Najib's Corruption Scandals Take The Lead At IACC Conference

The Transparency International (TI) premier, José Ugaz said that independence and freedom are the basis to a democratic and just society.

Cover image via The Telegraph UK

DPM Zahid Hamidi sings praises for Malaysia's corruption fighting records

Deputy Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

Image via The Malay Mail Online

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (pic) said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's (MACC) conviction rate had soared from 58% in 2009 to 78% last year.

He said the country had also improved its ranking on the International Corruption Perception Index last year, and at 50th place, had the second best track record in Asean after Singapore.

Zahid, who is also Home Minister, noted that the United Nations Convention Against Corruption had last year praised Malaysia for its efforts in tackling graft.

"Malaysia received recommendations for best practices in a total of 23 areas - the highest number out of all countries reviewed," he said.

He said that the heads of international NGOs at the conference had been duped into recycling baseless allegations against the Government, and we're unwittingly involving themselves in the country's internal politics.

Meanwhile, Culture and Tourism Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz has defended Jose Ugaz's speech criticising Najib

Culture and Tourism Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz

Image via The Star Online

Nazri, often critical of any criticism against the ruling party and its members, has come forward defending Jose Ugaz, Transparency International chief’s fiery speech about the corruption scandals in Malaysia at the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference on Wednesday.

"Can you check for me if freedom of speech and freedom of expression are still in our (Federal) Constitution?" the culture and tourism minister asked reporters when he was quizzed on this matter.

"(If yes, then) let him speak," he said.

"It is free speech okay ? What is big deal about it ?" he said.

Commenting further, Nazri, with his trademark sarcasm, said: "He (Ugaz) can even say, 'Nazri, come and explain the RM3 you got from your donor.'”

He also defended Najib's absence at the opening of the anti-corruption conference.

"What is happening in our country now is there are some allegations which are unfair to the prime minister, so it is only fair for him not to be present at the conference," he said.

Transparency International (TI) chief José Ugaz's speech perfectly captured current Malaysian sentiments

José Ugaz Transparency International's chief

Image via Transparency International

In his inspiring speech during the opening of the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC), Jose has brought to light the seriousness of our corruption-ridden country's state.

Putting Malaysia on par with other war-torn, corrupt countries with its people revolting against injustice, Jose likened the uprisings as warnings to unscrupulous leaders

Militants from the Islamic State parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle on a main street in Mosul, Iraq

Image via Times Union

"Hundreds of thousands of people are sending a message to the corrupt. Your days of impunity are numbered," said Jose.

The countries mentioned in his speech would serve as a reality check to any Malaysian doubting the damaging effects of a corrupt government.

Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala and Iraq were the countries put on the same pedestal as Malaysia.

In Malaysia, the uprising from the masses started when Bersih 2.0, an organisation fighting for clean and fair elections started their first rally in 2007

A sea of yellow near Jalan Tun Perak on the first day of Bersih 4

Image via SAYS

The latest march for a truly democratic country organised by Bersih 2.0, Bersih 4, started on 29 August and lasted till the midnight of 30 August.

The rally saw hundreds of thousands of Malaysians protesting against Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, asking him to resign following scandalous money misappropriation allegations against him.

José hit close to home when he said that robbing rights to speech and press freedom from the people makes it all the more difficult to battle corruption

Guatemalan journalists seen taking part in a protest after Danilo Lopez of Prensa Libre was shot

Image via Johan Ordoñez/AFP

His detailed account of atrocities committed towards people fighting against corrupted, unlawful individuals was both angering and sad.

Activists, journalists and members of the society have been cruelly penalized for wanting expose corruption and heinous crimes against human rights.

According to the International Press Institute (IPI), a devastating number of 48 journalists have been murdered so far this year.

"Danilo Lopez and Frederico Salazar, two courageous journalists were murdered in broad daylight in Guatemala. For more than a decade Lopez had exposed corruption and the misuse of public funds by corrupt politicians. And a month and a half ago an anti-corruption activist was killed in Mexico," said José.

People carrying the coffins of Danilo Lopez and Frederico Salazar

Image via Thomas Reuters Foundation

"In Azerbaijan, as we meet, investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was sentenced yesterday to seven and half years for “economic crimes.” These are typical of the bogus charges brought by governments to shut down those who speak out against corruption."

"Khadija exposed how the government awarded the rights to a lucrative gold field to the President’s family. In a statement she just said: “I might be in prison, but the work will continue.”

Azerbaijan journalist Khadija Ismayilova has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years

Image via The Guardian

Jose mentioned that fighting against corruption takes courage and with that a moment of silence was observed by all present at the speech for everyone that has been unjustly killed and punished for fighting against corruption.

Most parts of José's speech creatively summed up all the rising atrocities in Malaysia

"Most insidious of all is political corruption. The twisting and distorting of the law by governments plagued by cronyism and captured by special interests," he said.

"In Kuwait our chapter was taken over by a government appointed board. In Tunisia our activists were threatened with legal action for criticising laws that would set the corrupt free. In Russia civil society organisations are being placed on a register of Foreign Agents – the first moves that could attempt to close down the work of anti-corruption fighters in that country," added Jose.

He mentioned four things that personify corruption; those with integrity removed, secret deals, cronies appointed and violations of human rights.

According to José, Najib holds the key to the multi-million dollar mystery surrounding 1MDB and Najib

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak

Image via The Guardian

There are two questions that need to be answered: Who paid the money and why? Where did it go?

One man could answer those questions. If that does not happen then only a fully independent investigation, free from political interference, can uncover the truth.

Until that happens, no claim from the government on anti-corruption will be credible.

Jose's powerful closing statement takes a hit at Malaysian ruling government's favourite response to all problems: Reforms!

He stressed that promises on reforms alone are not enough and those promises will not do any good in restoring people's trust in the government.

"We want to see more progress but that cannot happen while there are unanswered questions about the $700m that made its way into the Prime Minister’s personal bank account.

In recent weeks we have seen the Attorney-General who was critical of the government suddenly replaced, the 1MDB taskforce suspended, investigators at the Anti-Corruption Commission arrested or transferred, and newspapers suspended for reporting on the matter.

These are not the actions of a government that is fighting corruption," said Jose.

PM Najib Razak was advised not to launch the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC)

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Paul Low and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak during a press conference

Image via The Star Online

Najib was slated to launch the conference but backed out after being advised against doing so by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Paul Low.

Low said he made the call to advise Najib on the possible hostile receptions he could receive due to allegations against him.

"I'm from Transparency International and I know this will be a meeting of fearless activists and it's going to be hostile," said Low, responding to questions from the floor during a workshop session.

Low said Najib decided against delivering the keynote address in the afternoon after taking into account security concerns and the atmosphere of the conference. Low will be delivering the address.

To read the full transcribed opening speech by José Ugaz, click here.

If you want to watch all the speeches and discussions held during the conference, including Jose's, then you can do so here.

Responding to José's speech yesterday, Multimedia and Communications Minister Salleh Said Keruak lamented that answers have already been provided for the RM2.6 billion scandal surrounding Najib

Multimedia and Communications Minister Salleh Said Keruak

Image via Malaysia Today

Salleh pointed out that the issue has been highly politicised.

"In fact, a number of responses have already been given, even by the deputy prime minister and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, but apparently this is not good enough and you are not prepared to accept those responses," he added.

"Whatever response is given is going to be rejected as is evident for the responses already given, all which have been rejected.

"You demand an answer and yet reject all answers given. I do not see what more that can be said," he told Malaysiakini.

Meanwhile, international speakers at the IACC conference have criticised Najib's inaction following the stream of corruption allegations against him

Portugal lawmaker Ana Maria Gomes

Image via The Malaysian Insider

European lawmaker Ana Maria Gomes said that any other politician would have resigned if they were in Najib's place.

"He needs everything to be clarified. In my opinion, anyone who have been under so serious charges, the first thing (they would do) in Europe is resign and then make their case.

Greenpeace International director Kumi Naidoo said that the US$700 million donation was "highly suspicious and highly irregular", and noted that authorities would have sprung into action if it involved an ordinary citizen.

Naidoo, a human rights activist from South Africa, confirmed that similar cases happened in other countries, but when found out, the politicians were either charged or left office.

IACC council member Michael Hershman wants Najib to tell the truth about the RM2.6 billion he received

Michael Hershman, IACC Council member

Image via 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference

“My advice to the Malaysian prime minister would be not to cover up, not to obstruct justice because it doesn’t work.

“Tell the truth. Where did the money come from? What was its intended use and if he did something wrong, ask for forgiveness and face the consequences.

“It’s not going to go away. Delay is not going to make this issue go away. The truth will come out and in my experience, the sooner it comes out, the better off it is for those who are accused and the country,” Hershman told reporters when met in Putrajaya today.

This isn't the first time Malaysia's corruption scandals are receiving limelight from foreign officials. Read more on what they have said here:

If you are wondering why the Swiss authorities are investigating 1MDB, read this:

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