Dennis Ignatius: MACC’s latest wayang kulit show

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All the big talk about fighting corruption must be taken with a big pinch of salt.

There’s a lot of excitement over the MACC’s investigation of former finance minister Daim Zainuddin. Many are hoping that Dr Mahathir Mohamad might be next.

It is of course great for democracy and good governance that no one is beyond the reach of the law. Certainly, every case of corruption ought to be pursued to the fullest extent of the law and the guilty brought to book.

But while we ought to welcome the MACC’s new-found resolve to go after the big fish, we ought not to be oblivious to the politics involved. When only opposition figures and critics are investigated while government politicians and supporters are given DNAAs or are conveniently ignored, you know that something fishy is going on.

As everyone knows, Malaysia is full of corrupt politicians, cronies, proxies and closet billionaires. When the MACC – which has a long history of ignoring the sharks and swallowing the minnows – suddenly goes after hitherto untouchables like Daim over allegations that surfaced some years ago in the Pandora Papers, you know that it is more about politics than justice. After all, many Malaysian politicians and businessmen were implicated in the Pandora Papers but thus far none have been charged with wrongdoing.

Mahathir went after his political enemies, including Najib (not that Najib was not guilty), while ignoring a ton of corrupt cronies and allies. Now Anwar appears to be doing the same. Perhaps someday, another prime minister will go after Anwar and his cronies in an endless cycle of retribution.

Malaysians who are hoping to see more big fish behind bars might, however, be disappointed. All these investigations are nothing more than political ‘wayang kulit’, part of the ongoing proxy war between the government and the opposition. After a while it will all fizzle out like so many of the other MACC investigations and it will be back to corruption as usual.

[If the government is really serious about fighting corruption, it should build a strong, credible and independent anti-corruption agency and then turn it loose to go after every corrupt person without fear or favour and regardless of the political consequences. Until then, all the big talk about fighting corruption must be taken with a big pinch of salt. – Dennis Ignatius