In Malaysia, history has a way of repeating itself, that too at the whims and fancies of the ruling government.
The country’s leadership has proven its penchant for extravaganza, with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and deputy Muhyiddin Yassin wasting away millions on renting and maintaining private jets.
If spoiling the country’s top most seven VVIPs is not bad enough, the federal government between 2010 and 2012 gladly wasted US$25.2 million (RM80.53 million) for rental, RM16.515 million for maintenance and RM3.32 million on improvement of the VVIP jets.
Now, the rakyat learns that the Barisan Nasional federal government chalked up RM7.2 billion on private consulting firms in a matter of four years beginning 2009.
The BN government’s refusal to control its itch for squandering away the nation’s wealth was exposed by its nemesis Pakatan Rakyat.
PKR Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen and Alor Setar MP Gooi Hsiao Leung said the Finance Ministry affirmed that the government on average spends RM125 million per month or RM4 million a day on private consulting firms.
“We also can see that spending on private consulting firm has increased at an average of 13.5% each year, which is double than Malaysia’s annual GDP growth rate,” Wong had said in a press conference.
“In the response the Finance Ministry has justified that the reasons for engaging consultants are because researchers are limited in expertise and manpower,” added Wong.
Indeed, not wise nor clever of a government to show no worry over the massive amount of foreign exchange transpiring in favour of the outsiders.
But then this is the very same government that holds little maturity when it comes to handling the national coffers. Or perhaps the BN government is not the least bit concerned about how much money the country is losing domestically, be it due to political corruption or misappropriation of government loans.
The 2011 scandal erupting from the National Feedlot Centre seems to have taught no lesson to the federal government, despite the fact that the NFC squandered away the RM250 million soft loan meant for cattle-rearing project, misusing the money on lavish items like condominiums, a car and paid-for travels.
When it comes to matters concerning the nation’s ‘ledgers’, ignorance is never bliss. And it is here that the Najib-led administration has to explain to the rakyat as to why the Attorney-General has decided against appealing in the acquittal of former transport minister Dr Ling Liong Sik.
BN’s footloose attitude worrying
On Oct 25, Dr Ling, the former MCA president, walked home a happy man after the High Court acquitted him of cheating the government.
Ling, 70, was charged with failure to disclose the interest imposed on 404.4ha of land acquired for the Port Klang Free Zone in Pulau Indah.
The charge stated that because of the interest, the Port Klang Auhority had paid Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd RM1.808 billion, which meant the government had overpaid RM720 million to buy the property.
The offence allegedly happened at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya between Sept 25 and Nov 6, 2002.
Ling was also acquitted of two alternative charges of cheating and intentionally omitting to inform the cabinet of a 7.5 per cent additional interest rate per year on the land price.
He was first charged at the Putrajaya Sessions Court on July 29, 2010.
The AG later said the government had no intention of going for an appeal, giving rise to the impression that the PKFZ fiasco was over and done with after Ling was declared ‘innocent’ by the court.
By refusing to challenge the High Court’s verdict, the BN government has unwittingly revealed that it has plenty to hide and that it was covering up for the perpetrator.
That aside, the federal government has also come across as being gullible and foolish for conveniently falling prey to a crime so clearly was masterminded by an ‘informed’ authority.
Downplaying NFC, PKFZ scandals
When former women, family and community development minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil was implicated in the NFC scandal by virtue of the fact that it was headed by her husband and children, deputy premier Muhyiddin dashed to lend her his support.
When she decided to take a hiatus from politics, it was simply a case of waiting for better things coming her way. And come they did when Najib appointed Shahrizat as his special advisor on women affairs, according her with full ministerial perks and privileges.
In other words, Najib decided to fool the rakyat into believing that Shahrizat would no longer be a part of his administration due to the NFC miscarriage of funds and trust only to usurp her back not too long after.
In hindsight, when Abdul Gani chose not to appeal against Ling’s acquittal, it came as no surprise.
However, deciding to cover-up for such gross abuses has dented Abdul Gani’s credibility or whatever is left of it.
Four days after Ling’s acquittal, lawyer Karpal Singh said Abdul Gani best quit his post over his failure to successfully prosecute high profile cases, in particular the PKFZ scandal.
But before doing so, the DAP national chairperson is adamant that Abdul Gani clarifies his failure to execute an efficient prosecution case in such a high profile case.
“Losses of PKFZ were colossal. Gani has the worst record among the country’s AGs. He no longer has the moral authority to hold on to his post. He should resign but before that he should his explain on why the prosecution was so inept.
“He has yet again proved his inability to carry out a successful prosecution in a high profile case,” Karpal then lamented to reporters.
Karpal was equally curious to know why no statements were recorded from Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister who headed the cabinet and government at the time of scandal.
The only recorded statement from the ex-premier was during the course of the trial, which Karpal described as “as very odd since Mahathir was the most vital and material witness of the case.”
He asked whether the exclusion of Mahathir from the investigation proper was deliberately done or part of Abdul Gani’s negligence.
Karpal also called on the authorities to continue their investigations on the PKFZ scandal to nab the culprits despite Ling’s acquittal.
“Ling’s acquittal should not be end of the chapter,” said Karpal.
Unfortunately, in Malaysia, history has a way of repeating itself, that too at the whims and fancies of the ruling government. Like the NFC controversy, Ling’s involvement and the ‘real story’ behind the PKFZ scandal too will find quick cremation.
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.