Give it a rest, says Johari in open letter to Tony Pua

comments     Johari Abdul Ghani     Published     Updated

COMMENT

1. Tony Pua has of late accused me of many things, being a liar, for one thing and now in his FB page, he accused me of covering up for the prime minister and also that I was trying to pull a fast one over the rakyat on the 1MDB issue.

2. As we know, 1MDB began as a very noble idea - to go into a massive scale enterprise which no private sector entity would dare to venture into so that we could have an enormous push for our economy. But alas, things did not go as planned and we are now saddled with this issue.

I believe that no problem should just be left to resolve itself; positive and proactive steps must be taken to address it and though 1MDB is not an enviable problem to resolve, but as they say, it came with the job. I could always just leave the job if I don't like it - after all, no one forced me to do it but I knew then that it would be wholly irresponsible for me to shirk off this responsibility and opportunity to serve the nation, the very nation that I owe much of my success so far due to the many opportunities given by it.

With the experience that I have in the corporate world for the last 25 years, l intend to help to resolve this issue the best way that I can whilst bearing in mind at all times that the support letters/guarantees issued by the government to 1MDB still remain enforceable. To a certain extent, resolving the 1MDB issue is also crucial to uphold our credibility as a nation in the eyes of the world.

3. The 1MDB issue has been extensively deliberated by all parties and I must say that I have never seen or experienced anything of the sort where almost all the agencies, ranging from the police, MACC, Bank Negara Malaysia, the auditor-general, the public accounts committee and the attorney-general, scrutinised the 1MDB issue in extensive depth and all at the same time.

Never before have I seen or experienced anything resembling the effort or the interest put into dissecting and scrutinising 1MDB, not only by us Malaysians but also by the United States, Switzerland, Singapore and other financial centres of the world.

Despite all these, we still do not have a “complete picture” of what happened to 1MDB and why, until today, none of these jurisdictions have taken specific charge against 1MDB or its employees on the criminal aspect of the case. Even the actions taken by the Singapore government were only in respect of the non-compliance of their banking laws.

4. Even the United States' Department of Justice (DOJ) couldn't come up with any solid proof to prosecute any individual on criminal charges in relation to 1MDB. What the DOJ did was to freeze assets allegedly belonging to certain individuals connected to 1MDB in the hope that by freezing the assets, the owners will come forward and disclose to the DOJ how the massive assets could be accumulated without going through the US' stringent protective laws.

5. As far as the government is concerned, there is nothing to hide and nothing to cover up. The fact is that, and I know Pua being a PAC member knows it himself. There is no clear-cut evidence to bring any criminal action against anybody for the 1MDB case at the moment.

Otherwise, I am sure that the police, MACC, Bank Negara Malaysia, the auditor-general, the public accounts committee and the attorney-general would have taken action against the responsible individuals. The only conclusions that I can make from the PAC report are that 1MDB suffered from poor corporate governance, wrong business model and weak management. I have much faith in our judicial system and I believe that if there be any proof that may be uncovered later, justice will prevail and those responsible will be taken to task. Meanwhile, let us allow these agencies to continue with their investigations, without fear or favour.

6. I want to ask Pua – so, what do you expect us to do in the meantime? Do we hold off all our development programmes and initiatives until someone is finally charged in the criminal courts for 1MDB?

Do we wait for the country to collapse?

Do we wait for the country to collapse and lose all of its credibility in the eyes of the world through incessant condemnations and criticisms from within and without? Will we wait for the opposition to be satisfied when they take over the country before we move forward? Do we stop everything just to live up to the opposition's seeming wish that we become a “pariah nation” and then only pick up the pieces to rebuild the country and shape it into the mould that the opposition wants at the expense of the rakyat? Is that what the opposition or Pua wants?

7. We have in the past lost more than RM30 billion in our Forex (foreign exchange market) misadventure. In fact, we were not really aware of the extent of the Forex scandal until recently, when it surfaced. We also lived through the Perwaja Steel scandal, where we reportedly lost billions of ringgit and finally the operation was closed. The 1MDB issue cannot and must not be turned into a witch-hunt just so that we can appease certain pockets of the society. We need to be thorough and we need to be fair. We need to be patient and time will reveal the truth.

8. Pua, yes, I was very critical of 1MDB when I was a backbencher but at that time I was not privy to detailed information on 1MDB. When I became acquainted with the facts, I realised that it would take more than just sentiments and perception to address the 1MDB issue. You were a member of the PAC and even you know that the PAC could not recommend the charging of any particular individual for criminal conduct in the 1MDB case due to lack of evidence.

What the Ministry of Finance (MoF) is currently doing now is exactly as what was recommended by the PAC. The MoF Inc has taken over the assets of 1MDB and this could not be done without taking over the liabilities connected to the assets. We need to do justice to the two pieces of land, i.e. the TRX land and the Bandar Malaysia land, by continuing to develop them and maximise the returns in order to pay the loans which will be settled in due time.

9. As for the dispute regarding the US$3.5 billion, which was paid to the IPIC group of companies by 1MDB, IPIC cannot continually deny that they have received the monies when 1MDB has already paid the same to them. I don't think Malaysians in their right mind will want to just give up on that issue of the payment. This is why we are seeking arbitration to resolve the matter. This process too will take time.

10. As for the criminal actions that you have been clamouring for, in time, should any further solid proof surface, I can assure you that our justice system will take care of it. After all, in criminal cases, as you are well aware, there is no deadline for prosecution and there is no time bar. That is why the Forex losses scandal comes under the spotlight now.

11. Pua, you need to realise by now that you are foremost, a lawmaker, a Member of Parliament. You cannot continue to be a judge, jury or executioner or all of them in one. Though I am a junior in comparison to your tenure as MP, your behaviour in respect of the entire affair does not fit that of a lawmaker. The spectacle of name-calling, not only towards me but towards other members of the administration as well, is nothing less than embarrassing and demeaning to your standing as a Member of Parliament. Give it a rest. I am sure that the folks of Petaling Jaya Utara elected you as their MP to do better things than just being obsessed with 1MDB.

12. Pua, whatever you may call it, bailout, rescue or whatever; the primary concern is to resolve the 1MDB issue, mitigate the losses, limit the liability of the government and reduce the impact of 1MDB to our economy and future generations.


JOHARI ABDUL GHANI is Finance Minister II.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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