There were many instances when 1MDB and the people involved in it were caught shifting the goalpost. When people argued on a particular issue, their immediate response is to argue on a different issue to defend the original matter which was brought up.
This can be seen when Wall Street Journal showed an alleged evidence that billions of ringgit were credited into the Prime Minister’s private accounts, the immediate response to it is, “the PM have never taken 1MDB fund for personal gain“, instead of issuing a more doubt removal reply of “the PM did not receive such money”.
The early signs of trouble within 1MDB can be traced when it requested a second extension to a loan repayment deadline in early 2014. Imagine a company that could not repay loans in the billions on time. This had caused some noise in the banking system.
The people had been writing about it and raised concerns. But the concerns were not heeded. The more prominent opposition members and a few bloggers had been telling the government for months that there is something seriously wrong with how 1MDB operates. Some even highlighted the problems since 2012.
In late 2014, Tun Dr Mahathir began to write a note of concern on 1MDB in his blog.
Yet for the whole of 2014, the government was saying there is nothing wrong with that company; despite the changing of CEOs, the resignation of directors, the change of auditors, the inability to pay loans on time and the acute cashflow problems.
1MDB even had the audacity to seek another extension back in January 2015, and yet nobody in the government bat an eyelid. In February, the CEO of 1MDB began to reassure the public that there is some cash in their bank statements. But matters went up to a whole new level when it was discovered that the MOF had given 1MDB RM950 million of standby credit to alleviate its financial burden.
The goalpost moved again when in May it was discovered that there weren’t any cash as stated in February, but it was actually paper assets. The poor reporting by 1MDB and MOF about its own cash assets had caused the public to question the government in anger.
In the end, the paper assets were classified as units. What exactly are these units, nobody could answer till now, not even 1MDB.
In May, the whole of Malaysia really began to know the existence of 1MDB when it was exposed that Tabung Haji had bought a land from 1MDB at a price hundreds of times more than 1MDB originally had paid for it.
The furore it caused had received a knee-jerk reaction from the top advisor of 1MDB when he ordered Tabung Haji to resell the land immediately. Tabung Haji’s chairman proudly claimed that they can sell the land within a few week’s time to a ready buyer with an astronomical profit of RM5 million.
But until July, the land has yet to be sold.
1MDB began to be bombarded with all sorts of questions regarding its business model. The apparent lack of governance in its business venture, the sheer inability in servicing their loans, the net loss of approximately RM665 million in their financial year 2014 accounts, and the total absence of common sense in piling up massive debts to buy assets which ultimately had to be paid by selling off those same assets.
In the end, MOF announced debt rationalisation plan for 1MDB which made the public even more confused.
When investigations kickstarted a few months earlier, 1MDB made a promise that they have been cooperating and had given documents to the authorities but recently when the PAC and the auditor general revealed that 1MDB had not been submitting crucial documents, 1MDB could only defend themselves by saying that they will continue cooperating with the auditors.
Never mind the fact that they had wasted a lot of other people’s time.
The public had a shock of their lives when Wall Street Journal began a series of expose into the Prime Minister’s private accounts. If whistleblowers had not exposed these shenanigans, the public would not have known about it. Transparency was not the order of the day. The government only talked about its virtues when matters were made public.
To digress, in the old days, whistleblowers brought forward confidential information to the media in order to expose any wrongdoing so that when it is made public, the government must order an investigation and there will be no cover ups.
The media will protect the identity of the whistleblowers and stand by the stories they publish by staking their reputation, credibility and liability to prove the authenticity of the information they have obtained.
If at anytime the media feel that the information is suspect, they will not publish them as their credibility will be in ruins. Revealing who the whistleblower is will not make the expose any more credible, otherwise nobody will come out to give any information. And no wrongdoings will ever be made public.
The Watergate scandal was an example where the whistleblowers were not revealed until decades later.
Back to the issue at hand, some of the media in Malaysia seems to be in total opposite of what journalism should be doing when it comes to 1MDB.
For instance, when the wife of the Prime Minister was revealed to allegedly have millions of ringgit in her private accounts, some members of the media began to question the documents exposed. Some even went on a wild goose chase of showing the public that the IC number could be wrong or there is no way the account would have been opened in 1984 as the bank did not exist at that time.
Same goes to the issue of the Prime Minister’s private accounts. Instead of trying to figure out the truth, the media went on a rampage of trying to discredit whether the Prime Minister’s accounts did exist.
In the end, after such useless acts of defending the indefensible, the Attorney General himself confirmed what Wall Street Journal had been stating, that the accounts did exist.
People should not fall prey to the shifting of goalposts. Every statement made must be dissected and read between the lines.
Thank you and Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, maaf zahir dan batin.
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