Is Idris Jala really throwing down the gauntlet or is he just covering up for Najib?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 15th of August, 2015

Is Idris Jala really throwing down the gauntlet or is he just covering up for Najib?

Even though I have often disagreed publicly with some of the strategies and policies of the Economic Transformation Program (ETP), I respected PEMANDU CEO, Dato Seri Idris Jala, as a man of integrity who genuinely wanted to make a positive contribution to the country.

As such, I was shocked to read his latest blog post in the Economic Transformation Program (ETP) website entitled “Throwing Down the Gauntlet”[1] where he not only sounded like a BN apologist but also made it sound as if the opposition were the main stumbling blocks towards undertaking reforms on political financing.

Instead of speaking up for MACC officers who were being investigated and questioned by the police and the two MACC officers who were initially transferred to the PMO a day after meeting opposition politicians, he tried to defend the RM2.6 billion “donation” to Prime Minister Najib by writing:

‎”I consulted a senior legal expert for clarification on a few points of law concerning the issue of political donations. Generally, it is not illegal for anyone to donate money to political parties. Secondly, there is no law in our country that makes it illegal to remit political donations either into a bank account of an individual or a political party. However, it is illegal when donations are directly linked to corruption.”

Idris Jala’s deafening silence vis-à-vis the attacks on MACC’s independence is even starker given that strengthening the MACC is (or perhaps was) one of the cornerstones of the anti-corruption NKRA. In describing the anti-corruption workstream, the 2013 GTP Annual Report had this to say:

“This workstream aims to build and establish Malaysia as a fair and just place to live, work and play. A key component towards this end is to ensure that the MACC becomes a world-class institution, armed with the resources it needs to operate independently and effectively to investigate and take action against cases of corruption”

So while the independence of the MACC is under severe attack, Idris Jala has decided to defend his boss and leave the MACC officials to fend for themselves.

But perhaps worse than this was the classless attempt by Idris Jala to write as if BN was in favour of political financing reform while Pakatan was against it. Idris wrote:

“In 2014, when for the second time our Prime Minister had called for the regulation of political financing, senior Barisan party members argued that to be fair, it should be implemented in tandem with Pakatan. We felt positive about this because at least one side (Barisan) accepted our proposal and the other side, Pakatan may perhaps have been keen to jump on this bandwagon given their stance on governance and transparency. Again, we ended up with no voluntary takers. Clearly, there was no appetite for such a reform at the time.”

I can only repeat what my other colleagues have said which is that the DAP has never been consulted or asked by PEMANDU or any other government agency to agree to any proposal or legislation on political financing in Malaysia. And the DAP has never objected to any political financing reform or bill. So I am aghast that Idris Jala would write as if the proposal for political financing was only accepted by one side i.e. the BN but not by the other side i.e. Pakatan. How could we reject what was never offered to us in the first place?

In fact, I would like to remind Idris Jala that the opposition MPs were much more open to working with PEMANDU on the anti-corruption NKRA initiatives compared to the BN MPs. As far as I know, this has not been previously reported so I will list down the sequence of events in detail.

Under the GTP 2.0, the anti-corruption NKRA proposed that Members of Parliament would undergo training to enhance awareness and knowledge of corruption / abuse of power / malpractice. (See Initiative 19 below).

The NKRA team had approached the president of the BN backbencher’s club, Tan Sri Shahrir Samad to conduct this training in parliament on a bipartisan basis but he wasn’t interested. In order to fulfil their year-end KPI, PEMANDU approached the Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) to organize this anti-corruption training. Despite the best efforts of IDEAS, only opposition MPs attended this training. To emphasize, NOT A SINGLE BN MP showed up for this training which was conducted in Majestic Hotel by Tan Sri Abu Kassim, the head the MACC as well as Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, the Auditor General. This integrity training for MPs was reported in the GTP’s 2013 Annual Report (see below). The Annual Report stated (or rather understated) the fact that “Not all MPs attended the inaugural anti-corruption training session, and the Anti-COR team will work on improving attendance going forward” without mentioning that no BN MPs showed up. The picture in the GTP’s 2013 Annual Report shows that only opposition MPs were in the photo together with the Minister in the Prime Minister’s department, Paul Low, who is in charge of governance and integrity. This should be a clear enough sign of which side is really serious about reform to reduce corruption and I hope it will serve as a timely reminder to Idris Jala.

Finally, the statement which showed that Idris Jala is either political naïve or purposefully ignorant:

“In retrospect, I believe if both parties had accepted the recommendations back in 2010, we would not be in the current conundrum, with the entire nation suffering a protracted political battle.”

Does the good Senator really think that the whole 1MDB scandal would not have taken place if the BN and Pakatan had agreed to the political financing agreement proposed by PEMANDU? Should I remind Idris Jala of the fact that Prime Minister Najib signed the Transparency International’s Electoral Integrity Pact in February 2013[2] and one month later, in March 2013, almost US$700 million made its way into PM Najib’s private AMBank account?[3]

With these kinds of statements, I question the credibility of Idris Jala to play an effective role as the deputy chairman of the recently announced ‘national consultative committee on political funding’.[4] Will Idris Jala and the chairman of this committee, Paul Low, use this as a means of distracting the public from the larger problems affecting Najib and the source of the money which went into his personal Ambank accounts in 2013, 2014 and 2015?

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

[1][email protected]_Down_the_Gauntlet.aspx