Making sure another 1MDB never happens

Opinion  |  P Gunasegaram
Published:  |  Modified:

QUESTION TIME | Now that we have finally got rid of a kleptocratic government, we should think about what needs to be done to ensure that something like 1MDB never happens again.

That question is deeper than it seems, and the answer lies both in enforcing the laws that we have and throwing out others, so that there will always be room for legitimate debate and discourse, as well as openness and transparency in all aspects of government operations.

Also, there is a need to ensure the independence of all investigating, prosecuting and judicial authorities through appropriate legislation and clearly spelt out governance measures, so that the government cannot shut down investigations by making changes to appointments and get its own desired results.

That is the only way to ensure that the public is suddenly not taken by surprise when it turns out that the government has done something bad on the quiet, and using secrecy laws and government machinery to hide their tracks.

But why there seems to be a sudden reluctance in the new government to do so, in direct contradiction to what was promised in the manifesto, is something that needs to be highlighted and talked about.

Why do things like 1MDB happen? The simple answer to that: too much power concentrated in the hands of the prime minister and finance minister. This is a legacy issue starting from the May 13, 1969, racial riots following which the government obtained dictatorial powers through various laws, which included numerous amendments to the Federal Constitution.

The checks and balances within Umno to remove a prime minister disappeared after 1987, after Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Musa Hitam challenged Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Ghafar Baba for the leadership of Umno and failed. The new Umno formed by Mahathir made it virtually impossible to remove a sitting Umno president and therefore the prime minister....

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