Scorpene has touched a RAW NERVE: Harassing Suaram exposes BN's PHONY REFORMS
When this political farce started over the BN Government’s attempt to demonise SUARAM as a “foreign agent”, it happened to coincide with our planned annual holiday.
I am always reminded of these words by my old friend, the late K. Das in his foreword to my 1989 book on Operation Lalang, “…but we must not spend our days and nights living in silent fear of the thieves who stole Kua’s freedom.” Whether beholding the stars above the Scottish highlands with my loved ones or the stars above Kamunting detention camp, the oppressors can imprison our bodies but our spirit will always roam free…
SO WHAT HAVE THE SIX GOVERNMENT AGENCIES UNCOVERED?
When I told my friends in the UK that the government had commanded no less than six government agencies to investigate SUARAM to try all means to pin a charge on us, they were incredulous and asked if Malaysia was still a banana republic where the civil service can be ordered by the regime to act against legitimate organisations! “Haven’t they got more important things to do?” they asked. As Malaysian citizens we ought to know exactly how much of our tax payers’ money is being wasted on such extraneous side activities of our police, Special Branch and other government agencies in the name of “national security”.
A month has now elapsed since the start of the rigorous CCM investigations that included many days of 1-1 questioning with at least 20 people and which have revealed nothing questionable within their remit. Indeed, I was reassured when we went to the CCM interrogation and one of their staff came over to congratulate me on the good work SUARAM was doing! Now the buck seems to have been passed on to the AG’s chambers. We were also summoned to the PERKESO offices to explain SOCSO payments to our staff dating back ten years or more. When we got there, the officer in charge didn’t seem to know what we were there for! Obviously, these summonses have all been ordered by people above them.
As for the Registrar of Societies coming in on the act, they were made a laughing stock when their Wikipaedia source of information meant that even the recently departed Fan Yew Teng was also summoned to their office to make a 112 statement! How Fan must be laughing at the fools from up there. Various people associated with SUARAM from years back have also been called to the ROS for questioning all because some far-right crackpot individual and insignificant Ah Pek made a police report against SUARAM.
Meanwhile, no government agency appears to be investigating all the reports about Perimekar and Terasasi and the suspected selling of national defence secrets and commissions paid in the Scorpene deal uncovered in two years of investigations by the French.
And has Bank Negara uncovered any whiff of money laundering by SUARAM all these years? I am sure all the Harvard trained economists in Bank Negara must be laughing at the preposterous presumption in government circles that there could be such a possibility. Nevertheless, the well-oiled propagandists in the mainstream press seem to be spinning merrily for the same idiotic thinking in government.
Ah, and as soon as they mentioned money laundering, some money launderers were actually caught in the act with RM40 million in Hong Kong soon after. There was no need for a six-agency posse – it was uncovered by the Hong Kong police! The government explained it away as funds for Sabah UMNO but we’ll wait for the MACC and Bank Negara and the AG’s Chambers to do the needful…
The BN government’s “foreign plot” ploy has blown up in their faces. The subsequent exposes of Dr M and Najib’s recent close encounters with George Soros have certainly embarrassed the spin doctors. Furthermore, by allowing nuclear-armed US warships to visit Port Klang a few days ago, the BN government has exposed their duplicitous (not non-aligned) foreign policy and raised the question of who are the US foreign agents in Malaysia!
The latest attempt to implicate SUARAM in “destabilizing Indonesia” is perhaps the most comical. Organising the second Asia-Pacific Conference on East Timor (APCET II) with other Malaysian NGOs on 9 November 1996 was one of SUARAM’s proudest moments. It was the last important international effort at achieving independence and peace for East Timor. As a token of the appreciation by the East Timorese for our efforts, SUARAM was invited to the Independence celebrations in East Timor soon after.
In contrast, the BN government put the country to shame by orchestrating a mob from BN Youth organisations to violently tear down the partition of the hotel where the conference was being held and holding the organisers and foreign guests to ransom. This made international headlines and made us a laughing stock in the world. And instead of apprehending these fascist thugs, the police proceeded to arrest and detain some 59 participants, some (like me) for six nights and seven days. We subsequently sued the government and the police for wrongful detention and we won our case after nearly 15 years!
The APCET debacle should therefore be seen as a case of the BN government’s complicity with the Indonesian government in the repression of the East Timorese. Who were the agents of a foreign government then, and who stood by the East Timorese in their hour of need? Once again, it was another feather in SUARAM’s cap of steadfastly defending human rights, justice and democracy. Hasn’t Malaysia recognized East Timor’s independence now?
THE SCORPENE SCANDAL – FACT AND FICTION
Another story being spun to try to discredit SUARAM is the statement by French prosecutor Yves Charpenel that there is no on-going trial in France over allegations of corruption in the Scorpene submarine. When has SUARAM ever said that there is an on-going trial in Paris? This is what I wrote on 30 May 2011, ‘SUARAM STARTS LEGAL FUND TO PROBE SUBMARINE COMMISSIONS IN FRENCH COURTS’:
“Unlike the British (and Malaysian) system, the French inquisitorial system has an examining or investigating judge. The examining judge can conduct investigations into serious crimes or complex enquiries. As members of the judiciary, they are independent of the executive branch. The judge questions witnesses, interrogates suspects, and orders searches or other investigations. The examining judge's goal is to gather facts, and as such their duty is to look for all the evidence. Both the prosecution and the defence may request the judge to act and may appeal the judge's decisions before an appellate court.
“SUARAM’s latest application, once approved by the court, would allow it to become party to the enquiry and have official access to every element of the enquiry, including access to the evidence which allegedly links DCNS to the issuing of commissions to government officials. The case is still at the enquiry phase and the new application is to upgrade it to the “instruction phase” where an investigative judge would be appointed.”
More recently, after I had been interviewed by the investigating judge in the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance, I wrote ‘THE PARIS PAPERS ON THE SCORPENE SCANDAL - THE MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT MUST TELL US ABOUT THE ROLE OF TERASASI’ on 5 May 2012:
“Since SUARAM lodged its complaint with the French courts for a judicial review of the Scorpene contract in November 2009, the French judiciary has certainly been busy with their investigations. They have interviewed officials in the French state company, DCN and related companies such as Thales as well as officials in the French ministry of defence. They have looked into bank vaults and scrutinized contracts, memoranda of understanding, memoranda of intent, invoices, bank accounts of various people including Abdul Razak Baginda. There are also some rather telling internal confidential reports of DCN and the French ministry of defence…”
At no point in my articles did I say that we had reached the trial stage when criminal charges can be pressed against any officials. This will be the prerogative of the investigating judges, Roger Le Loire and Serge Tournaire. The spin doctors in the BN-controlled mainstream press should take note.
SUARAM BORN OUT OF BN VINDICTIVENESS AND REPRESSION
We seem to have come full circle. Twenty three years ago, as a result of the vindictive and repressive ‘Operation Lalang’, several human rights activists including myself formed SUARAM. There was a dire need for such a human rights organization that would not only defend human rights in Malaysia but also coordinate other organisations in civil society to fight corruption, injustice and repression.
Twenty three years later, our achievements are evident. We have among others,
- Established a human rights centre for victims of human rights abuse and their families;
- Established an instant international “Urgent Appeal” hotline in the event of any human rights violation;
- Published a Human Rights Annual Report of Malaysia every year since 1998;
- Nurtured young human rights activists;
- Provided human rights education and training;
- Initiated coalitions among civil society to defend communities which are victims of corporate greed and state collusion as well as to promote democratic initiatives;
THE SCORPENE HAS TOUCHED A RAW NERVE
It is clear to all that it is SUARAM’s application to the Paris courts to enquire into suspected corruption in the Scorpene deal that has led to the BN government going berserk and making wild allegations against our organization.
At this inquiry stage, according to the Paris Papers the commissions and dividends for the Scorpene deal appear to have been funneled through two companies, Terasasi and Perimekar, both owned by Abdul Razak Baginda. Baginda’s wife, Mazlinda, is a director in Perimekar while his father is also a director in Terasasi. Malaysians have heard about Perimekar and its “coordinating service” in the submarines deal. But so far there has been no mention of Terasasi. The BN government has still not told the Malaysian public and Parliament the exact role of Terasasi in this Scorpene deal.
From the Paris Papers, we know that at least 32 million euros (RM144 million) were paid by Thales International (Thint) Asia to Terasasi. There is an invoice by Terasasi dated 1.10.2000 for 100,000 euros. There is also an invoice from Terasasi to Thint Asia, dated 28.8.2004 for 359,450 euros (RM1.44 million) with a hand-written note saying : “Razak wants it in a hurry.”
Given that the Paris investigations have provided Malaysian officials with so many leads, one would have expected them to act against the culprits, but as in APCET, it is the good guys that are hounded and dealt with.
THANKS BN FOR HELPING SUARAM’S LOCAL FUNDRAISING
The silver lining in this cloudy hullaballoo is that Malaysians are at last appreciating the work done by SUARAM in defending human rights and the interests of Malaysian tax payers. Since the recent desperate onslaught by the BN government against SUARAM through the use and perversion of Malaysian democratic institutions including the civil service, Malaysians of all communities have been inspired to donate funds to SUARAM in expression of their heart-warming support.
Thus, for helping SUARAM to realize an objective which we have cherished since we first started 23 years ago, namely, to be locally funded, we would like to give our grudging appreciation to the BN government!
The creation of a vibrant civil society requires more than just pious pronouncements! Enjoying a larger democratic space than what we have experienced these 55 years is the dream of most Malaysians. The BN government may come at us with threats of fines and detentions but as Terence McSweeney, Lord Mayor of Cork told his oppressors in 1920:
“It is not those who can inflict the most -
But those that can suffer the most who will conquer…