By Mariam Mokhtar
Ismail Sabri’s message and promise to the people of Malaysia soon after he became Malaysia’s unelected prime minister was to ensure that his administration would take care and preserve the interests and well-being of the people, just like taking care of family.
Over and over again, the same message would be conveyed by his ministers whereby the people would be taken care of.
When all hell broke loose in early January 2022 over the serious allegations about the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Azam Baki, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar rushed in on January 8 to quickly pacify an angry public.
He said Azam’s case would be conducted in accordance with the law, and that investigations would be led by the Securities Commission (SC) and the police.
He said the views of the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (ACAB) would also be incorporated into the findings.
Meanwhile, many politicians, clerics and Azam’s deputies lent him their support and claimed that he had done nothing wrong.
They appeared to misunderstand the gravity of the allegations. They appeared to dismiss the rakyat’s concern that the integrity of the nation’s civil servants was at stake.
So, after the investigations were conducted, were the interests of the rakyat upheld? No!
Azam had previously admitted that he had allowed his brother Nasir Baki to use his share trading account to buy millions of shares in two public-listed companies back in 2015.
He was in potential breach under section 25(4) Securities Central Depository Act 1991 (SICDA) which states that a trading account must be opened in the name of the beneficial owner or authorized nominee.
So, when the SC concluded its inquiry on January 18 and issued a press statement about its findings, the rakyat became angrier.
The SC said, “Based on the evidence gathered, the SC is not able to conclusively establish that a breach under section 25(4) SICDA has occurred.”
Why is the SC non-committal? Why are the investigators sitting on the fence?
The outcome is a version of “You help me, I help you”. In other words, “You don’t investigate me, and I will not investigate you.”
Azam quickly seized on the inconclusive SC report and claimed victory by saying that his file was closed and he could get back to work.
He thanked the SC and expressed relief that the intense pressure and nightmare he experienced during the past few weeks was finally over.
He claimed that the SC had found that he had not committed any offense. This is not true because the SC clearly stated that its findings were inconclusive.
With that, Azam “closed” the inquiry file and said he would continue to fight corruption in the country without fear or favor.
Not so fast, Azam! Who said anything about closing the case? As far as the public are concerned, the Azamgate scandal is far from over.
We would like to know why the SC investigating officials declined to elaborate on their findings. They didn’t even attempt to make any recommendations. Why not?
It appears that the work of the SC is both shoddy, slapdash and like a botched Standard Six student who forgot to revise for his examination, and just scribbled any unintelligent answer on the exam paper.
First. Azam’s actions and denials have dented public confidence in the civil service and institutions supposed to look after the best interests of the rakyat.
If the top man in charge of investigating corruption in individuals and institutions has a dark cloud hanging over him, then this verdict does not exonerate him.
Second. The government which promised to take care of the well-being of the people and likened its task to taking care of a family, has failed to keep its promise.
Third. The inconclusive investigation has just added to the long list of reasons why investors, both local and foreign, will shy away from doing business in Malaysia.
The Azamgate affair raises many more questions.
Who are the people on the SC panel making the ludicrous decision? Do they not realize the consequences of their actions?
Why was the result inconclusive? Was it because of lack of evidence? Were official procedures not strictly adhered to?
Were records missing, removed or deleted from the files or database?
Did the SC need more time to conduct a thorough investigation? Are the people on the SC panel qualified and experienced to undertake this investigation?
Were there loopholes that Azam was able to circumvent when purchasing these shares? Will these loopholes be plugged? Will heads roll?
Does the SC realize that they have trashed whatever integrity the SC may have once had?
The SC’s “sitting-on-the-fence” conclusion is not acceptable. There is conflict of interest especially when the MACC is investigating a case against the SC, and the SC is investigating the MACC.
There are no surprises that the establishment has yet again failed the public. The Azamgate scandal probably represents the tip of the iceberg.
No wonder the government, the SC, the police and the MACC advisory board do not want the truth to be revealed.
This is why an independent investigation is crucial.
1. New Straits Times: Probe into Azam will be done in accordance with the law
(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)