Mahathir and family risk civil action for allegedly money laundering activities

In Part 1 we saw that the Agong advised Wan Azizah that she was the most eligible among Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders, based on PKR’s 48 seats in Parliament, to be the 7th Prime Minister. But she told the King then that PH had agreed that its Chairman, Mahathir Mohamad, would be Prime Minister. 

The real reason for Mahathir reneging on the pledge to make way for Anwar Ibrahim may be the latter’s public threat in 1998 before a media conference packed with the international media as well.

The sacked deputy prime minister, finance minister and former deputy UMNO president swore that Mahathir and his multibillionaire children would be dragged to justice for allegedly engaging in money laundering activities as defined by international law.

Anwar accused Mahathir of abuse of power, conflict of interest and criminal breach of trust as a prime ministerial dictator.

The Agong probably made a strategic error when Mahathir called on him on Mon 24 Feb 2020 to submit the resignation letter. The Agong disclosed, inadvertently no doubt, that he would appoint Wan Azizah as prime minister.

Mahathir protested vehemently, and in a contradiction in terms — read turnaround from Thurs 10 May 2018 — reportedly advised the Agong that “Wan Azizah wasn’t suitable material to be Prime Minister”. Somehow, Mahathir may have persuaded the Agong to appoint him as Interim Prime Minister.

Mahathir, according to media reports, planned to set up a Cabinet and government of MPs i.e. there would be no reference to political parties.

In any case, such a Cabinet and government would not have worked in party politics that plagued Malaysia where political personality cults, political parties, tribalism and feudalism thrived in “unholy marriages of convenience” under the guise of democracy.

Openly Hostile

The political parties across the divide expressed open hostility on the idea of a cabinet and government of MPs.

It was poetic justice when Prime Ministerial Dictator Mahathir found himself jobless again in a karmic turn of fortunes, a week later, when the Agong appointed Bersatu President Muhyiddin Yassin as the 8th Prime Minister on Sun 01 Mar 2020 and, according to Mahathir in the media, refused to see him.

It was the unkindest cut of all. The Agong, probably having had enough of Mahathir’s “antics”, had closed the Istana gates.

Apparently, as widely speculated, Muhyiddin didn’t have the numbers in Parliament. He resigned reluctantly on Mon 16 Aug 2021 after dragging the nation through a state of emergency for six months and allegedly mishandling the pandemic brought by the novel Coronavirus.

The Agong asked him to stay on as Interim Prime Minister but not for long, and the nation heaved a collective sigh of relief. Umno vice president Ismail Sabri Yaakob, still being “investigated” in Sabah for allegedly consuming banned turtle’s eggs sometime in Aug 2015, was sworn in as the 9th Prime Minister on Sat 21 Aug 2021.

Mahathir In The Fray

Earlier, Muhyiddin made a bid for the prime minister’s post again. Mahathir and Anwar were the other candidates in the fray. Anwar lost much political goodwill by agreeing that the Agong who was supposed to remain above the fray, could intervene in politics, albeit temporarily, and help pick the prime minister-designate.

The Opposition Leader stood a better chance in Parliament even if there were three or more candidates on the slate. He would have easily won in a run-off between the top two candidates if none secured 51 per cent in the first around.

The Agong decreed that Ismail Sabri should test his support in Parliament. Instead, the new prime minister forged a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with PH in Sept 2021. It was a form of insurance to ensure support from the opposition coalition as well in Parliament. See here.

Muhyiddin had made the same offer, as well, too little too late, barely hours before his tryst with destiny on 16 Aug. He was widely rebuffed, seen as untrustworthy, being beyond redemption for unilaterally taking Bersatu out of PH and forming a “backdoor” government on Sun 01 Mar 2020. The government was reduced, from the beginning to a minority in Parliament but saved by the state of emergency.

GE15 Looms

Fast-forward as GE15 looms!

Ismail Sabri fears that probably the same 15 “rebellious” UMNO MPs, who pulled the rug from under Muhyiddin’s feet, may be tempted to go after his neck as well in an adrenaline rush, if they get the slightest chance.

Except for Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh, the other 14 MPs fear that they continue to face the prospects of selective prosecution and selective persecution, initiated by Mahathir and no one else after GE14, based it can be argued on highly subjective and perhaps even “dubious” grounds in law i.e. abuse of power, conflict of interest and criminal breach of trust, all the very same failings of a prime ministerial dictator.

The charges may be related to political donations, financing of political party activities, corporate social responsibility activities, charitable activities, food parcels and matters which could be settled out of court if the government had filed civil action on money laundering activities.

Instead, the government instituted criminal cases.

In the US for example, the Dept of Justice (DoJ) which worked on 1MDB cases, only instituted criminal cases if the civil action was challenged. Out of court settlements were the preferred mode of action when large sums of money, public or otherwise, were involved.

The speculation continues that MPs in UMNO, Ismail Sabri’s own party, may be ready to plunge the daggers into him, if push comes to shove. The MPs fear that the court may put on blinkers, the approach allegedly taken in the RM42m SRC International case against Najib, and belabour in the delusion that the letter of the law was the sum total of the rule of law.

UMNO Supreme Council

UMNO Supreme Council members are understandably unhappy that some court cases may even have begun against UMNO MPs just before Ismail Sabri became deputy prime minister and invariably put him in a spot. See here.

There’s no guarantee that Ismail Sabri will be prime minister again after GE15, expected by early next year at the latest or even later this year if sooner, although he as a lowly UMNO vice president remains BN’s candidate for PM. – New Malaysia Herald

About the writer: Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez keeps a keen eye on Malaysia as a legal scholar (jurist). He was formerly Chief Editor of Sabah Times. He’s not to be mistaken for a namesake previously with Daily Express. References to his blog articles can be found here.

The points expressed in this article are that of the writer’s, and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the New Malaysia Herald.

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