COMMENT It is all too apparent that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s lightning move to remove the attorney-general and reshuffle his cabinet on July 28 was done for the singular purpose of neutering criminal investigations and impending prosecution arising from the 1MDB scandal and the RM2.6 billion in Najib’s personal bank accounts.
By removing AG Gani Patail and offering cabinet positions to members of the parliamentary accounts committee (PAC), Najib hopes to avert impending prosecution and postpone imminent PAC hearings on key players in 1MDB, which in all certainty, will expose the alleged multi-billion heist that will grievously hurt Najib.
Sacking of AG highly dubious
The so-called sacking of Gani is heavily tainted with unconstitutionality, illegality, deceit and malicious intent.
The circumstances of the announcement immediately aroused suspicion. It was announced on July 28 by national news agency Bernama through a one-sentence tweet stating that Gani’s services as AG were terminated on July 27 due to health reasons, quoting the chief secretary of the government.
When asked on July 28, Gani said he had no idea that he had been sacked.
Questions galore: Why wasn’t Gani (photo) informed? Why wasn’t there a letter of termination from the Head of State Agong, who is the only authority to appoint or to remove the AG? If Gani had to stop work due to health reasons, why were we told that Gani would still continue to serve as a legal staff till his statutory retirement date in coming October? And why had Gani never complained of ill health? And why didn’t PM Najib announce that he had ‘sacked’ Gani?
As the AG is designated by the constitution as the sole decision-maker as to whether a person should prosecuted, the independence of his position is guaranteed by mandating his termination through a tribunal appointed by the Agong. Hence, the currently unceremonious ‘dumping’ of Gani is obviously an unconstitutional move.
Sabotaging investigations and prosecutions
Conspiracy theories abound as to why Najib had to act like a desperado. Is it to avert an immediate prosecution which only the AG had the power to execute - keeping in mind that there have been a series of arrests arising from the investigations of the special task force probing the twin scandals of Najib’s RM2.6 billion and the 1MDB fiasco? The task force is made up of the chiefs of police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and Bank Negara, co-ordinated by the AG.
Another body hot on the heels of these scandals is the PAC, which is due to grill the current and former CEOs of 1MDB starting from Aug 4, and also to hear two former directors of 1MDB who resigned in indignation over the theft of US$700 million immediately after signing an allegedly bogus joint venture agreement with PetroSaudi in September 2009.
Immediately after the cabinet reshuffle on July 28, where PAC chairperson Nur Jazlan Mohamed (photo) and three other members were offered positions in the cabinet, Nur Jazlan announced a suspension of PAC hearings pending appointment of new members in the next parliamentary session commencing in October.
Thus in one lightning swoop, Najib had apparently incapacitated the pursuers of the scandals and immunise himself from harm, and perhaps hopefully, to bury these scandals.
If Najib succeeds, Malaysians will have to bury their heads in shame, and the credibility of this country will suffer a grievous and irreparable blow.
Who would still trust a country where the prime minister can escape unscathed with RM2.6 billion allegedly unaccounted for in his bank accounts and tens of billions of ringgit of public funds evaporated into thin air through a so-called sovereign wealth fund, of which he is allegedly personally responsible?
Can our institutions - the police force, the anti-corruption commission MACC, Central Bank and the Attorney-General’s Chambers - stand the shame of being cowed and neutered by a tyrannical hand in contempt of our constitution and law?
We must defend against authorianism
No, we must not allow this to happen, because we have too much too lose and too much to defend.
The special task force must continue to discharge its sacrosanct duties honourably and diligently until the whole truth is uncovered and the culprits punished - with or without Gani Patail as AG. They owe this to themselves and to the future generations of Malaysians.
As for the PAC, it should immediately resume hearings under the leadership of deputy chairperson Dr Tan Seng Giaw who shall act as chairperson in the absence of Nur Jazlan. With nine remaining members in PAC (out of a total of 13), there are more than enough members to make up a quorum (minimum is three).
This is the hour when all Malaysians must stand up to defend themselves against an onslaught, which if not repulsed, will turn the country into a failed state of corrupt dictatorship.
KIM QUEK is the author of banned book 'The March to Putrajaya'.