Tuesday, 7 July 2015

So what happens now?

Brave New World (The Star)
8 July 2015


IN Superman 3, the second worst Superman movie ever made, Richard Pryor plays a computer genius working as a low-level office drone. He steals money from his company by just taking a few unnoticed pennies from each pay cheque. Because there are so many pay cheques, the pennies amount to a lot.
Robert Vaughn, the villain and company owner, gives up immediately on catching the culprit as he has left no trail. He says that the thief would just lie low, and only an idiot would draw attention to himself. As he says that, cue Pryor’s character zooming into the car park in a brand new Ferrari.
Somehow I am reminded of this scene when I read about the supposed US$700mil (RM2.6bil) of 1MDB funds transferred into the Prime Minister’s account. I mean seriously, if there were wrongdoing, you would take all that money and put it into a local AmBank account in your name? What? You want the convenience of making withdrawals from your local 7/11?
If these allegations are true, either there is some unfathomable stupidity at work here, or hubristic arrogance, or both. Be that as it may, we still do not know the whole truth of the matter as the investigations are not complete and the documents that justified The Wall Street Journal writing its expose have not been revealed to us, the people.
Therefore, to save myself from any lawsuits, I shall make no accusation.
But it is all very serious indeed. We are talking about a huge amount of money reportedly transferred into these accounts just before the last general election. The implications are tremendous.
What is clear is that the Prime Minister’s department and his supporters have done nothing but issue denials and of course conspiracy theories which naturally involve the Jews. The Prime Minister himself has not made an outright denial that these accounts were in his name, instead coyly stating that he has not used 1MDB money for his personal use. All of this is wholly unsatisfactory.
So the question remains, what happens now?
There seems to be a huge buzz of activity with investigations from all sorts of agencies and talk of defamation suits. But all said and done, will all this sound and thunder satisfy the people or will it signify nothing?
I have said many times in the past that for an ordered society, we must have institutions that we can trust. The Barisan-led government has over the years made all our supposedly independent institutions get into bed with the executive.
And thus we have a serious trust deficit in these bodies. This being the case, I fear any findings made by them will be met with scepticism.
I am reminded of another story, this time Robert Bolt’s play turned film A Man for All Seasons. There is a scene where Sir Thomas More’s son-in-law argues that in order to get a villain the laws should not stand in the way. The scene goes as follows:
ROPER: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
ROPER: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s – and if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
It is ironic that now, in order to clear his name, the Prime Minister needs the laws and institutions of this country to be neutral and trustworthy.
Unfortunately they are no longer deemed to be so. His vindication depends on bodies which people don’t trust and that means any vindication will be pointless.
And all these calls for him to take leave while the investigation continues, well, I think that is all just pointless noise. If we don’t trust the executive to not influence all these investigative bodies, what does it matter if the person investigated is sitting in his office or sitting in a luxury resort in Dubai? What, there’s no such thing as phones and email?
Anyway, this mess the country finds itself in is, in my view, due to the erosion of democratic principles and the necessary institutional structures needed to support them that has occurred for decades. Thus to quote Lou Reed: you’re gonna reap just what you sow.

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