Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Mahathir stepped forward ten days ago to present in person the evidence to support the claim of the young at heart: that age is just a biological number, At the age of ninety plus two, when others of his same vintage would not ponder buying green bananas at the supermarket fearing [...]


The lessons Maithripala should learn from Malaysian Mahathir’s example

The world’s oldest elected premier shows the relatively young bucks how to govern and keep their promises

Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Mahathir stepped forward ten days ago to present in person the evidence to support the claim of the young at heart: that age is just a biological number,

At the age of ninety plus two, when others of his same vintage would not ponder buying green bananas at the supermarket fearing they would kick the bucket before the fruits ripen and turn yellow, Mahathir bin Mohammed, after serving a 22-year stint as Malaysia’s Prime Minter whose reign ended in 2003, emerged from a well-earned retirement to contest Malaysia’s general elections this month. And swept the polls.

And why did he do so? Why did he stir himself awake to come out from his restful bliss of retirement’s siesta and enter the turbulent world of Malaysian politics?  Why did he wish to risk his foremost place on the Malaysian nation’s pedestal as the Grand Commander of the Order of the Defender of the Realm and sully the title Tuk – the double honour Sri Lankans unknowingly bestow on their three wheeler cabs — that came with it, had he lost ignominiously?

He had already earned his place in Malaysian history. But when the bugle call from the masses sounded, he knew he had no choice but to answer the compelling siren that beckoned him for Malaysia’s sake.

He risked it all to salvage the Malaysian nation from mega corruption that had taken deep root during the tenure of its former Prime Minister Najib Razak who had presided over its profligacy and given leadership to its mass proliferation.

And what was that? To launch a crusade against the then Prime Minister Najib Razak’s mega corruption track record.

The tip of the Razak’s corrupt iceberg surfaced only on July 2, 2015, when the Wall Street Journal, the prestigious financial American newspaper, the Bible of New York’s financial street, published the news that Najib Razak’s bank account had suddenly been credited with the sum of 700 million US dollars.

MALAYSIA’S GRAND OLD MAN Of steel, MAHATHIR, THE NEW MALAYSIAN PM AT AGE 92: No nonsense approach to corruption and the will to strike whilst the iron is still hot

The report said: “Malaysian investigators scrutinising a controversial government investment fund have traced nearly $700 million of deposits into what they believe are the personal bank accounts of Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, according to documents from a government probe. The investigation documents mark the first time Mr. Najib has been directly connected to the probes into state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB. Mr. Najib, who founded 1MDB and heads its board of advisors, has been under growing political pressure over the fund, which amassed $11 billion in debt it is struggling to repay.”

It tested the credulity of the world to believe that the Malaysian Prime Minister could have been so naïve as to have entertained such a huge amount of money to be placed in his personal bank account and, if it had been a banking error, as its sometimes wont to happen, not to have brought the matter to the bank’s notice and given them instructions to return to sender the 700 million dollars. .

He didn’t do so. He didn’t blink. Instead, he self-indulgently believed, he could escape media scrutiny and that no questions would be asked of him as to the source of its mysterious origins.

In that respect, , it must be said, no self-respecting Sri Lankan politician worthy of his salt, has ever been foolish enough to pepper his ill-gotten billions at the local branch of the Bank of Ceylon. Or even at the one in Seychelles, for that matter.  One lesson Najib Razak could have learnt from Lanka’s born masters of graft, who would have gladly given him, for a fee of course, a crash course in the fine art of graft and even taken him on a lecture tour through the labyrinth and shown him how to conceal his loot best . But he didn’t even do that. Fool.

But the Wall Street Journal exposé wouldn’t go away.  Could not be wished away.  And when mounting doubts of the Premier’s true character moved his Attorney General  Abdul Gani Patail to launch an investigation into the Wall Street Journal’s claim, Razak’s solution was to sack him; and, in the manner Chief Justices have been impeached and new phantoms  favourable to the Head of State have been appointed instead, Razak  chose to follow the Third World South Asia example and appointed his own man to be Malaysia’s new Attorney General.

In the meantime, his Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had already placed his neck on the guillotine by starting to criticise him. On July 28, in a major cabinet reshuffle 26 days after the damming report was first published, Muhyiddin got the chop when the blade fell on him. Into the same gunny fell the heads of other ministers who had been critical of Razak and the tumbrels carted them off.

Razak’s own Man Friday, the new Attorney General of Malaysia, Mohamed Apandi Ali, was appointed to investigate his master’s 700 million dollar bank account. And what did Mohamed Apandi Ali find? That there was a perfect simple innocent reason how the 700 million dollar sum had suddenly appeared in Razak’s monthly bank statement. No, it was not a bank error. By all means, no, no no.

But believe it or not, the new Attorney General’s report held thus: It just happened to be a gift from the Saudi Royal Family. A Saudi Prince had taken a sudden fondness to the Prime Minister Razak and had suddenly thought of depositing 700 million US dollars in Razak’s personal account at his Malaysian Bank in order that Razak could spend it as he wished and enjoy life as he should. From the Arabian sheik’s  oil rich pocket, straight from the heart to Najib Razak’s personal Malaysian bank account, without strings attached except those that would strike  the heart chords of any mortal man alive to receive such a magnificent gift not in reciprocal quid pro quo expected but in total altruism.

That’s the stuff a thousand and one nights of Arabian dreams are made of.

And Razak expected the Malaysian masses to swallow the story. But unbeknown to him, Mahathir was making a meal of it and plotting his own comeback.

MALAYSIA’S MAN OF STEAL: The ousted five billion dollar former Prime Minister Razak with his second wife Rosnaha

But that was not the end to the story of Razak’s mega corruption. It was only the beginning. The United States Justice Department had already started to compile its own dossier on the Malaysian Prime Minister. What it disclosed in a 250-page report was explosive. The 700 hundred million dollars, it said, was just a fraction of what Razak and his family and cronies had robbed from Malaysia’s coffers. The real figure was nearly five billion US dollars.

And instead of keeping it secret, like the Nizam of Hyderabad did, content in counting his gold every night in the underground vault of his palace and retiring to bed satisfied it was safe, the Razaks had blazoned their trail of corruption with an ostentatious display of what money can buy.

And, unlike other Asian leaders who placed discretion before expenditure, held as their guiding maxim: why  rob, if you cannot enjoy the loot, why thieve if you have to hide it in some Ali Baba cave which needs a password to enter, why steal if you cannot flaunt it.  For after all you are not going to take it away with you now, are you? When the bell finally tolls for you, now are you? Why dream of heaven in the hereafter when money can buy a piece of it right here on earth this birth?

And indeed the Razaks, as the United States Justice Department document catalogues, did proceed to buy their little piece of heaven with money scooped from hell. With the money illegally amassed they bought penthouses in New York, mansions in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles where the stars live, a luxury yacht and even financed Hollywood movies, a notable one being and aptly named ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

What brought the US Justice Department to launch a probe into Razak’s activities was  that the money siphoned off the Malaysian Treasury was being laundered on American soil; and the die was cast on Razak’s ambitions to accumulate more for his family’s benefit.

In the mean time, Mahathir, then aged 89 was slowly building up a coalition of parties to launch his strike against the glaring corruption taking place, corruption which was stemming from the top of Malaysia’s echelon towers.  And when the general elections came this month, he was ready to head the task force to bring the corrupt to book, to the courts of justice.

In the footsteps of the Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s and his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s declared vows to bring the Rajapaksa regime rogues to justice three and a half years ago during the run up to the  2015 January 8 presidential election, so did Malaysia’s Mahathir  faithfully follow. He made the Razak regime rogues mega corruption the central issue of his campaign. If it had worked for Maithri and Ranil, if it had enabled them both to ride on its crest wave of anti corruption to power, the same was sure to hold good for him, Mahathir.

But there the similarity ended. The point where the roads diverged.

Whilst Maithri and Ranil twiddled their thumbs and pathetically played Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir swung into action no sooner he was elected on the anti-corruption platform to keep his pledge to the Malaysian people that those who had robbed Malaysia of billions of dollars would be hauled up before the courts of justice and the money looted from the nation’s coffers would be retrieved and returned to the people of Malaysia to whom it belonged.

Within hours of being sworn in as Malaysia’s seventh prime minister since the nation received its independence from the British yoke in 1957 — nine years after Lanka did –  Mahathir showed he was not just a pretty face at the age of 92 plus, but a virile man of action, one whom Time had not rendered impotent. One who delivers what he promises.

His first act was to impose a ban on Najib Razak and his wife leaving the country. He then sent the Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali on sick leave and appointed the Solicitor General as the New Acting Attorney General.

This Thursday the police were ordered to raid the homes of Najib Razak, They seized 284 boxes containing designer handbags and dozens of bags filled with cash and jewellery from a private residence linked to Razak. The items were carted out of a luxury condominium during pre-dawn hours, and included “jewellery, watches and other valuables”, police said.   Amar Singh, director of police commercial crime investigations, in a brief statement at the scene said “Exactly how much jewellery, I would not be able to say, because we know that we confiscated bags containing jewellery and the number of jewellery is rather big,”

Singh said police have carried out raids on six premises, which include the prime minister’s office and the prime minister’s official residence in Putrajaya and four private residences linked to the former premier.

And, not surprisingly, as if to symbolise the Razaks’ downfall, the police also claimed to have found the fast falling Sri Lankan rupee, 2.8 million of them – that’s just 17,748 US dollars, and hardly worth a count — stacked in one of his residencies.

And all this within ten days of Mahathir being in office. The prelude to the imminent crackdown. And what does this present government have to boast about for all the allegations made on election platforms during the run-up to the 2015 presidential  election?

They alleged many but proved none. They promised to net in the whales but only hauled in a few sprats and made a hue and cry of it. And even after three and a half years in office have nothing to show for their much vaunted corruption expedition but only the dismal record of their abject failure.

Whereas Mahathir struck against the corrupt regime within a week of taking office, Maithripala was dumb struck and paralysed to honour the mandate the masses had bestowed upon him in good faith, trust and hope in 2015.  And even after three years and more, he remains indecisive as to whether to raise the sword he recently said he would raise or whether to keep it sheathed as he had done for the whole of his tenure.

He should follow Mahathir’s example. But the question is whether it’s too late. The nails that could have been clipped with a scissor or a simple nail cutter upon assuming the presidency of Lanka, have for varied reasons known to Maithripala alone, been allowed to grow bigger and bigger that today not even the proverbial sword that Sirisena threatened to raise and use to cut down to size, may not anymore be able to do its task.

For the Executive President’s sword has remained too long sheathed in the presidential closet and, alas,  has rusted due to long non-use by its presidential bearer, reduced to one not even fit to slice onion rings in the kitchen.  Sadly, the time may have passed by for Maithri of a thousand promises to follow Mahathir’s example set by deed. Even if he wishes it now.

And the moral of the story: The spoils of power come accursed. Those who conceal it cannot use it for fear of discovery. Those who display it, do so at their peril and have to pay the price. No contentment, no peace of mind awaits the covetous but a hell of their own making where hope of redemption that comes to all, never comes.

Arjuna’s ire when plans to hoard oil was thwartedPetroleum Minister Arjuna Ranatunga only stopped short of getting atop the Sapugaskanda oil storage tanks on Wednesday to trumpet his proud boast of how he had stumbled upon a massive corruption scam at his own ministry which had cost the Government a staggering loss of Rs. ten million.

THE EQUALISER: Three wheelers and luxury limos queue on equal terms at fuel stations to gain extra mileage for their rupee

And he vowed that no stone will be unturned till he drills to the dregs of his ministerial staff and unearths the culprits who had committed this unpardonable crime of the century against the people of Lanka.

And what is the big scam about?

Arjuna Ranatunga stated that Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminal (CPSTL) has lost around 10 million on May 10, when the Government announced that fuel prices would be increased at midnight.

His complaint was that some of his officials’ strict instructions not to release stocks of fuel to the market that day but to keep it hoarded till the following day when the Government could cash in on the increased amount.

Unfortunately for him and fortunately for the general public, some of these officials ignored the instructions and issued the fuel to the petrol stations. That one respite enabled hundreds of three wheeler drivers to help make a saving to pay for the increase in the prices of milk, potatoes, big onions and coconuts. Small savings no doubt, but still big money for them who toil on the roads morning noon and night to keep the wolf  from their doors. Not to forget, of course, those who move in shirt and tie in their 20 or 30 million bucks luxury limos to make a quick killing on the advance notice received via their iPhones, who queued for hours to save 1k.

Not too long ago, it was the practice of the kade mudalalies at the corner shops to hoard food and fags when they learnt that the government was to increase prices by midnight gazette. They were condemned by successive governments and cursed by the people for the foul practice, exploiting the situation to earn a fast buck.

Funny, isn’t it, to find the former cricket captain Ranatunga, whose bulging belly oft proceeded his reputation, losing his famous cool and hitting the roof in anger when he found orders to hoard fuel until the price was right in the same manner of the kade mudalalie had gone disregarded.

What’s the difference between a retail trader hoarding goods and creating an artificial shortage of cigarettes and a government hoarding the lifeblood of the nation’s economy – oil. Merely to make a fast buck out of a national crisis?

Is that cricket? The way the flannelled fools of today play the gentleman’s game of yore?

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