Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Why is the PAC Chairman, Datuk Hasan Arifin as quiet as a mouse over the 1MDB-IPIC “settlement” where the Finance Ministry agreed to assume US$3.5 bil. of 1MDB liabilities from IPIC?

Malaysians are still up in arms over the 1MDB-IPIC “settlement” which was announced less than two weeks ago where the Ministry of Finance has agreed to assume US$3.5 billion of 1MDB bond liabilities which were previously bourne by the International Petroleum Investment Corporation (IPIC) of Abu Dhabi.

The Malaysian Government had agreed to do so despite the fact that both 1MDB and the Cabinet Ministers had in the past insisted that 1MDB had already paid to IPIC’s subsidiary, British Virgin Island-registered Aabar Investment PJS Limited (“Aabar(BVI)”) a total of RM3.51 billion between 2012 and 2014.

The Second Finance Minister, Dato’ Seri Johari Abdul Ghani had previously said he was “very confident” of 1MDB winning the arbitration fight against IPIC.  Despite the bravado displayed, it was 1MDB which capitulated before the arbitration proceedings commenced in full, with the Malaysian parties conceding pretty much to all substantive demands from IPIC.

However, the Second Finance Minister denied any responsibility for the outrageous settlement terms.  Instead, he shifted the blame to Dato’ Seri Najib Razak by pointing out that “the Prime Minister has made the decision for the country. That’s it,” and that the matter is now “beyond [him]”.

Dato’ Seri Johari Abdul Ghani even defended himself by revealing that there was a letter from the BVI Registrar of Companies clearly stating that Aabar(BVI) was indeed a subsidiary of IPIC.

While the existence of such a presumably legitimate letter still does not in itself prove that Aabar(BVI) isn’t a fraudulent set up, it does highlight the fact that the Government’s decision defies all logic.  After all, why would the Government then under all rational circumstances, concede to the demands of IPIC if there was nothing incriminating on the part of 1MDB? As the Malay proverb goes, there must be “udang di sebalik batu”.

This was the reason for my call for the newly-appointed Auditor-General and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to re-look into the 1MDB scandal in the light of the latest developments.

I certainly wasn’t the only one asking for a review.  Even Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament in the PAC, Marcus Mojigoh of Putatan who asked for the above letter to be presented and Aziz Sheikh Fadzir of Kulim Bandar Baru who asked where the payments to Aabar(BVI) went, are keen to obtain answers.

However, instead of responding to requests by multiple parties to re-open the inquiry, the Public Accounts Committee Chairman, Datuk Hasan Arifin has remained as quite as a mouse.  In fact, not only has he not released any statement on an issue of such import, involving more than RM15 billion of tax-payers’ funds, he has been avoiding media enquiries like plague!

I have been informed that he has refused to pick up phone calls, text message or emails from journalists with regards to the above.

Datuk Hasan Arifin’s lack of action is certainly consistent with his track record of covering up for the Najib administration – when he refused to summon the Prime Minister to the PAC as a witness, saying that he has to “cari makan”, and when he secretly and unilaterally amended the finalised PAC Report which was tabled in Parliament.

However, the fact that the loss of US$3.51 billion is staring at Malaysian faces today deserves at the very least, an acknowledgement from the Chairman of the PAC, the very institution conceived to check and scrutinise Government-related expenditures.

If Datuk Hasan Arifin cannot bring himself to, or can’t be bothered to perform his parliamentary and constitutionally entrusted role, he should have the moral decency to resign from his position.  He should give way to someone who is at least somewhat serious about integrity, accountability and being answerable to Malaysians.

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