by Kim Quek@www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT Many people may be wondering why the MACC washed its hands off investigation into the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal and passed the buck to the Police. And now, chairman of MACC Abu Kassim Mohamed gives us his answer.
Speaking to Sin Chew Daily reporters after an international conference on December 14, Abu Kassim (right) explained that the complaint MACC received pertained to abuse of a public loan, not abuse of authority; and hence, it is a case under the Criminal Procedure Act to be investigated by the Police, and not a corruption case that falls under the jurisdiction of MACC.
I presume Abu Kassim was referring to the complaint on the use of part of a RM250 million government soft loan to purchase luxurious condos and other personal properties by the family of Wanita Umno chief and Minister of Women, Welfare and Community Development, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.
But hasn't Abu Kassim been acting rather amateurishly as the nation's top corruption buster, akin to the proverbial blind men touching the elephant?
Like an elephant, which is made up of many features, this NFC scandal is a multi-faceted monster that gobbles up large quantities of public funds.
Project riddled with corruption
A major government project was dubiously awarded to an incompetent and unqualified minister's family, for which a huge government soft loan was granted and disbursed under highly questionable circumstances.
This enabled the project recipient to squander on improper purposes, resulting in a project failure that not only thwarted an important food production scheme, but also imperiled the recovery of such public funds.
Needless to say, in such a scandalous project failure, more than one minister, and more than one ministry's officials, could be incriminated in offences that encompass corruption, collusion, breach of trust and criminal negligence - in the award of the project and subsequent disbursement of funds.
In this entire chain of criminal acts, the purchase of condos is only one link - not the most important one. The bigger question is: Why was the project awarded to Shahrizat's family? Who decided it?
The next question is: Who should be responsible for failing to control the proper disbursement of loans, and for failing to monitor the proper utilisation of the funds?
On the first question, the culprits at the forefront are present and past ministers of agriculture and agro-based industries (Noh Omar, Mustapa Mohamed and Muhyiddin Yassin ), and present and past ministers of finance (Najib Abdul Razak and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi), for having been involved in the award of project and subsequent disbursement of funds.
Profitable political handshake?
Apart from these apparent culprits at the protocol level, what about possible behind-the-scene political machinations linked to the project?
Readers will recall that Shahrizat was engaged in a heated contest for Wanita UMNO chief against her predecessor Rafidah Aziz in the last UMNO party election and succeeded in ousting the latter that many observers believed as fulfilling the wishes of the top party leadership.
Under the circumstances, it may not be entirely far-fetched to ask whether there was any link between this RM250 million project and Shahrizat's (left) successful mission to oust Rafidah.
This is an aspect that no conscientious investigator should overlook in the probe into the scandal.
On the second question of disbursement of loans that resulted in the splurging of funds for improper purposes, both the agriculture and finance ministries cannot possibly shirk their responsibility, as it is under their joint scrutiny and approval that every disbursement was made.
For that reason, the two ministers, as well as the officials concerned from the two ministries, have to be probed.
With such abundance of corrupt activities going on at the political leadership level as well as the administrative level, can you imagine our MACC telling us that there is nothing it can do regarding the scandal?
Can you imagine Abu Kassim telling Sin Chew reporters that the problem with the people is that they don't understand the law and cannot distinguish white from black, and that they simply tango with the opposition to condemn MACC?
Abu Kassim further said: "Our biggest problem is how to change people's mindset and how to convince them that MACC is independent.Under the present political atmosphere, corruption is politicised and MACC's alleged lack of independence is used to topple the government".
Treating people like fools
Hearing such comments, one can't help feeling that Abu Kassim has taken the people for ignorant fools.If MACC is independent, can Abu Kassim tell us why there has been no response whatsoever over the mountains of evidence and numerous reports lodged with it over the now world famous timber baron of Sarawak, Taib Mahmud, the chief minister?
A Sarawak NGO called Movement for Change Sarawak (MoCS) submitted a two-inch thick report in March, documenting Taib Mahmud's corruption - no response to date.
Sarawakian Willie Kajan submitted his second report by travelling all the way to Putrajaya in January - no response. Sarawakians James Wong and John Brian submitted their reports in June and August 2010 at Shah Alam and Putrajaya respectively - no response.
Many others, including political party leaders, have also lodged their reports with the MACC, to be met with the same fate.
As for the current NFC scandal, why is Abu Kassim acting like a blind man, oblivious to the swirling controversy that has exposed voluminous evidence of corruption and abuse of power through numerous press conferences and Internet postings over the last two months?
Why is it that Abu Kassim can't see the word "corruption" when it is staring at him from all directions? We understand why Abu Kassim (and the MACC under him) is acting the way he does, but at least spare the people the insult of treating them like fools.