Malaysiakini Letter

Perwaja scandal: Is Mahathir above the law?

Kim Quek  |  Published:  |  Modified:

So the Barisan Nasional (BN) government finally admitted its blunder regarding Anwar Ibrahim's police report in the Perwaja Steel scandal.

Many members of parliament were shocked when Prime Minister cum Internal Security Minister Abdullah Ahamd Badawi denied in Parliament on May 31 that Anwar ever made any police report on the financial scandal involving state-owned Perwaja Steel.

Abdullah was then replying to MP Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh) as to why the police had not recorded any statement from Anwar when former Perwaja managing director Eric Chia was charged with criminal breach of trust.

Abdullah's earlier denial was shocking because the Perwaja scandal is Malaysia's biggest and most well-known financial scam and was the central piece of Anwar's anti-corruption campaign. He often referred to his police report with had the explicit charge of former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the biggest culprit.

So how could Abdullah be unaware of that Anwar police report? Even if his subordinates had misinformed him, he himself should not have forgotten it. He absolutely couldn't have thought that he could get away with such a dishonest answer. Abdullah's blunder remains a mystery to me.

Leaving that mystery aside, Abdullah still owes a proper reply to parliament as to why the police or the Anti-corruption Agency (ACA) has failed to interview Anwar, when the latter has already lodged a police report outlining Perwaja's fraudulent management with Mahathir as the apex.

The ACA's failure to query Anwar is all the more perplexing, as besides being the principal accuser, Anwar should have been regarded as an invaluable source of information on this case. After all, it was he who ordered and oversaw the probe into Perwaja both as deputy prime minister and finance minister chairing the cabinet committee on management and discipline then.

The current Perwaja trial smells heavily of a charade and a cover up. After eight long years of investigations into seven long years of fraudulent management that has emptied the public coffers by well over RM10 billion, what we see in the dock is one poor old Eric Chia , who is accused of dishonestly authorising (mind you, not pocketing) a payment of RM0.076 billion.

So, Chia is charged for wrongly disposing a peanut. What about the billions and billions that have gone down the drain through fraud and corruption? What about the numerous scoundrels who sucked from this seemingly inexhaustible fountain of ill wealth for over a decade?

Are our police and ACA that impotent or is there really no scoundrel in Perwaja? If the answer is negative in both, then some one high and mighty must have orchestrated a wayang kulit (shadow play) all these years to hide a mountain of filth.

In admitting that there was a police report by Anwar, Abdullah's reply further said that the police had referred the matter to the ACA, whose investigations resulted in the charging of Chia.

If Abdullah thinks that this so-called reply is sufficient, he is badly mistaken. His reply has completely missed the central issue the question of why investigation officers for this case meticulously stayed clear of Anwar when the latter should have been interviewed with top priority as a potential witness and a source of information.

In fact, Abdullah's acknowledgment of the Anwar police report leads to another equally crucial question: why was the principal accused - Mahathir - left completely untouched by the police and the ACA?

How could Abdullah claim that the ACA had already acted properly on Anwar's report when Mahathir was not even interrogated? Isn't Mahathir a potential criminal alongside Chia in this scandal? Is Mahathir above the law?

We are tired of watching Mahathir's wayang kulit; we have been hoping that we would be spared the same show from Abdullah. With the passage of time, it is increasingly clear that these hopes are illusory.

While the executive and the judiciary have failed to enhance the rule of law under the new leadership of Abdullah, we are encouraged to see a somewhat re-invigorated parliament. The return of veteran opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, coupled with Abdullah's more humane leadership has brought some hope of our parliament returning to its constitutional role.

It is hoped that conscientious MPs will continue to toil towards a more meaningful parliament, and the query initiated by MP Teresa Kok on Anwar's Perwaja police report will continue to be pursued relentlessly to its fruitful conclusion.

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