Will the corrupt in Malaysia repent?

Just when we thought things could not possibly get worse, two bolts out of the blue have left us dumbfounded.

Feb 05, 2016

BY Anil Netto
Just when we thought things could not possibly get worse, two bolts out of the blue have left us dumbfounded. But it has also vindicated many who believe that we were not being told the whole truth about large-scale corruption in the country.

No sooner had the attorney general cleared the prime minister of any involvement in corruption came the news that French prosecutors had charged a French businessman involved in Malaysia’s US$2bn purchase of submarines with paying illegal kickbacks to a well connected Malaysian official.

As if that was not enough, a statement from the Switzerland attorney general's office quickly followed. The office said it had “serious indications” that US$4bn (RM17bn) had been “misappropriated from Malaysian state-owned companies.” Now, this was money that “would have been earmarked for investment in economic and social development projects in Malaysia.”

“So far, four cases involving allegations of criminal conduct and covering the period from 2009 to 2013 have come to light in this connection (relating to Petrosaudi, SRC, Genting/Tanjong and ADMIC), each involving a systematic course of action carried out by means of complex financial structures.”

The attorney general’s office said it had ascertained that “a small portion of the money was transferred to accounts held in Switzerland by various former Malaysian public officials and both former and current public officials from the United Arabic Emirates.”

Now, this warrants a high-level independent investigation here, in Malaysia, and full cooperation with those probing such misappropriations whether in France, Switzerland or elsewhere.

The amounts mentioned are staggering. And if what the Swiss attorney general is saying is true — about the money involved having been earmarked for development in the country, then it represents a double betrayal of the ordinary rakyat.

Aggravated by corruption, “leakages” and neoliberal policies such as a regressive tax system that favours the wealthier class, the Malaysian federal government budget has run into persistent deficits. To narrow its budget deficit, the federal government has introduced the deeply unpopular GST, the removal of subsidies and, even, budget cuts in public education, including scholarships.

Those in power today have a grave responsibility to lead the country honestly and capably. But as a result of not just global forces pushing oil prices lower, but also lack of confidence in the government's ability to tackle major corruption, the ringgit is now weaker and prospects look dim.

Debts have spiralled, and many households are feeling burdened by the cost of living, partly due to imported inflation.

The evidence of corruption unearthed in France and Switzerland shows us precisely how a portion of the 1% of the population reap stupendous wealth, while many ordinary people struggle to cope.

The instruments of political and economic power entrench this imbalance, especially absolute power, which gives the wielder a sense of impunity.

Just last week, the Bishop of Rome warned presciently that sin could descend into corruption. “There is a moment where our situation is so secure … and we have so much power” that sin becomes “corruption.”

“Corruption is a very easy sin for all of us who have some power, whether it be ecclesiastical, religious, economic, political… Because the devil makes us feel certain: ‘I can do it’,” said Francis.

“One of the ugliest things” about corruption is that the one who is corrupt thinks he has “no need for forgiveness,” he added. In November, while visiting Kenya which, like Malaysia, is plagued with corruption scandals, Francis compared corruption with eating sugar.

“We like it. It’s easy… and then we end up in a bad way. So much sugar that we end up being diabetic or our country ends up being diabetic.

“Young people: corruption is not a path to life, it’s a path to death.”

Earlier in his ministry in 2014, Francis had exhorted: “We are all sinners, but we must be careful not to become corrupt!

“We are sinners, but He forgives us. Let us listen to Jesus’ voice that, with the power of God, says to us, ‘Come forth! Come out of the tomb you have inside. Come forth. I will give you life, I will make you happy, I bless you, I want you with me.’”

Will the corrupt in Malaysia come forth and repent?

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