CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Behind every great fortune is a crime – French novelist Honoré de Balzac

Jho Low, the plump pirate better known in select criminal circles as Felonious, was entertained by the joke and, as always, delighted in his friend’s masterly grasp of understatement. 

He’d just read that Fearless Leader, once a Malaysian Premier, had revealed to the Kuala Lumpur High Court that he had “only RM4.5 million in assets.” 

Politicians from every component party of the National Front government were moved. They knew the real root of all evil was a lack of money. 

But most people weren’t politicians, they were more cynical and distrustful and generally seemed unbelieving.  Fearless felt injured. “You think you’ve got problems?” snarled Malaysia’s once-most-powerful man. “What about me?”

It was a good, if pointless, question. Ever since 2014 amid the gradual revelations, the whispered rumours, and the increasing awareness of the gravity of the 1MDB problem, Fearless had had to deny, evade, duck, prevaricate, obfuscate or simply lie to Parliament and the Malaysian people about the matter.  

That takes a lot of nerve, an epidermis of no mean thickness and, surely, much heart-hammering amid the blood pressure of a giraffe. And, lest we forget, he had to return home to daily karaoke (Girls just wanna have funds) and occasional counsel (Can I advise you something?).

The extent of Fearless’ pre-emptive efforts to distance himself from 1MDB are slowly emerging. On Thursday, an anti-corruption agency officer testified that Fearless amended a 2016 audit report on 1MDB that was to be presented to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee “to shield himself from legal consequences.”  

And what do you think he felt every time he attended an international meeting after 2016, after the US’ Department of Justice had made sure the 1MDB scandal had made the world’s headliners, when the magnitude of the fiasco was becoming clear?  

Are they giving me the cold shoulder and ignoring me, or am I imagining it? 

Oh My God, is that a knowing look in Lee’s eyes? 

It must have been a time to try anyone’s soul and Felonious sympathised because he knew the extent of the heist. Neither did he feel any remorse about the matter. In fact, he’d recently offered RM1.5 billion to Putrajaya to forget the whole thing but the ingrates had declined.

As for those who accused him of burdening future generations with debt, he charitably forgave them as they did not know it was condoned. Didn’t the Bible say, “Blessed are the children for they will inherit the national debt?”

Felonious considered himself a principled man because, principally, there were only two rules governing crime and Rule 1 was unambiguous: never get caught. 

The second, which he was particularly proud of, simply referred the seeker of knowledge to Rule 1.  

Fearless considered his friend’s position neither here nor there and thought it cold comfort. Meanwhile, his defence team anguished over his RM4.5 million “revelation” because they’d been calculating their bill. 

And so it goes. And, in this instance, only the Bamboo River remains.

Still, silent, waiting.

ENDS

TILITING AT WINDMILLS SUCKS OR THE FOLLY OF DOTAGE!

The surprising thing about young fools is how many survive to become old fools – Doug Larsen, US newspaper columnist 

The older he gets, the better he thinks he was. 

It would be ludicrous for anyone to suggest as much but, at 97, Dr Mahathir Mohamad seems convinced that he remains Malaysia’s future.

On Thursday, the former premier announced a new Malay-Muslim coalition, the Gerakan Tanah Air, or GTA, which “is… a bid to change the government.”

His motives were clearer the day earlier. Then, he said the new coalition was necessary “if we want to save our country, our nation, our religion.” 

Dr Mahathir should be clear. Who, or what, is threatening the country and Islam? 

Indeed, the question of any threat to the Malays or Islam must be aimed at the Malays themselves because they control all the levers of government and, by virtue of that, well-nigh everything else if they had a mind to.  

The monarchy is exclusively Malay while the civil service, the armed forces and the police are overwhelmingly Malay. Even the majority of elected legislators are Malay with a good many in opposition, which only illustrates democracy at work. Even the courts are Malay-dominated.

So, what’s Doc talking about?

I also find it seriously depressing to hear the same, tired rhetoric 65 years after independence. Can’t he come up with better cliches? 

Has he stopped to consider that his statements might be considered indifferent at best, and insulting at worst, to a large number of Malaysians? 

It  presupposes that the country is of, by and for the Malays. Full stop. It appears that, to his mind, the remaining 36%, or 11.5  million people don’t, or should not,  matter. 

Actually, like many Malaysians, I know that the nation faces at least two serious threats. 

They are, however, not vague or irresolute. These are the real and palpable threats of dishonesty and corruption that will destroy Malaysia if not checked. 

We find it fashionable, no, convenient to dismiss Singapore, to denigrate its achievements because, well, it’s “small.”   

But why is there so little corruption there, a fact acknowledged by international bodies?   Because, there, the law is strictly enforced and everyone knows it. Would-be criminals know retribution will follow and that’s been key.

In Malaysia, unfortunately, tolerance of corruption has been widespread for a long time, but it felt like – or we liked to think it was – small potatoes. Now, like fissures spreading out from an earthquake, mini-1MDBs seem to be breaking out.

The latest is the Littoral Combat Vessel disaster where we learn that the government has spent RM6 billion on naval vessels for the country’s defence needs but has “nothing to show for it” despite eight years having passed. 

We’re told that both the Ministry of Defence and private firm Boustead had “ignored” the Navy’s views on the matter. 

That no one’s screaming with indignation or baying for blood only reinforces the notion that we are corruption-tolerant or, at least, resigned to it. 

The other threat is the creeping use of religion and race to justify crime. When it is said it’s OK to vote for a corrupt person because he is of a certain religion, danger is truly everywhere, and we should head for the hills.  

Now if the old man could tilt against said threats and not at windmills, I’ll begin listening.

ENDS