Najib’s arrest shows rule of law is alive and well

Steve Oh

Modified 5 Jul 2018, 4:24 am

COMMENT | In the past, we have seen it bent, twisted, tainted, criticised, demonised, politicised, and undergo a gauntlet of trials. It survived and is intact. That it took time to stir into action in the arrest and charging of former PM Najib Abdul Razak is a good sign. The government had to get its facts right and prepare a watertight case. In such matters, patience in being thorough is a virtue.

PM Mahathir Mohamad has kept his word. After winning GE14, he said there will be no revenge against Najib but will let the rule of law take its course. And indeed, it will, seeing the eyes of the world will be watching the mother of trials in the world's “worst case of kleptocracy”.

Malaysia will be in the world news again for the wrong reasons. There is, however, no shame in making your nation’s leader accountable to the rule of law. Only a pariah nation condones a corrupt leader. Many countries have fallen leaders. Eventually the law metes out justice for the people, and the allegedly corrupt are convicted and jailed. Every accused errant country leader has had to own up to one’s wrongdoings despite initial protests of innocence.

I clearly remember former US President Bill Clinton looked squarely at the TV camera and declared, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” In the end, he had to face the TV camera again and before the American public, confessed his misdeed. Truth won.

It takes a brave man to admit one’s mistakes. The public is more inclined to forgive a contrite sinner who confesses his mistakes and willful wrongdoings than a charlatan who further drags others into his morass of dishonesty and corruption. Najib has no choice but to submit to the laws of the land.

The four charges may be the first in a series of charges against Najib. Many of these involve foreign banks transactions. The government has been able to sift through the evidence from its own investigations and the evidence given by foreign sources. In time, the investigations involving local state-owned entities will unravel. Expect Najib to face more charges.

It is an insult to the public for the fallen Najib to cite political reasons behind his arrest and charges. These are wild accusations. For some years now, civil society, besides the politicians, have been complaining about the fraudulent activities of 1MDB. Surely Najib knows law-breaking prime ministers can expect to be charged.

Look at South Korea. “Almost all of South Korea’s presidents have seen their reputations tarnished toward the end of their tenure or during their retirement because of corruption scandals involving them, their relatives or aides,” the New York Times reported.

A former South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak (2008-2013), is jailed on charges of bribery and embezzlement, among others. Unlike Najib, Lee is contrite and remorseful. The NYT reported, “‘I consider all this my own fault and feel remorse,’ Mr Lee, 76, said in a handwritten statement posted on Facebook shortly before his arrest.” He is the fourth former president to have been arrested on corruption charges since the 1990s...

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