During the course of the 1MDB crisis, as Sarawak Report ploughed a fairly lonely furrow attempting to bring out the facts, no one was more aggressive in denouncing this blog than the ex-PM’s newly promoted communications man and UMNO party treasurer, Salleh Keruak.
Instead of checking whether any of our reporting about 1MDB, Tabung Haji, FELDA or any of the other victims of the rampant looting of billions of ringgit from the public purse held truth, Salleh took to villifying this reluctant messenger in every possible way.
Sarawak Report was politically motivated and paid, he claimed, in order to topple Najib. He alleged that we forged documents and that the discredited former newsman Lester Melanyi (sacked for allegedly insulting the prophet) was to be trusted in claiming we were part of some vast conspiracy.
Salleh backed his boss Najib to the end, refusing to acknowledge the growing mounds of evidence about thefts in all directions. When SR broke the story that Najib paid his hand-picked private prosecutor, Shafee Abdullah, RM9.5 million during the period he drove opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim into jail Salleh countered:
“Sarawak Report is an online paper which has only one goal: to slander our leaders. As such, the people cannot accept its reports outright because their motive is to topple the country’s leadership,” [FMT – June 2017]
Shafee has now been charged with tax evasion and money laundering over this very sum received from Najib out of money stolen from 1MDB.
Meanwhile, over in Parliament, there was no other more assiduous defender of the same corrupted prime minister than another hand-picked politician, Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia. Pandikar dutifully silenced all debate on the biggest issue of the day, namely 1MDB, and prevented any questions about the missing money from being raised – or indeed anything else that might be embarrassing to Najib.
He likewise outrageously allowed parliamentary business to be manipulated in unprecedented ways, for example to enable Najib to pursue his ill-fated tactic of sucking up to PAS by constantly leapfrogging private bills favouring the introduction of Hudud to the top of the parliamentary agenda.
Yet both these men, together with a team of once loyal UMNO stallwarts around Musa Aman, today resigned from the party en masse in Sabah. It has brought the already diminished party from 79 seats following the catastrophic GE14 to just 44 in the federal parliament.
If Mr Salleh would therefore like to apologise to Sarawak Report and acknowledge that he and his colleagues were dreadfully wrong to hound this website (advocating the arrest and imprisonment of its Editor) for speaking up about what he belatedly now presumably accepts to have been the truth, this might be the moment to do it.
We would be willing to gracefully accept such an apology, but clearly cannot absolve these former UMNO members from any lingering potential criminal issues connected to assisting one of the biggert plunderers in history to almost get away with it. Bersatu and others ought not consider tainting their own parties with such creatures.
For Malaysians looking on at this spectacular falling away from UMNO, the most bizarre phenomenon of all is probably the continuing defiant loyalty of a party that until 2015 was one of the most implacable oppononents of the BN regime, namely PAS.
For decades PAS had said it could not work with UMNO in any shape or form because of its corrupt practices, yet following its realignment PAS has staunchly refused to criticise or move against UMNO or Najib, even as that party’s own leadership flees in the face of ever more shocking revelations of theft and lies.
Indeed, what finally prompted the mass defection of Sabahan UMNO this week can not have been unconnected to the new and awful revelations about possibly the most egregious thefts of all, from Tabung Haji. Those faithful savers who were robbed are the people whom PAS have appointed themselves above all to represent. Yet this week it has been PAS spokesmen who have come out to seemingly defend the former decision-makers responsible, in the face of evidence from the fund’s own board, its auditors and the country’s law enforcers, who have all reported that some $4.5 billion dollars of dubious losses were massaged off the ledgers by the previous managment.
PAS President, Hadi Awang, for example, has chided the media and the relevant minister for reporting on the issue, presumably including the arrest and charges laid against the former chairman of the Tabung Haji board.
He doesn’t want the police or anti-corruption officers looking into the matter either, it appears, but has announced there should instead be a woolly commission of enquiry into what anti-corruption officials have announced was a massive crime.
Meanwhile, the Islamic party has continued to show willing to share campaign platforms and cooperate in by-elections with UMNO, supposedly in the name of a joint Islamic agenda, despite the distincly un-Islamic revelations that have beset UMNO daily: revelations that have proved too toxic even for so many of its own most enthusiastic former leaders.
If there is a vitue in all this, it has to be that PAS continues to show it has no realistic thirst for power and has kept up its tradition of backing the losing political forces of the day. Such a consistent humble resistence towards earthly success is certainly remarkable and it would perhaps be unfair, without further evidence at least, to put it down merely to massive misjudgements on the part of the present leadership.
However, it is a situation that brings few immediate prospects for the party’s hallowed ‘Islamic agenda’, by which it justified so much of its earlier cooperation with UMNO. Consider how, if PAS had remained in coalition with its erstwhile Pakatan allies, they would now occupy senior positions in the federal government and people would have to listen to their various demands a lot more seriously.
Or did PAS erroniously bank on a Najib election win, then fall back on hopes that Najib could re-galvanise a Malay-Muslim backlash to regain power? If so, UMNO’s latest mass of defectors sorely let them down today.