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Sunday, September 30, 2012

The lesson from Suaram episode


Something has gone wrong with the Scorpene deal that is now giving Najib sleepless nights not knowing how else he is being exposed by Suaram.
Funny how circumstances develop or are made out to be, like that in the case of electoral reform advocate Bersih and recently, the human rights defender Suaram.
When Bersih (Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections) took to the streets not once but thrice to pressure the federal government to clean up the electoral system, it was deemed as a traitor out to dethrone the Barisan Nasional government.
Supporters of BN even went to the extent of claiming that Bersih and the opposition under Pakatan Rakyat are working hand-in-hand to turn Malaysia into a republic, accusing the duo of taking a cue from neighbours Indonesia and Singapore.
Such claims hold no water but still BN loyalists continue their barrage of condemning the demands made by Bersih which wants elections in the country to be held in a clean and fair manner.
While the onslaught on Bersih continues, no thanks to the propaganda of the BN-controlled press, another “sting” has caught BN’s attention; this time the attack is on Suaram, which has been championing human rights issues in this country for 23 years.
An irony that after two decades of doing good work, Suaram has become the BN government’s “top most priority” all because this human rights watchdog had the guts to initiate legal proceedings over alleged corruption over the purchase of Scorpene submarines.
Suaram is instrumental behind the Scorpene corruption trial in France, a deal which allegedly implicated Najib Tun Razak. The case also involved Altantuya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian interpreter and model who was murdered near Kuala Lumpur in 2006.
Needless to say, Najib is not amused; he is angry that a human rights non-governmental organisation has the gumption of wanting to see him punished for corruption charges.
So what does the premier do? He demands that no effort be spared in making sure Suaram “bites the dust” and that it goes down in history as an NGO that harboured the desire to create chaos in the country.
Attack on Suaram tells of Najib’s fear
Suaram has “been in business” for 23 years and why is it that only now has the BN government and “intellectuals” like Chandra Muzaffar discovered that something is amiss with this human rights group?
Chandra in an interview with Berita Harian published on Sept 20 had said that the United States-based National Endowment for Democracy had been known to lend financial support to NGOs in particular countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria with the objective of making people rise up against leaders who were allegedly deemed to be cruel.
Chandra had previously chastised Bersih 3.0, deriding it over its quest for human rights. Last year, Chandra, a former ISA detainee, said the 1987 Ops Lalang crackdown was not the work of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and was purely a police operation.
Chandra, by the way, is the chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan 1Malaysia.
Had Suaram not bothered investigating the unscrupulous deal involving the purchase of two Scorpene submarines at a staggering RM7.2 billion, there would have been absolutely no backlash of any kind from the government.
This can only mean that Suaram is on the right track and has ruffled some feathers, one of them being Najib; this is why he is going all out to malign Suaram’s reputation, his way of teaching the “suara rakyat Malaysia” to “mind its own business”.
BN must mirror itself first
BN accuses Suaram of receiving funds from currency speculator George Soros and to the morally “uptight” minds, it is “duit haram” or illegitimate money coming from Soros.
But then the conscience of this very government never pricks when its politicians or ministers engage in high-level corruption or other unsavoury acts.
That explains why there was not a whimper when Mirzan Mahathir, who is the owner of a new petrol and gas company, Petron, paid for the acquisition with money gained from the sale of shares in the San Miguel beer company.
Petron acquired oil refiner Exxon Mobil Malaysia Bhd in April this year when it bought 65% of the firm; Petron now has full ownership of the subsidiaries Exxon Mobil Malaysia Sdn Bhd and Exxon Mobil Borneo Sdn Bhd. (It has since rebranded 580 former Exxon Mobil fuel stations nationwide and will do so with 120 more stations by the end of the year.)
Not a murmur came from the BN camp condemning Mirzan for using money obtained from “illegitimate source” to acquire Exxon Mobil Malaysia. Can Najib or his team of “initiated” ministers enlighten the rakyat on this strange anomaly?
Then there was also the issue of Petron having inked a deal with Malaysia Airlines for the supply of fuel for the national carrier’s entire Airbus A380 fleet for six months.
Did Mirzan, a former investment banker, manage to save his skin simply because his father is Mahathir Mohamad?
The Suaram episode has taught the rakyat that the BN government is corrupt and shamelessly engages in nepotism and cronyism. Otherwise, why has BN been nonchalant to the fact that Mirzan’s Konsortium Perkapalan Bhd, a listed haulage and logistics company, controls almost half of Malaysia’s road freight market?
Something has gone wrong with the Scorpene deal that is now giving Najib sleepless nights, not knowing how else he is being exposed by Suaram.
Look at the bigger picture
The move by Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to get six government agencies to take action against Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd, the operating entity of Suaram, for breaching five sections of the Companies Act 1965, is not going to fool the rakyat.
Instead, the unremitting efforts by Suaram in disclosing the suspected irregularities found in the submarines deal have left a mark with the rakyat.
Pathetic that BN is desperately looking for ways and means to nail Suaram to the extent that even Mahathir has decided to chip in, saying American tycoon Soros’ intention to fund several NGOs and companies in Malaysia via his Open Society Foundation is because he wants to control the Malaysian political scene and select his people as prime minister.
But then Mahathir is an opportunist who has taken this opportunity to hit back at Soros for calling the former a “loose cannon” and “menace to his own country” 15 years ago.
If receiving global funding is wrong, then Najib should pay heed to the request from Women’s Aid Organisation executive director Ivy Josiah who has urged the government to provide more funds for work against domestic violence.
Ivy had said that this year, WAO received only RM30,000 to carry on with its efforts to champion women’s rights. She called on the government to muster the political will to be pro-active in the protection of women, adding that while the Welfare Department and the police had stations all over the country, they lacked the resources to combat crimes against women.
“Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak should pay attention to this,” she had said.
So it’s best Najib looks at the bigger picture and not turn revengeful towards Suaram for exposing the truth that he and his cronies allegedly pocketed sinful amounts of money through the Scorpene deal because they got too greedy.
Now, is that not haram?
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.

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