forced through their grandstanding to call for Royal Commissions of Inquiry (RCIs) into three of the worst financial scandals in recent Malaysian history. Pakatan Harapan has of course been calling for an RCI into the most recent 1MDB scandal that has made international headlines. To get at the former Prime Minister and new member of Pakatan Harapan, Dr Mahathir, the BN Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak has called for an RCI to look into the Bumiputera Malaysia Finance Limited (BMF) and Bank Negara foreign exchange (forex) scandals as these equally big financial scandals have never been investigated by an RCI and charges imposed.

Malaysian civil society says Aye to both these calls since the government can never regain the trust of the people until these three multi-billion financial losses have been accounted for and the negligent and corrupt leaders have been brought to account.

1MDB

The first RCI should investigate the current financial scandal around 1MDB. 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), the state investment fund has come under investigation for alleged impropriety after reports emerged that investigators traced some US$700 million wired into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s bank accounts. 1MDB was 42 billion ringgit in debt at the time of the scandal. Investigations by the US Department of Justice has uncovered the fact that insiders siphoned off billions of dollars and treated themselves to penthouse apartments in New York, a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills and paintings by Monet and Van Gogh. An independent RCI can uncover who authorized these enormous sums of taxpayers’ money to be abused in this way and recommend appropriate convictions of the corrupt and negligent.

Forex losses in the 90s

There has also been no RCI into the colossal forex losses as a result of speculation by Bank Negara in the international currency markets from 1992-1994, with the losses cited as ranging from RM10 billion to RM30 billion. Such a RCI can determine the actual extent of the colossal forex losses and whether there had been any financial malpractices and abuses by then Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Bank Negara Governor in view of the inconsistencies and conflicting explanations about the colossal forex losses. The RCI should recommend the appropriate charges for those who abused their powers.

The BMF Scandal in the 80s

One of the first scandals soon after Mahathir came into office in the 80s was the RM2.5 billion scandal in Bumiputra Malaysia Finance, a Hong Kong based subsidiary of state-owned Bank Bumiputra Malaysia Berhad. Besides the wide range of shady dealings involving the Carrian Group, the sordid details included the murder of a BBMB auditor who had gone to Hong Kong to investigate the propriety of the loans. No RCI has thoroughly investigated this scandal to see who in Kuala Lumpur had authorized those shady deals and recommended the appropriate charges against those responsible for this massive financial scandal.

Other financial scandals of the 80s and 90s

There have been other financial scandals including the $600 million losses suffered by the country over the Maminco-Makuwasa tin caper on 19 Nov 1986, the “piratisation” of the North-South Highway in 1987, the bail out of Mirzan Mahathir’s Konsortium Perkapalan Bhd as well as Renong during the 1997 financial crisis, Perwaja Steel’s RM9 billion liabilities.

No trust if there is impunity

Malaysian civil society demands social justice, democracy and human rights and there is no place for impunity. Impunity is especially common in countries that do not respect the rule of law, that suffers from corruption and have entrenched systems of patronage, or where the judiciary is weak. The First Principle of the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity, submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on 8 February 2005 states that:

“Impunity arises from a failure by States to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations.”

I WOULD PREFER KIT SIANG AS ATTORNEY-GENERAL

I WOULD PREFER KIT SIANG AS ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Press statement by SUARAM Adviser Kua Kia Soong, 6 Decemebr 2016

With the BN’s latest ruse to spread “false news” about Kit Siang being Prime Minister in a prospective PH government, I actually think Kit Siang is better suited as Attorney-General to bring to justice all former Prime Ministers to ensure they get their just desserts.

Getting away with impunity

The spectacle of former PM Dr Mahathir joining the Opposition raises an important question surrounding his culpability in so many scandals that have been documented by the Leader of the Opposition from 1981 to 2003. Does he now get away with impunity for all his transgressions against accountability and loss of the national coffers? Political scientists Milne & Mauzy commented that Malaysia’s financial scandals “reached endemic proportions” in the mid-80s. Barry Wain, author of ‘Malaysian Maverick’ reckons that Dr Mahathir squandered close to RM100 billion during his term as PM. Indeed, Lim Kit Siang would be a good choice as Attorney General to bring the former PM to account for his past record.

One of the first scandals soon after Mahathir came into office in the 80s was what Lim Kit Siang called the RM2.5 billion “scandal of scandals” when Bumiputra Malaysia Finance, a Hong Kong based subsidiary of state-owned Bank Bumiputra Malaysia Berhad, was found to have engaged in a wide range of shady dealings involving the Carrian Group. The sordid details included the murder of a BBMB auditor who questioned the propriety of the loans.”

Then there is Lim’s statement on the more than $600 million losses suffered by the country over the Maminco-Makuwasa tin caper on 19 Nov 1986:

“The Malaysian public has the right to know the real circumstances and background for the establishment of MAMINCO and the attempt to corner the international tin market in 1981, whether it was really a Cabinet decision, especially as there are many questions surrounding this operation affecting the credibility, integrity, and motives of government leaders. This is particularly important when the Government, just like the $2.5 billion BMF scandal, is trying to use half-truths and evasions to avoid telling the Malaysian people the whole truth about the 1981 London mysterious tin-buying scandal.”

And who can forget Lim’s denunciation of Mahathir’s “piratisation” of the North-South Highway in 1987?

“In opposing the North-South Expressway privatisation to the United Engineers Malaysia (UEM) because of improprieties in the tender exercise, conflict of interest, lack of accountability and transparency and one-sided terms inimical to the interests of Malaysians for three decades, I coined the word ‘piratisation’ to describe the most rapacious aspects of the Barisan Nasional privatisation programme…In August 1987, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad stated that UEM, owned by UMNO trustee company, Hatibudi Sdn. Bhd.,  was chosen in order to finance the $360 million  UMNO Headquarters, the Putra World Trade Centre!”

There was also Lim’s statement on the huge forex losses we suffered in the 90s:

“Up to now, the government has failed to “come clean” on the colossal Bank Negara forex losses as a result of speculation in the international currency markets from 1992-1994, with the losses cited as ranging from RM10 billion to RM30 billion…The reasons which I had advanced in Parliament in 1994 for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the colossal Bank Negara forex losses remain valid today, and should be the terms of reference of a White Paper… To determine the actual extent of the colossal forex losses suffered by Bank Negara 1992-1994; whether there had been any financial malpractices and abuses in view of the inconsistencies and conflicting explanations about the colossal forex losses; and establish how Bank Negara could incur such colossal losses.”

Regarding Mahathir’s nepotism, Lim Kit Siang said in 16 June 1998:

“I had also referred to a memorandum submitted by 15 NGOs including Aliran, AWAM, FOMCA, ERA, SUARAM and Tenaganita to the Anti-Corruption Agency in August last year asking for swift investigations concerning various noted personalities, including the children of the Prime Minister and an accompanying document containing lists of private limited companies where three children of the Prime Minister – Mirzan, Mokhzani and Mukhriz Mahathir – acted as directors, and that according to searches made at the Registry of Companies at the end of 1994, Mirzan had interests in 98 companies, Mokhzani in 48 companies and Mukhriz in 67 companies…Mahathir should similarly give full co-operation to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Nepotism, particularly as to whether there is any nepotism in the government, through Petronas, using hundreds of millions of ringgit of public funds to bail out Mirzan Mahathir’s Konsortium Perkapalan Bhd.”

When cronies were bailed out after the 1997 financial crisis, this is what Lim had to say:

“The management irregularities being investigated by the police can only be the tip of an iceberg as MAS has chalked up colossal debts of RM9.2 billion and accumulated losses of R2.5 billion, requiring repeated billion-ringgit bailouts at the public taxpayers’ expense – and the Malaysian public are entitled to demand a full accountability as to how the national airline could end up as such a sick company, a national embarrassment and a burden on public coffers…It was reported that the management irregularities in the cargo division  were discovered in   an audit ordered by the government after taking control of MAS early last year  following  the scandalous RM1.79 billion buyback  bailout of Tajudin’s 29.09 per cent stake at RM8 a share when the market price was only RM3.68…This raises the question as to why an audit was not conducted before the government’s  buyback  bailout of Tajudin’s MAS stake – which would have a very important bearing on the proper price of the government buyout.”

Lim had equally strong views on the bailout of Renong:

“The RM10.5 billion Renong bailout is the beginning of what Malaysians had feared – a government bail-out spree of politically well-connected companies…This is the second rescue operation for Renong since the start of the financial crisis in July last year – the first time being the disastrous RM2.4 billion United Engineers (M) Bhd (UEM) bail-out of its parent company,  Renong by acquiring 32.6 per cent stake at a hefty premium to the market price to the detriment of UEM minority shares in November 1997 which precipitated a plunge of market confidence and  a stock market catastrophe wiping out some RM70 billion of capitalisation in three days…As a result of the failure of the first bailout  operation for Renong by UEM, the government has now to be involved in the second bailout operation of Renong. Renong is estimated to have debts totalling RM20 billion – about eight per cent of all loans in the entire banking system.”

 On the RM11 billion Perwaja Steel scandals, Lim Kit Siang said on 11.2.2001:

“The Accountant-General’s Federal Public Accounts 1998 showed that as at the end of 1998, Malaysian taxpayers were  burdened with Perwaja’s RM9.1 billion liabilities, comprising RM4.01 billion direct loans to Perwaja Terengganu Sdn. Bhd., RM105 million direct loan to Equal Concept Sdn. Bhd. and RM5.1 billion in government-guaranteed borrowings from local and foreign banks. Current accumulated losses and liabilities should exceed RM11 billion by now. Are ACA’s investigations into the RM11 billion Perwaja scandal hinged solely on the RM76.4 million item and that it has no leads whatsoever on other corruption and malpractices in Perwaja?”

“Father, forgive him for he knew not what he did…”

Thus, recent developments in Malaysian politics seem to suggest that an autocrat can run the country, wreak havoc on ethnic relations, mishandle the economy through corruption, enrich selected elites, detain innocent Malaysians without trial, etc… but once this autocrat becomes a ‘born again democrat’ and denounces the current regime, it looks as though his past record can be wiped clean at a stroke!

This ‘Born Again’ rule seems to apply even to the Prime Minister who assaulted the Malaysian Judiciary so badly we have hardly recovered thirty years afterwards. He has not only been cleansed and forgiven; some Opposition leaders are even calling for him to lead the opposition against the current regime!

So, will Pakatan Harapan leaders come out and say categorically that when they come into office they will re-open the books on all the financial scandals since the seventies and eighties that have cost the rakyat so many billions of ringgit?

For human rights defenders who demand social justice, democracy and human rights, there is no place for impunity. Impunity means “exemption from punishment or loss or escape from fines”. It refers to the failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations, rule of law flouters and the corrupt to justice and constitutes a denial of the victims’ right to justice and redress. We are familiar with impunity which is especially common in countries that do not respect the rule of law, that suffer from corruption and have entrenched systems of patronage, or where the judiciary is weak and the security forces are protected by the powers-that-be.

The First Principle of the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity, submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on 8 February 2005 states that:

“Impunity arises from a failure by States to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations.”

SUARAM has been at the forefront of the struggle against impunity. We do not want to see impunity being entrenched in this country through the rehabilitation of “born again democrats” and we expect any future governments to bear this in mind. Those who have transgressed against the people must prepare to face the charges on their judgement day here on earth. This principle applies for past transgressors as much as it does for present leaders who flout good governance for if PH can let Mahathir get away with impunity, they will have to do the same for MO#1 when he decides to step down from office.

CAN HARAPAN POLITICIANS CLAIM TO REPRESENT 10,000 ISA DETAINEES?

CAN HARAPAN POLITICIANS CLAIM TO REPRESENT 10,000 ISA DETAINEES?
Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 28 March 2016

I read with incredulity and amusement that some of the Pakatan Harapan politicians at the ‘Save Malaysia’ rally had appointed themselves representatives of the more than 10,000 ISA detainees to forgive Mahathir for his authoritarian rule including use of detention without trial.

The first point of fact worth noting is that up until now, Mahathir has yet to apologize for his authoritarian record and to ask for forgiveness from any of the ISA detainees he incarcerated. The second point is of course the shameless gall of these politicians to arrogate to themselves the role of representating all these former ISA detainees!

The ISA games politicians play

Many politicians today wear their ISA detention like a badge of honour that they can display for maximum political mileage. To them, their ISA detention was bearable as long as it could be used in the advancement of their political careers. In fact, from my detention while at Kamunting, those politicians who were not yet married, who did not yet have their own families or minimally participated in family life had quite a good time there. During Operation Lalang, most of the members of the main political parties and large NGOs were not subjected to physical torture so they may be ready to forgive the man who now opposes the Prime Minister who stands in their political path. Some may even want to thank the former Prime Minister for helping to advance their political careers…

Can these politicians really speak for all of the more than 10,000 ISA detainees since 1960?

Do they represent Loh Meng Liang, who sadly departed last week, and who was detained for more than 16 years? He was my first roommate when we were taken to Kamunting in 1987. He stood for socialist principles that Mahathir’s government considered a threat to national security and saw more than 16 years of his life taken away for his socialist beliefs.

Do they represent Joshua Jamaluddin, the Malay convert to Christianity who suffered gross torture such as this: “On one occasion during interrogation, Inspector Yusoff forced me to strip naked and to enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Inspector Yusoff also forced me to crawl on the floor in a naked state for about 10 minutes…” (Kua Kia Soong, ‘445 Days under the ISA’, 1989:206) This is but a small part of the bestiality by the ISA torturers that Joshua was subjected to.

Do these politicians also represent Munawar Anees, the former confidant of Anwar Ibrahim? In his affidavit:

“Alas, the Malaysian dictator, Mahathir, under the growing burden of corruption and cronyism, conspired to halt the march of freedom. In order to build his fraudulent case against Anwar, Mahathir himself ordered my arrest. My kidnapping and detention by the infamous Malaysian Special Branch taught me how it feels to be forcibly separated from one’s wife and children. How it feels to be searched and seized, disallowed to make phone calls, handcuffed, blindfolded, stripped naked, driven in an animal cage, shaven bald, endlessly interrogated, humiliated, drugged, deprived of sleep, physically abused. What it’s like to be threatened, blackmailed, tormented by police lawyers, brutalized to make a totally false confession, hospitalized for a consequent heart ailment, and treated as a psychiatric patient with symptoms of Stockholm syndrome.” (Dr. Munawar Anees’ Story, http://dranees.org)

The details of his harrowing experience by these sub-human torturers can be gleaned from his affidavit on the internet. Have any of these Pakatan Harapan politicians asked Dr. Munawar Anees if he forgives Mahathir for the bestiality he went through?

The ISA has been a tool of state repression

The reality is that the ISA has been used as a political tool by the Malaysian state all these years to maintain their class rule. So it is not for the Pakatan Harapan politicians to forgive one man for using the ISA. Do they also forgive the entire ruling class represented in the Malaysian state? Maybe this form of political analysis is beyond the ken of these Harapan politicians…

The use of the ISA goes way back to the Independence days when the main threat to the ruling Alliance coalition was the Socialist Front. Do our present day politicians also claim to represent all those ISA detainees since 1960? Have our Pakatan Harapan politicians undergone the torture that many of these former Socialist leaders and activists had to undergo? The following is an excerpt from a hitherto unpublished statement by “political prisoners of Kawasan A, B, C”, dated 1 May 1969, a historic document released from Batu Gajah Detention Camp:

“1. We political detainees have undergone days and nights of endless interrogation which have inflicted grave toll on the mental condition of many detainees;

  1. During interrogation, we have been handcuffed, had our abdominal parts kicked, our heads bashed against the wall until they bled, and some have had to be hospitalised;
  2. We have had needles stuck in our fingernails and pencils used to squeeze our fingers between them;
  3. We have been burnt with cigarette lighters and hit with elastic bands, some have had nails inserted into their genitals;
  4. We have been asked to strip off our pants and to sit on open bottles;
  5. We have been made to take off our clothing and to stand before fans and air conditioners until we have passed out;
  6. The Banishment Law has been invoked to force political detainees out of the country, while those who do not accept banishment are kept on long-term detentions. Some at Seremban Detention Camp have already been detained for between ten to twenty years;
  7. We political prisoners here have been detained for between four to eight years without trial;
  8. The riot squad has been mobilised to storm our detention camp in order to force those who have refused to wear handcuffs when they leave the camp to do so. In the process, there has been bloodshed;
  9. Health and medical services are very poor in the camp. Those who leave for hospital treatment are forced to be handcuffed. After nine o’clock, we are forced into hot and stuffy cells…”

Forgiveness and impunity

Do I forgive Mahathir for taking away 445 precious days of my life from 1987 to 1989? On the one hand, I may forgive him if he apologises to me and if I am convinced that he has expressed contrition for his oppressive rule. To date, he has not publicly expressed a single word of apology to me or as far as I know, to any of the ISA detainees he put away under his rule.

On the other hand, while I may choose to forgive him for my ISA detention once I am convinced of his show of remorse, Mahathir still needs to account for the many financial and privatization scandals in which he lost up to (according to Barry Wain’s accounting) RM100 billion of the Malaysian people’s monies mainly to crony capitalists.

Our politicians need to know how to differentiate ‘forgiveness’ from ‘impunity”:

“Impunity arises from a failure by States to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations.” (The First Principle of the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity, submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on 8 February 2005)

If our Pakatan Harapan politicians are not committed to combatting impunity, then to be consistent, they will also have to forgive Najib whenever he steps down from office and forget the 1MDB scandal and the 2.6 billion that went into the Prime Minister’s private account.