Abdullah should exercise leadership, end the Ministers’ obsession and all investigations into Malaysiakini’s three-minute April Fool prank and instead, focus Cabinet’s attention on country’s spiralling disappointment with failure to deliver the key pledge of a “zero-tolerance for corruption” clean-up
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Friday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should exercise leadership, end the Ministers’ obsession and all investigations into Malaysiakini’s three-minute April Fool prank on April 1, 2005 of impending graft charges against three ministers and one mentri besar and instead, focus Cabinet’s attention on the country’s spiralling disappointment with the failure to deliver the key pledge of a “zero-tolerance for corruption” clean-up.
The confirmation by the Minister for Energy, Water and Communications Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik yesterday that the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission are investigating the Malaysiakini’s April Fool prank, as “It was a bad joke” with “malicious intention”, could only mean one thing – that many Cabinet Ministers want their “pound of flesh” for the fright and panic they suffered during those few minutes on April Fool’s Day when even Ministers believed that they might be arrested and prosecuted on corruption charges.
If the Cabinet is comprised of Ministers who are squeaky clean, with Malaysia internationally recognized among the world’s top ten least-corrupt nations in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index and not keep plunging from the 23rd placing in 1995 to 37th ranking in 2003 and further down to 39th position one year after Abdullah’s administration, Malaysiakini’s three-minute April Fool prank would not only have no credibility, the Cabinet Ministers could have a hearty laugh at the online media’s poor choice of a damp squib as a subject.
But Cabinet Ministers cannot afford to laugh at Malaysiakini’s April Fook prank because it hit home too deep and hard, sparking fear and even panic that it might be true.
This is what Abdullah should be concerned about, grasping the opportunity to conduct a long-overdue review of the increasingly widespread perception, both nationally and internationally, that 17 months after his premiership and despite the two corruption charges against former Land and Co-operatives Development Minister Kasitah Gadam and former Perwaja chief Eric Chia, a high-powered “zero tolerance for corruption” campaign regardless of rank or status seemed to have fizzled out even before a proper take-off.
In fact, in his also long-overdue Cabinet reshuffle, one criteria he should employ is to drop Ministers who clamour the loudest, particularly in the secrecy of Cabinet meetings, for action to be taken against Malaysiakini’s April Fool prank when they should be thankful to the online media for reminding the government that time is fast running out as far as fulfilling the key pledge of “zero-tolerance corruption” campaign is concerned.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Najib Aziz has said that action must be taken against Malaysiakini for being “a liar” in deliberately publishing a false report.
By his logic, will Nazri be pressing for the prosecution of the UMNO Youth deputy leader, Khairy Jamaluddin? Khairy made the following statement in the International Herald Tribune report entitled “Leader underwhelms Malaysians” dated March 29, 2005:
“As for criticism that the government is not pushing hard enough against corruption, Jamaluddin said Abdullah decided after the election not to dig up the past. ‘We decided not to focus on retroactive actions,’ he said, ‘but rather look forward’.”
Although Khairy has clarified that he never used the word “immunity”, the import of his statement is very clear – that after the unprecedented landslide victory in the March 2004 general election, Abdullah decided to give immunity to all “old corruption cases” involving Barisan Nasional leaders by not “digging up the past” and to be only concerned about “new corruption cases”. It is significant that while claiming that he never used the word “immunity”, he did not deny the veracity of the quotation!
When pressed on this issue in Parliament, Nazri had repeatedly denied that there was any such policy of granting de facto “immunity” to old corruption cases. If so, isn’t Khairy as much guilty as Malaysiakini in being “a liar” in deliberately publishing a false report? Is Khairy being investigated by the AG’s Chambers?
Although Nazri is a Cabinet Minister while Khairy is not, Khairy’s statement has greater credibility as he is no ordinary UMNO Youth deputy leader, being the Prime Minister’s son-in-law and key strategist in Abdullah’s policy inner circle privy to information and exercising greater influence and power not enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of the Cabinet Ministers, including Nazri.
This is why Abdullah must clarify Khairy’s statement that he had made a policy decision after the March general election last year to grant immunity to all corruption cases involving the high and mighty, impliedly including the 18 “high-profile cases”, as part of the policy to “look forward” and “not to dig up the past” in the anti-corruption campaign and to justify such a policy.
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman