Swimming against the tide to get to the truth

Swimming against the tide to get to the truth
PHOTO: The Star/ANN

Four months ago, when Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan was asked to be Barisan Nasional's Strategic Communications Director at a time of crisis over the 1MDB issue, he did not hesitate.

"In fact, I said 'What took you so long?'," he says.

He has been one of the more vocal MPS in parliament before he was appointed a minister.

"As (Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government) minister, I can't be talking on behalf of Umno where the supreme council is concerned because you have about 60 people in there. So I wanted a platform," he admits.

For him, being Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications Director is "just nice" because it allows him to touch on all issues without being confined to "just Umno issues".

All that though comes with a cost.

Some have lambasted him for being an apologist and for his all-out defence of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak over the 1MDB issue.

"My father was a 'YB' and he told me 'Never abandon your friend when he is in trouble.'

"So far I have not seen a single evidence against the PM. All we are hearing are allegations and all this is being investigated. Unless I see legitimate proven evidence how do I abandon the Prime Minister?"

Q: How do you read the current sentiment on the ground?

No doubt it's a challenging scenario for Barisan Nasional and Umno. That is something that we cannot deny. There is a lot of anger, frustration, anxiety and uncertainty over certain issues that have been circling in the minds of the people. Having said that this is not the worst crisis that the party has faced.

Q: This is not the worst crisis the party has faced but it is the worst crisis the present Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has faced?

That is true but I am talking in the context of the government and the party so this is not the first. We could look at the crisis in 1987 when Umno was declared illegal or the crisis in 1998 (when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was sacked as deputy Prime Minister and deputy Umno president ).

Those are worst. I know a lot of Malays whacked Umno when the party was declared illegal by the courts. So in terms of gravity of the problem, we are okay but it is a challenge.

Surely we should be able to recover from this, given the fact that the Prime Minister has said the 1MDB issue will be resolved within six months. That is the breathing space that he needs. 1MDB is the centre of the storm. Everything - the demeaning statements, the ridicule - all revolve around 1MDB.

1MDB is already going through a rationalisation plan and has taken a number of concrete steps to reduce the company's debt and is making good progress.

On June 8, they completed the repayment for a US$975mil (S$1.37 billion) loan. They have an agreement with IPIC (International Petroleum Investment Company) that will result in the reduction of about RM16bil (S$5.5 billion) to 1MDB's debt.

On June 30, 1MDB announced they would appoint an independent real estate consultant to help review the expressions of interest for its land parcels in Air Itam and Pulau Indah. And they have expressions of interest for their 486-acre Bandar Malaysia project. The government needs six months to turn 1MDB around.

Q: What is causing the anger among the masses over the issue?

With regards to the Cabinet reshuffle, that is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. In order to strengthen the government and the party, some changes need to happen. And of course every political decision and indeed every initiative for change has its repercussions. In this case, the masses are unhappy.

As for 1MDB, the politicians and the media are getting together to taint the name of the Prime Minister and 1MDB. If the four bodies in the 1MDB investigation, Bank Negara, the Attorney-General, MACC and PAC find anything wrong, I am sure some heads are going to roll.

Let's just wait for the Auditor-General to conclude his investigation and prepare a report of this issue. The report will then be submitted to Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Q: In the midst of the 1MDB investigations, there was a reshuffle and the Attorney-General (AG) was changed and PAC members including the chairman was co-opted into the Cabinet. This sends signals that there is a deliberate attempt to stop, delay or interfere with the investigations on 1MDB. Comment?

There are two theories out there. One is the one you mentioned that this is a deliberate attempt to stop, delay or interfere with the investigations.

But there is also another theory that there has been a deliberate attempt to criminalise the Prime Minister.

This is what the new AG (Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali) was saying with regards to the (purported) draft charge sheet (against the Prime Minister). Apandi sent out a statement saying that the Attorney-General's chambers is very concerned that there is a deliberate attempt to criminalise the PM and force him out of the office. If you are a politician of course you would take some pre-emptive steps so that it doesn't happen.

I am not privy to that information. I leave it to the PM and the AG who made that comment and also to the IGP whether or not there is an attempt to criminalise the PM. But it sure looked like it. Because there was an allegation of a draft charge sheet but MACC said 'Wait a minute we have not completed our investigation. So how could there be a draft charge sheet when the investigation has not been completed?'

Q: Why didn't the PM trust the special task force investigating to finish their job? Or are you saying that there was attempt within the task force to criminalise the Prime Minister?

I don't know. The AG Apandi mentioned the word 'criminalise the PM'.

In the first place the task force was illegally constituted. They were not supposed to be investigating the PM or any individual for that matter.

The original task force was set up to look at the overall policy of the banking system such as money laundering, the illicit flow of funds, the illegal use of money changers to move money in and out of the country, illegal money transactions involving terrorism and drug business and the loopholes in the system. That is why the AG, Bank Negara, MACC and the police were there. The four Tan Sris.

When there was an instruction to investigate the RM 2.6bil (in Najib's personal account) that task force was used. But the Attorney- General cannot be part of the task because his job is to prosecute. He cannot be involved in investigation. It is a conflict of interest.

The Attorney-General's chambers should maintain the separation of powers. Investigations should be left to the agencies responsible for investigations which is the police, MACC and Bank Negara. The AG was not supposed to be part of the task force but he was. To me that was wrong.

Q: So who is investigating 1MDB then?

The special task was something the IGP wanted I suppose. The police, MACC, and Bank Negara can conduct their own individual investigations without having that task force. That is not a problem. But the task force doesn't have the mandate from the Cabinet. There is no executive order from the Cabinet to constitute that task force to investigate that particular issue.

Q: You spoke about public anxiety over the 1MDB which is the one big issue Malaysians are asking about. So shouldn't someone try to get to the bottom of it?

Yes. What should have been done is for MACC to go in and investigate, for the police to go and investigate and the Bank Negara to go and investigate. It is wrong if this is under one task force of which the AG is part of. But all that is water under the bridge now.

If they (the police, MACC, Bank Negara) want to investigate based on their own mandate and jurisdiction they can do it.

Q: The silence of Tan Sri Gani Patail over his removal as AG is deafening. How do you read his silence?

You can interpret the way it is but as usual there is a reason. He was not removed in that sense. He was just transferred to another position within the judiciary where he is maintaining his seniority. But that is not what you are asking.

The official response is that he was not well and on dialysis three times a week. Even in my ministry I can tell you there are noticeable delay in getting responses from the AG chambers. This is not necessarily from the AG himself but it has to do with laws pertaining to the ministry. I don't think it is fair for me to speculate.

Q: You say it wasn't a removal but it was a removal because he was taken away from his post two months before his contract expired.

Fair enough. You can make your conclusion. It is up to you. I have not spoken to him. But the official statement was that he was not well.

Q; Usually when someone has to leave office because of health reasons, it is common practice he would issue a statement to that effect but the fact is Gani Patail has not done that. And his choosing to remain silent speaks volumes?

My point is very simple. The investigation is still going on. No one is stopping that.

Q: Investigation on what? There is no investigation on 1MDB now that the special task force has been disbanded and PAC members have been co-opted?

Why not?

As I mentioned in my previous TV appearance, the appointment of the four members was quite normal. I have given in detail the reason why each of the four should be in cabinet.

There has been allegations saying the documents obtained from ((PetroSaudi's former executive) Xavier Justo has been tampered with. Even the authorities in Thailand was saying that documents were significantly tampered with. So why should PAC rush their investigation? PAC doesn't have an investigating team itself to look into details. They depend largely on the Auditor-General's office and MACC. Once they get the report they decide which witnesses they should call to ask further questions.

My point is that the Thai police are saying that Justo confessed that the documents had been tampered with. To me that is an explosive confession. Given the fact that the documents have been altered, how can PAC be completely sure that when they got the report from the Auditor- General, MACC and the police whether these investigations were based on original documents which were not tampered?

So during the lull from now till Oct (when parliament reconvenes and new members are appointed in PAC to replace those co-opted) ,they can use that time to check whether the investigation was based on the tampered documents. So why rush? It is wise for PAC to wait until the dust settles and for a clearer picture to emerge. If not PAC might be coming up with the wrong conclusion based on faulty assumptions.

Q: Justo was paid 4 mil Swiss Francs to leave PetroSaudi and was allegedly blackmailing Petro Saudi for more and he demanded US$2 mil from the Edge and Sarawak Report for the documents. Doesn't that show he has something in hand that he thinks one party can be blackmailed for and another is willing to pay for?

I don't know if he was demanding. He was offered that US$2mil. As for that 4 million that was the compensation he was given to leave. When he was blackmailing PetroSaudi, they did not pay. If I was PetroSaudi and the documents were so damaging to me. I would have paid him off because after all I paid him a huge amount of money to leave.The fact is he did not get the money and he sold it to the Edge .

Q: But the Edge did not pay?

Both are scums . If you go around asking people for documents and data and you are paying for it that's bad enough. If you got the information and you didn't pay, you are still a scum.

Q: They said they were doing it in the interest of the country?

Oh come on.

Q: What I am asking is does Justo have something in his hand on 1MDB that one party is 'blackmail-able' for and another willing to pay for?

If you say to me you've something of me and you ask for money and I refuse to pay you, your blackmailing is not validated at all. If I paid you that's a different story. When you didn't get the money then you sold it to another interested party (The Edge).

(The Edge agreed to pay for the documents but they never paid)

If I were Justo and someone is willing to pay US$2 mil for the information, I would enter into the deal because I want the US$2 mil. Then that party who got the document tampered with it to publish it. They are scums.

(Both Sarawak Report and the Edge denied tampering with the documents.)

Q: On 1MDB, why did US$700 mil from the 1MDB-PetroSaudi joint venture flow to Good Star and not back to 1MDB when the joint venture was called off?

When the first deal did not go through they turned it into Islamic funding so in a way the relationship never failed because what they did was to convert the equity into a loan.

Q: Why did the US$700 mil go to Good Star?

Why not? I don't want to be the one answering on behalf of 1MDB. I think 1MDB is willing to reveal all the details to PAC. I know the details but I feel 1MDB should be the one answering. But let me give you an overview of the deal .

Goodstar was PetroSaudi International's subsidiary so when that the deal did not go through they just converted that equity into a loan and subsequently they added up two more tranches US$500 mil and US$330 mil which amount to about US$1.9bil.

Q: But PetroSaudi never put down any money That 1 bil was put in by 1MDB and all PetroSaudi was offering was oil exploration rights which they didn't even actually have?

What they said to us was that I got this oil and you need to spend money on it to explore it and later on we will harvest the result. 1MDB came in with cash and it was supposed to be cash flow for that oil field. When that did not happen 1MDB got back their money RM1 bil but it was converted into loan.

That RM1bil that 1MDB put in originally for that oil fields was converted into loans for the same amount. They did not lose.

Q: But didn't two of the 1MDB board of directors (chairman Mohd Bakke Salleh and Azlan Mohd Zainol) resign over this?

The bottom line is that you can question every business decision that a company makes It doesn't need to be 1MDB. You can pick any of the top 50 companies in Malaysia and you can give your opinion on every step of their business decision. My point is that there is an accusation that the 1MDB money was stolen. They put in US$1.9 bil and later on they got back US$2.38bil. When I look at the figures, I see that 1MDB actually made money. They made US$488 mil from the deal.

Q: There is the issue of the transfer of the two MACC directors (Datuk Bahri Mohamad Zain and Datuk Rohaizad Yaakob) and the DPP and other officers on the case were detained, why did that even happen? Why is there no confidence in MACC to let them do their job professionally?

When Tan Sri Apandi made the comment that there could be a plot to topple the Prime Minister by way of criminalising the Prime Minister what would you do?

Have that in mind first as a background to all your questions and the pieces will fall into the right places.

You have the allegation of MACC revealing information to Sarawak Report - what do you do? Under normal circumstances you will transfer officers.

In my ministry if I find an officer or the secretary-general allegedly releasing confidential information he would be removed.

Q: No you should charge them.

Yes of course, But you must remember these are very dynamic situations so God forbid if that draft charge sheet was actually served - can you imagine what would happen?

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