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Monday, June 8, 2015
A DIALOGUE TAHT WAS ANYTHING BUT CIVILISED.
Tunku Abdul Aziz.
To begin with, the very idea that a civilised town hall dialogue to try to resolve the intractably serious differences of opinion about the management of 1Malaysia Development Bhd was harebrained at best and positively dangerous at worst.
That is putting it charitably. The 1MDB affair, which is the subject of an extensive investigation by the Auditor General, has been so politicised that it is clearly impossible for the vast majority of people not to be unduly influenced by the sheer weight of the opposition propaganda.
The situation has not been helped by the likes of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wading in and using 1MDB as an excuse to attack Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. He has turned personal attacks on Najib into an art form. It is not a sight to behold.
I was an early arrival at the Putra World Trade Centre on Friday morning to listen to what Najib had to say by way of rebutting Dr Mahathir’s 15 specific charges against him. With more than 2,000 people there, many in a heightened state of excitement and obviously more interested in creating mayhem than seeking relevant information, thrown together into an auditorium bursting at the seams, the prospects for an orderly dialogue were absolutely nil.
The tension was palpable, the air heavy with apprehension and the atmosphere was anything but conducive for a civilised conversation.
Many of us were relieved when it was announced that on the advice of Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, the prime minister would not come to the event.
Earlier, I had witnessed an ugly incident outside the auditorium. It was generally feared that this was the start of an orchestrated plan to disrupt the event.
The police behaved impeccably under great pressure, and the IGP is to be congratulated on the professional way in which, having assessed the situation, he made that vitally important decision to put duty and public interest above all else.
Had he not intervened, the consequences would have been totally predictable — broken heads, or worse.
Had Najib not reacted so sensibly to the IGP’s advice, he would have played into the hands of the opposition.
Had rioting, God forbid, broken out, it would have been heaven sent and exploited.
I do not think it is right, either legally or ethically, to hang a man while the jury is still out. Is this what our country has come to?
God willing, Najib will still be here when the report is out and face the consequences. So, why the hurry? If circumstances following due process dictate that Najib must step down, let it be done in an orderly and dignified way consistent with the best traditions of our people. He is not planning to abscond.
In the belief that no man is all bad, and in the name of natural justice, no human being, and least of all, the man occupying the highest public office, deserves the treatment being meted out to him when there is, as of now, no proof of wrongdoing. In any case, let our criminal justice system deal with this case, if indeed, there is a case in the first place.
Dr Mahathir demands proof whenever he imagines anyone questioning his role in any of the financial disasters that took place during his 22 years as prime minister.
“What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” is an apt reminder for us all.
Najib meant well when he decided to participate in an open dialogue. With respect, in my view, he had been somewhat careless: he had allowed his natural openness, trusting nature and love of people to cloud his judgment.
Najib has the IGP to thank for averting what could have been an unmitigated political disaster for him that he needed like a hole in the head, in the current situation.
One disturbing feature that I found really distasteful was to see Dr Mahathir with his entourage making a beeline for the stage and occupying it as if the event was organised for him. He might have been invited to the dialogue, but certainly not to take centrestage where he had no business to be. There is such a thing as decorum to observe, but Dr Mahathir took it as his right to do it his way.
There is a time and place for everything, and I felt sorry to see the great man behaving in a way that was better suited to a brawler than an elderly statesman who is much loved. There is still time for a return to sanity, and for Dr Mahathir to redeem his considerable legacy to our nation.
The writer, Tunku Abdul Aziz, is a director of the International Institute for Public Ethics and chairman of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Advisory Board.