Thursday, September 23, 2021

A convict as your economic adviser? Some advice for Ismail

What kind of message does Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who has yet to warm his seat in Putrajaya, want to send to the nation about his priorities and principles?

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Recently, the grapevine has been abuzz with talk of ex-prime minister Najib Razak being roped in as the economic adviser to newly minted PM Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

This talk gained further credence with former minister Nazri Aziz lauding the proposal, citing Najib’s vast experience including nine years as PM and having served as the finance minister.

Seriously? What have people in Putrajaya been smoking that they would even entertain the notion of Najib’s return to the corridors of power? Have we forgotten that Najib is the man at the centre of the country’s largest financial heist in history, the 1MDB scandal?

It was an operation so extensive, involving sums of money so obscene, carried out with such brazen bravado, that some one dozen countries launched probes and prosecuted perpetrators in this shameful transnational crime. The 1MDB scandal also resulted in global media infamy for Malaysia, described as a “kleptocracy” by the US Justice Department, under the leadership of Najib.

And as much as Najib tries to distance himself from the skulduggery that has come to define Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, he’s a convict sentenced to 12 years in prison and a fine of RM210 million – a conviction against which he is appealing. This is not to mention the slew of other charges the man referred to as “MO1” by the US authorities is facing, almost all of which are related in one way or another to 1MDB.

The High Court judge who handed down Najib’s sentence, in his written judgment, described the crime as “the worst case of abuse of position”. With that in mind, are we now ready to roll out the red carpet for Najib to a position where his hands will be dangerously close to our national kitty?

What kind of message does Ismail, who has yet to warm his seat in Putrajaya, want to send to the nation about his priorities and principles, or lack thereof? Is the country so bereft of qualified professionals that the PM has to rope in an economic crime convict as his economic adviser?

If Najib were to defile the inner sanctum of political power with his return, would that not jeopardise the criminal proceedings he faces by way of perceived political interference and pressure?

The Najib administration was roundly rejected by voters during the 2018 general election, chiefly because of his involvement in 1MDB, where he was chairman of the company’s board of advisers.

The court has found him to be corrupt and of having abused his powers. If not for the appeal process, Najib would now be behind bars, not a heartbeat from the centre of political power where he was convicted of having committed grand theft.

Should the PM bring Najib back to Putrajaya, from which the latter was booted out in 2018, Ismail himself risks being kicked out of power, considering the short stints our previous two PMs ruled. Consider this a warning shot, Mr Prime Minister!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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