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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Malaysia seems to be sinking fast

The 1MDB saga and other issues paint a picture of a nation that is in deep trouble, without a solution in sight.
COMMENT
Dzulkefly Ahmad
by Dzulkefly Ahmad
Now that events have unfolded to give us a better understanding of the scandal associated with 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), we may ask a pertinent question: is our troubled nation going into a tail-spin? God forbid.
But let us face the facts and consider the possible outcomes.
US prosecutors alleged last week that more than USD3.5 billion (RM14.6 billion) had been siphoned from 1MDB. They said the money, which was meant to benefit the Malaysian people, was diverted towards the purchase of real estate and artwork and to pay casino bills.
It is most damning to the Malaysian government that the US lawsuits represent an attempt to make the biggest ever forfeiture of assets that had gone through that country’s financial system. Consider how big a shame it is to Malaysia that it is the US Department of Justice, not our Attorney-General’s Chambers, that is assuming the role of plaintiff, seeking to forfeit assets amounting to USD1 billion (RM4 billion).
And when our AG, Apandi Ali, described the US allegations as “insinuations”, one of Malaysia’s most critical institutions became regrettably perceived as being on the brink of disaster. Apandi should have been ashamed to hear his US counterpart, Loretta Lynch, asserting that the ultimate goal of the civil suits was to return the money to the people of Malaysia.
The revelations in the US have given us enough reason to suspect that something was amiss in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s decision to absolve 1MDB of any wrongdoing.
The police, meanwhile, are preoccupied with apprehending those who express legitimate dissent on the issue, using draconian laws such as the Sedition Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. There’s little doubt that the National Security Council Act will also be used to suppress dissent when it comes into effect. Malaysia is virtually becoming a police state.
In addition, numerous attempts to get the Speaker of Parliament to allow debate on the issue have come to naught, strengthening the impression that the legislative branch of government is nothing more than a rubber stamp for the executive branch.
And there’s more bad news. According to an exposé by Sarawak Report, the cost of the East Coast Rail Project has been inflated from RM30 billion to RM60 billion in an alleged secret deal with China. The purpose of the deal, it further alleged, was to enable the payment of 1MDB’s debts.
The rotting of Malaysia has been going on for some time, and it looks like we have reached a critical stage. We may be witnessing the final phase of a state’s failure.
The fact is that Malaysian democracy has been in dire straits for a long time and our systemic failures, if not seriously addressed, could well result in a downgrading of Malaysia’s sovereign rating and credit outlook.
A downgrade by rating agencies will be all it takes to trigger an implosion of the economy. The trouble is that no viable solution is in sight.
Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad is the Strategy Director of Parti Amanah Negara.

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