Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Based on Hasan Ariffin’s arguments, the PAC need not call any witnesses at all since 1MDB has issued so many 'explanatory' press statements

As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I am stunned by the arguments laid out by the PAC Chairman, Datuk Hasan Arifin for not calling any more additional witnesses, including Bank Negara Governor, Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz and former 1MDB CEO, Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman.

Datuk Hasan argued that Hazem's testimony was “not needed as issues during his tenure had already been answered by 1MDB chairman Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin in earlier proceedings”.

With all due respect to Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin, why should the PAC investigating possible mismanagement and abuses within 1MDB, accept the his testimony hook, line and sinker? Furthermore, Tan Sri Lodin is merely the Chairman of the Board, and not the Chief Executive Officer who executed all the actions by the company.

Worse, Datuk Hasan argued that the Bank Negara issues concerning 1MDB’s US$1.83 billion of controversial fund transfers “had already been explained in the media and in the attorney-general’s own press statements”.

Is Datuk Hasan asking the PAC Members to accept mere “press statements” by 1MDB and other parties as wholesome explanations for the transgressions as alleged by Bank Negara?

If the above argument holds, then the PAC might as well disband itself as all alleged transgressions, including the irregular transfer of a massive US$1.83 billion, can in future be explained merely with a “press statement”.

Even in the event we were to accept these “press statements” at face value, don’t the PAC owe it to itself and the rakyat to at the very least understand the very serious allegations made by Bank Negara?  How do we accept a defendant's case, without even first hearing the claims from the plaintiff?

The Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak had boasted and promised an independent PAC investigation as a testament that he is not trying to cover up the RM50 billion 1MDB scandal.  However, the Chairman’s unilateral attempt to end the PAC inquiry before exhausting all material witnesses will destroy all perceptions of impartiality and independence of the PAC in the investigation exercise.

Datuk Hasan further argued that by calling more witnesses, “it could delay the process of concluding the probe and jeopardise the aim of tabling our findings in the March Dewan Rakyat sitting.”

The “delay” in tabling the findings excuse is both lame and unacceptable.  The calls to decide on key witnesses to be summoned was repeatedly delayed or postponed by the Chairman himself during the meetings since November 2015.  Had the decisions been made earlier, the PAC could have finished with all the witnesses last month already.

What’s more, even if we were to decide to summon Tan Sri Zeti and Hazem on Thursday’s meeting (10 February), a 2-weeks notice would mean that we will still be able to hear their testimony this same month, in time for the PAC to present its report during the March parliamentary sitting.

The failure to summon the above witnesses by the PAC will demonstrate how the parliamentary institution has failed the trust and hopes of the people for an impartial and thorough investigation into the single biggest scandal in the nation’s history.

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