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Impossible to get national life back on track

COMMENT Right on cue, the prime minister promptly issued a statement welcoming the attorney-general's decision to clear him of any wrongdoing.

All the black marks on the record book of Najib Abdul Razak were erased.

Certainly, Najib was not waiting with abated breath to hear the “momentous” decision of Mohamed Apandi Ali. It was all in the script.

All Apandi had to do was to read out what had already been decided from the day he walked into the office at the Attorney-General's Chambers vacated by the previous “sick” top prosecutor. He was appointed for just one purpose: to put the record straight on his scandal-tainted boss.

Apandi did a marvellous job. He dutifully wiped the slate clean with his announcement that he was not pressing any charges against the most powerful man in the country. He even ordered the case closed. Najib came out smelling like a rose.

Najib may be celebrating his exoneration in his office and in his bedroom, but, for sure, he is dancing all alone. For the country did not let out a collective sigh of relief upon hearing a verdict most bizarre. Instead, it was greeted with huge doses of scepticism, disbelief, even disgust.

The case is straightforward and clear-cut: a massive amount of money had found its way into the personal bank accounts of the prime minister. It should not be there but it was there. It was simply wrong. The fingers of guilt were all pointing at the recipient, although he vigorously protested his innocence.

Engine of justice stalled

Just when the claws of the law were about to reach the person of the prime minister, a long succession of events was set in motion that effectively stalled the engine of justice. The cover-up game went into full swing, with Arabian tales laced with political anecdotes and fantasies thrown into the stinking gruel.

It is impossible for the country to move on because the highest office on land is thoroughly tainted. The sacred trust given to the holder of this office had been broken and, by right, the person should relinquish his seat out of respect for integrity and age-old morality.

But Najib is not likely to step down from his high seat. He will cling on to it for dear life and will not hesitate to use draconian laws to clamp down on all those who question his exoneration. He may try with all his might to divert attention from his troubles, with the ardent hope that people will eventually come around to his corner. This is not going to happen.

Tide of public opinion

If anything, the tide of public opinion is flowing strongly against the prime minister. Nothing can change the people's belief and conviction that the CEO of the country is deeply mired in wrongdoing. All the partisan defences and abject apologies put up by Najib's obsequious ministers will not hold water.

In the face of Najib's intransigence and a witless cabinet, the fight for truth and justice will all boil down to a contest between the prime minister and the will of the people. It is not far-fetched to argue that the majority of the people want Najib to take a ride into the political wilderness and never return. They will not buy the Apandi storyline or swallow the Najib capsule.

How can the people translate their deep resentment into political action, given the wide-ranging powers a subservient Parliament has bestowed on Najib? If they take to the streets, they will be crushed. If they continue to tear into Apandi, they will be hauled up in Najib's courts. If they take their case abroad, Najib will cry “treason”.

The only avenue open to the people to register their strong disapproval of Najib's conduct is the ballot box. They will have to judge for themselves whether the country can endure another five more years of turmoil created by new scandals and outrageous lies.

In the meantime, the miasma of 1MDB will continue to permeate our national life. It will not dissipate. It will stick in the corridors of power - until the country is cleansed and become wholesome again.

PHLIP RODRIGUES is a member of the Malaysiakini Team.

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