Putrajaya should inform the public as to where the returned US$300 million (RM1.3 billion) linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) is going, said lawyer-activist Ambiga Sreenevasan.
Ambiga told The Malaysian Insight this is needed to allay the concerns of civil society groups, which are alarmed that the money is being returned to a government consisting of Umno and even PAS, which previously did not acknowledge any wrongdoing in relation to the 1MDB scandal.
Ambiga said she learnt the previous Pakatan Harapan government had set up a trust account and a trust arrangement for the retrieved 1MDB funds, which were supposed to be handed over some time in February but postponed to await further funds.
“It is important this arrangement be made known to the people and that they are assured the monies will be safely administered according to the trust,” she said.
“If my information is not accurate, then all the more why we should be told exactly what is going to happen with the money.”
Ambiga in a series of tweets on Wednesday hit out at Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for not giving credit to the former PH government for the return of US$300 million by the United States.
PH was still the government in February after winning federal power at the 14th general election in May 2018.
But the 22-month-old administration collapsed on February 24 when Muhyiddin pulled Bersatu out of PH, led by then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Muhyiddin was appointed prime minister on March 1 after a week-long political impasse that ended with his party Bersatu joining forces with Umno, Islamist party PAS, a group of former PKR lawmakers and Gabungan Parti Sarawak, to form Perikatan Nasional.
Critics of PN then branded the coalition a backdoor government after it unseated PH.
After the return of the money was confirmed on Wednesday, Muhyiddin thanked the US government, especially its embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz and Attorney-General Idrus Harun for the return of the funds.
The amount recovered was from seizures, forfeitures and liquidation of assets related to the state investor.
“I am disappointed PN was taking credit for work done by PH. PN would have earned more respect if they played fair in giving credit where it is due,” Ambiga said.
“I’m sure they (PN) also did some work, but clearly the bulk of the work was done by the PH government.
“It may not seem to be an important point, but for PN, which is trying to earn the acceptance of the people, given the manner they came into federal power, it is important they state the facts honestly and fairly, and give credit where credit is due.
“We do not want to be in a position of having to fact-check everything they say.”
Ambiga also took issue with the recent political appointments to government-linked companies (GLCs).
“We know why this is happening, but this is reminiscent of the dark days of abuse of power and money politics that was a central pillar of our fight against the Barisan Nasional government.
“These political moves during the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent MCO (movement-control order), are in my view unseemly.
“They cannot, for one minute, believe they do not have to account to the people during this period, or any other time, for that matter.”
Political analysts had recently weighed in on the issue when they said it is evident that Muhyiddin is trying to shore up support through political appointments to GLCs.
They said Muhyiddin’s majority support has not been stable since the formation of his government, adding that this support can swing any time.
Ambiga, however, said Malaysians in general are prepared to show restraint and allow Muhyiddin the space to handle the Covid-19 crisis, as that must come above all else.
However, she said this does not mean they can be expected to remain silent in the face of political manoeuvrings that do not benefit the people.
“It does not mean the government owes no responsibility to the people – on accountability and good governance – while this crisis persists.”
In spite of this, Ambiga commended Muhyiddin on how he has handled the health crisis. Calling it a good move, she said allowing director-general of health Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah to handle the crisis and to communicate with the people based on science and facts has allayed their fears.
Ambiga said the people and civil society have held PH accountable for their actions when it was in power.
“The people must continue to do so with this government.” – TMI