December 5, 2023

New Malaysia Times

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Why are former EC and SC chairman given free passes?

KUALA LUMPUR, February 7 – It has been nine months since Pakatan Harapan won the 14th General Election (GE14) and the public are questioning why certain heads of agencies alleged to have been central to helping former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, are still at large without even being investigated.

Prior to GE14, supporters of the then opposition as well as the parties themselves were furious over the actions taken by the Election Commission (EC). Among the most debated action was the redelineation exercise that was seen as a deliberate attempt to segregate Malaysian voters based on race in order to strengthen the chances for Barisan Nasional to retain their majority in the Dewan Rakyat, as well as the various state governments.

The main person behind this exercise was then EC chairman, Tan Sri Hashim Abdullah. He not only led the redelineation exercise but was also alleged to have held back the election results on the night of GE14 last May 9. Malaysians have not forgotten having to wait till the early hours of the morning of May 10 for the historic election results to be fully declared, showing that the then ruling coalition had lost for the first time in 61 years at the Federal level as well as in several states long considered Umno strongholds.

Despite calls for Hashim to step down, nothing happened until more than a month later with the EC announcing that Hashim’s tenure as EC chairman had been cut short and he will leave his post effective July 1, 2018. The original tenure was supposed to end only in 2020.

No mention was made on whether Hashim had voluntarily resigned or if he was sacked.

On October 18, 2018, one day after the intention to form a tribunal was reported, five of the six Election Commissioners who served under Hashim submitted letters of resignation. One of the Commissioners held out until November 27 before he too submitted his resignation.

It was reported that all the Commissioners chose to resign effective January 1, 2019. However, at the Tribunal hearing recently, it was revealed that they ceased exercising their offices from the date they submitted their resignation letters.

Hashim not facing any repercussion over actions

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas dismissed claims that the Tribunal was academic with all the six Commissioners having resigned, saying they could still face punishment in the form of loss of benefits.

Thomas said there were four reasons why the proceedings before the tribunal were not academic, namely, two-fold mandate; scrutiny and investigation; deliberate action and real effect or outcome.

On the two-fold mandate, he said, the tribunal, firstly, was to investigate actions on the part of EC members, before and on polling day on May 9, 2018, with regard to the preparation of GE14, to determine if there was any misconduct and secondly, to make recommendations to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on appropriate action to be taken against them, including removal from office.

“The tribunal must first carry out an investigation into their conduct as stated in the 13 charges against them, to determine the facts as to the issue of misconduct. These are very serious charges which, if established, will demonstrate personal culpability on the part of the EC members for the way in which GE14 was organised,” he said.

However, there has been no explanation from the government nor the AG on why Hashim’s name is missing from the tribunal’s investigation if the justification for such action against the six Commissioners were as stated above.

NMT gathered that this is due to the fact that he had left before the tribunal was constituted in October 2018.

That said, we do not believe that he should be allowed to get away scot-free. Will the tribunal investigating the other Commissioners look into Hashim’s wrongdoings as well? Surely as the head of the commission, he was the main officer responsible and accountable for the wrongdoings and it was likely the six Commissioners were working under his direct orders.

Even if he was sacked prior to the tribunal being constituted, are we saying that he’s getting away with only a mere sacking after everything he did? Or has he already lost all his benefits by virtue of being sacked?

SC fined Deloitte over 1MDB

The Securities Commission recently reprimanded and fined Deloitte RM2.2 million for four breaches related to the RM2.4 billion Sukuk Murabahah Programme issued by Bandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd (BMSB) in 2014.

Deloitte was the statutory auditor for BMSB and 1MDB Real Estate Sdn Bhd (1MDB RE) for their financial years ended 31 March 2015 to 2016. 1MDB RE, now known as TRX City Sdn Bhd, was one of the third party security providers of the Sukuk Murabahah Programme and the immediate holding company of BMSB. 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) is the holding company of 1MDB RE and BMSB.

Where was the SC when 1MDB first made world news?

It was mid-2015 when the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) made the shocking revelation on their investigation into alleged embezzlement of funds from 1MDB to purchase luxury assets in the US?

US Attorney-General Loretta Lynch even described the investigation into 1MDB as the “largest single action ever by the Kleptocracy Asset Initiative”.

Which part of that statement that the Malaysian Securities Commission did not understand, or did they choose to ignore it altogether at the time?

Also, which part of “the United States offers no safe haven for those who illegally use public funds for private gain” did the SC chairman Ranjit Singh fail to comprehend?

The indictment explicitly states the nature and use of 1MDB funds.

Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau Investigation Andrew McCabe said that the department will seize US$1 billion of assets linked to 1MDB.

“The Malaysian people were defrauded on an enormous scale (in) a scheme which tentacles reached around the world,” McCabe added.

Which part of “the Malaysian people were defrauded on an enormous scale….” that Ranjit failed to understand?

So why was there no investigation into 1MDB then? And why reprimand Deloitte now when the SC under Ranjit clearly did not do anything about it when it had been clear as day that 1MDB was a grand scheme of a scam?

The only logical explanation is that Ranjit knew and was well aware of 1MDB but was in cohorts with Najib. Furthermore, didn’t the SC also approve the 1Malaysia RM5B Islamic Medium Term Notes (1MTN) in 2009?

Former SC Chairman Tan Sri Ranjit Ajit Singh with former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak
SC prosecuted opposition supporters

Ranjit and his SC prosecutors like Shanti Isabelle Geoffrey were blatantly selective in prosecuting cases against supporters of the then opposition whilst closing their eyes on multiple scandals by BN-friendly companies.

NMT had previously questioned Ranjit’s selective prosecutions in helping the Barisan Nasional government put fear into corporate supporters of the then opposition. Some of the charges were seen to be politically-motivated.

Dato’ Vincent Leong Jee Wai was charged in May 2017 for insider trading of shares of Maxbiz Corporation Berhad (Maxbiz) between 2010 and 2011. Vincent was seen to be supporting the opposition parties.

Dato’ Norhamzah Nordin of Kosmo was acquitted in 2016 of a charge for furnishing false statements to Bursa Malaysia Securities Berhad, but the SC revisited the case in May this year. Norhamzah was seen to have switched his political allegiance from UMNO to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman spoke out on Astro Awani about the directors of Supermax, namely Dato’ Sri Stanley Thai and wife Datin Sri Cheryl Tan, as having been prosecuted with insider trading by the SC as part of BN’s culture of fear against supporting opposition parties. Stanley had openly supported the then Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition in the run up to the 13th General Election in 2013.

Mokhzani Mahathir and KC Yeow (behind)

Kencana Petroleum Bhd Datuk Yeow Kheng Chew also faced prosecution by the SC then although the case was later dropped by the Attorney General’s office. Yeow who is also known as KC Yeow was a partner of Mokhzani Mahathir.

Ranjit had since left the SC on early retirement and been replaced by Datuk Syed Zaid Albar, who is the younger brother of former home minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar.

Meanwhile, Shanti has been promoted to Acting General Counsel according to the SC website, as seen in its management directory page.

Early retirement doesn’t mean he should not face justice

In a parting letter to his colleagues which was published by TheEdgeMarkets, Ranjit spoke of early retirement.

“I had earlier written to the minister of finance on an early retirement from the SC.” he wrote.

Ironically, he proudly wrote of his achievement in strengthening the regulatory architecture and corporate governance ecosystem.

“As chairman I have continued to emphasise our efforts at strengthening the regulatory architecture and empowering investors. And we have strived to strengthen the corporate governance ecosystem together with our efforts on building supervision and enforcement capacity to achieve credible deterrence.”

All of that while closing his eyes to the scandal that is 1MDB, which had been labelled as The World’s Largest Heist by AlJazeera.

No action by government suggests that deals were made

By being silent on whether people like Hashim Abdullah and Ranjit Singh will be facing justice, Pakatan Harapan will only open themselves up to speculation that the government had given them a deal to save their own skin.

Whilst it is important that we get them to cooperate to bring down bigger crooks like Najib, these are not small-anchovies in the ocean of kleptocracy.

Letting them get away will not be a good example to all public servants in the country. They must pay for their parts in denting the good future of this country. They must be made an example for the country to set its course for better Malaysia. A New Malaysia that aspires to be clean and free of corruption must start with prosecuting senior civil servants like Hashim and Ranjit.