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The great 1MDB distraction

I understand why Pakatan leaders need to keep blabbering on about 1MDB (see their roadshow about 1MDB). It may be their only hope at winning the next general election. The problem is we’re all sick and tired of hearing about the company – I suspect even some opposition supporters would agree. Malaysians want to see a genuine alternative to BN, not a bunch of ambitious politicians falling over themselves to be the judges and jurors of 1MDB.


Will harping about 1MDB create jobs and attract foreign investment? Will it make our economy more competitive and diversified? Will it raise our incomes and living standards? Will it make our houses and healthcare more affordable? Will it give our children better education and better opportunities? Will it make our public transportation more accessible and efficient?


What do you think?


But will harping about 1MDB distract voters from the opposition coalition’s string of accumulating troubles and lack of substance? Pakatan sure hopes so. Here’s how a typical conversation between a Pakatan politician and a reporter would roughly play out:


Reporter: YB, thanks for agreeing to talk to me. Why has it been so hard for Pakatan to come up with a candidate for prime minister? Now that Anwar has said that he will not be seeking to be PM, who will it be? Azmin? Rafizi? Mahathir? Maybe even Kit Siang? Pakatan has had years to contemplate this question, and there seems to be many promising candidates within the coalition. So why are the parties still unable to propose and unite behind a credible alternative to Anwar?


Pakatan MP: But what about 1MDB? Don’t you care about 1MDB?


Reporter: That’s not what I asked. Pakatan’s chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah recently told the Malay Mail Online that Anwar “remains the number one PM candidate,” perhaps hinting that Anwar may still become PM at some point in the future. If that’s the case, what was the point of Anwar’s withdrawal statement? And how would Pakatan go about making him PM?


Pakatan MP: Past, present, future… who knows? The space-time continuum is a complicated thing and deserves more study. Just like 1MDB. Speaking of which, I’d be happy to answer your questions about 1MDB.


Reporter: Okaaay. Moving on, YB, could you give me any updates on Pakatan’s common policy framework? Pakatan has been promising one since January 2016 at least. I’m sure you understand why I’m asking this question. Many have accused Pakatan of being thin on substance, and unable to agree on core policies. So, what sort of policies would a Pakatan government implement for the sake of the rakyat? I’m referring to economic reforms, education, healthcare, transportation, et cetera.


Pakatan MP: Uhhh… Tunggu jap. *long silence* 1MDB! Jawapan muktamad.


Reporter: YB, we’re not playing ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’. Pakatan leaders once called Mahathir a ‘dictator’ and lambasted him for the all scandals that took place under his watch, including the Bumiputra Malaysia Finance scandal, the Bank Negara forex scandal, and the Perwaja Steel scandal. But now all of you are working with him to remove Najib from power – in fact, Mahathir may be your candidate for PM. Aren’t you concerned that Mahathir may using Pakatan to further his own political aims? Political aims that run counter to your reform agenda?


Pakatan MP: Oh, that’s easy. Mahathir and his alleged scandals are like milo ais, but 1MDB is like milo dinosaur. Ais is small, but dinosaur is big. Next question, please.


Reporter: Seriously? Okay, let me ask you about Pakatan’s new logo. It was supposed to be unveiled on June 9. Well, where is it? If it takes so long for all of you to come up with a common logo, what does that say about your ability to rule a nation of 30 million? How can you expect to tackle complex policy issues if you can’t even complete a simple task?


Pakatan MP: Ack! Look behind you! It’s 1MDB!


Reporter: Sigh. Finally, let me ask you a non-political question: YB, what did you have for lunch?


Pakatan MP: 1MDB with a side of sambal.


Sure, you think I’m kidding. Just watch and read interviews of top Pakatan officials – regardless of topic, their talk invariably drifts into a tirade against 1MDB. Nothing else matters. Faced with a tough question or situation, the first instinct of a Pakatan politician is to evade and whip out his 1MDB get-out-of-jail card. He cares less about saving Malaysia than saving his own job. It’s a cynical strategy, but one with rapidly diminishing returns.


Pakatan may feel the constant need to stick its clumsy fingers in its ears, and scream “1MDB” until its voice is hoarse. But this will not heal the deep divisions among Pakatan’s ranks, nor the fill the hollowness at the heart of Pakatan’s governing agenda. At some point, the rakyat will want to have some answers, and Pakatan will have none.



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