How can we tell if Pakatan leaders are genuinely committed to reform, and they’re not out to con us? Simple, we observe their reaction to the following: Mahathir and Anwar, the dynamic duo of the 1990s, may have committed serious offenses while in office. This was among the findings of the exhaustive Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the Bank Negara Malaysia forex scandal, which resulted in mind-blowing losses of RM31.5 billion. Care to guess what famously consistent Lim Kit Siang had to say about that?
DAP’s conscience-in-chief spent decades agitating for a formal inquiry into the subject. Why, only a few years ago, Kit Siang was still blasting Mahathir over the scandal. But now that he’s finally gotten his wish, he calls it a distraction. Boy, I didn’t see this coming, did you? Why should we expect his cynical alliance with Mahathir and Anwar to be shaken by credible allegations of wrongdoing? At this point, why should anything?
To the entire Pakatan industrial complex – an incestuous web of politicians, activists, journalists, and opinion writers – winning elections trumps absolutely everything else. We shouldn’t mistake their impassioned ranting about government scandals and wrongdoing as anything more than obligatory, theatrical bullsh*t. As proof, just look at their four most common objections to the RCI findings.
Objection #1: Why now? Why wasn’t the RCI formed 25 years ago? The timing is awfully suspicious.
Ahh, the standard defense of pedophiles and sexual harassers everywhere: ‘Why accuse me now? This is all a crazy plot by my enemies!’ Pakatan seems to be taking cues from Roy Moore, the accused pedophile running to be a US Senator: Blame the timing of well-sourced allegations, call them a distraction, and accuse your opponents of elaborate conspiracy. Rinse and repeat.
Never mind that focusing on the timing of the allegations is itself a distraction from the allegations. Fact: Time has no bearing on whether something is true or not – a concept even schoolchildren understand.
Moreover, it was always silly to expect the RCI to be formed decades ago. Mahathir used dictatorial powers to quash any and all dissent. Just ask Anwar and Kit Siang, who both saw the insides of a jail cell, albeit for different reasons. And even after he left office, Mahathir still exerted a stranglehold on Malaysian politics – thanks to the loyalists he installed at every level of government.
It’s only now that the blinders have come off and people are seeing Mahathir as who he really is. Malaysians are entitled to the truth regardless of its inconvenience to Pakatan leaders and their immediate political ambitions.
Objection #2: The RCI findings are politically motivated.
You’re telling me that Mahathir’s and Kit Siang’s obsession with 1MDB isn’t politically motivated? Does anyone believe that Mahathir would be so gleefully attacking Najib if the latter had kowtowed to him? Does anyone believe that Kit Siang would be so shamelessly protective of Mahathir and his legacy if the latter hadn’t switched sides?
Give me a break. Apparently, we’re expected to give the benefit of the doubt to people who repeatedly condemned Mahathir for the countless scandals that transpired under his watch, but now have no qualms defending him over the same. What changed? Here’s an idea: politics!
Objection #3: So what? The forex scandal isn’t a big deal. It was never as bad as the 1MDB fiasco.
Wrong. Remember that the RM31.5 billion lost through the forex scandal can never be recovered. Say what you want about 1MDB, but the firm remains flush with assets that can be leveraged to pay off debt and perhaps (eventually) turn a profit. Not so with the BNM forex scandal, that lonely child of reckless currency trading. Lim Kit Siang wasn’t exaggerating at all when, in 1994, he called it “the greatest financial and banking scandal in Malaysian history.”
The RCI itself stated that the forex losses “had a significant negative impact on the economy of the country, whereby it deprived the country of development opportunities.” But I’ll let Kit Siang’s own words in 1994 illustrate the scale of the disaster:
“RM30 billion is a colossal sum. If a person is to strike a RM2 million lottery every day, it would take him 41 years to reach RM30 billion!
If RM30 billion is divided among the 19 million Malaysians, including a new-born babe, everyone will be entitled to RM1,578!
Or alternatively, it could mean a tax holiday for all Malaysians where no individual income tax need be paid by all Malaysians for eight years!
Or it could be used to build 1.2 million low-cost houses at RM25,000 per unit, and resolve Penang’s long-standing low-cost housing problem overnight as well as that of the whole country; or build 45 universities, five North-South Highways or four Kuala Lumpur International Airports like the one being built in Sepang!
RM30 billion is equal to 120 times the annual supply and development estimates for the entire Penang State Government!”
Yup, it’s that bad. But I guess 2017 Kit Siang has plenty different priorities from 1994 Kit Siang. Gee, I wonder if his change of tone is politically motivated.
Objective #4: That’s all in the past. Let’s move on.
Funnily enough, the past does tell us a lot about the future – it’s kind of why we study history with all its warts. If Pakatan leaders have the chronic habit of looking the other way for the sake of political convenience, then we can forget about seeing any sort of accountability if they come into power. It’s quite clear that their first instinct to save their people – not our money, and definitely not this country.
Who would have thought that the reaction to the RCI findings would prove to be more instructive than the findings themselves? If anything, it exposed Pakatan to be a fraud, with no actual interest in righting wrongs or discovering the truth. In fact, I’m even willing to bet that, deep down, they care as much about 1MDB as the forex scandal (and 100 scandals they’ve ranted about before that) – that is, not at all.
But they’re clever enough to know that scandals animate the people. So, they do their best to keep up the whole ‘good governance’ act – more protests, more rallies, more candlelight vigils, more Anti-kleptocracy, more Tangkap MO1, more Reformasi, more Save Malaysia, more Ubah. More of everything except, you know, principles. A Malaysiakini columnist recently wrote sarcastically that “you are only corrupt once you leave Umno.” I believe, to Pakatan, you’re only innocent once you oppose Umno – that is sadly the extent of their sincerity.