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The single rotten apple

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THERE is no joy with that pengkhianat bangsa (traitor to our race), also known as Najib Razak, now behind bars. Some relief perhaps, what with the protracted hearings, appeals, and requests for adjournments now over. However, be prepared for the ensuing ugly sagas.

Is Najib the lone corrupt leader or is corruption an ingrained trait of modern Malay leadership? A lone rotten apple versus the whole barrel being infected. Or to resort to a clinical metaphor, is Najib a solitary cancer or has the malignancy metastasized throughout Malay culture?

With the former, the best chance of cure would be to take aggressive action, as with wide radical excision of the tumour. That is, throw Najib in the slammer for a long time so as to impress others who would be similarly tempted. Even when the cancer has spread, it is still important to gain local control of the primary lesion but you would need additional modalities as with chemo and radiation therapy.

This localized versus disseminated cancer metaphor becomes more relevant what with new scandals like the littoral combat ships (LCS) contracts now unfolding and many old ones like the Bank Bumiputra and Perwaja Steel Mill issues, and Forex debacle still to be fully examined.

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As for corruption, the narrative of a pious, upright, and not too bright Malay leader being cheated by a slimy cunning Chinaman is an old one. Today that still resonates among not only Najib’s seemingly urbane lawyers but also by insular Islamist leaders like Hadi Awang. To them, their Najib is honest—only that moonfaced Jho Low had swindled their man.

At the practical level, Najib being jailed does not make those massive 1MDB debts disappear. They would still have to be serviced, consuming the nation’s scarce resources for the next decade or more. Imagine the colossal opportunity costs, with citizens bearing that burden, not Najib. Already Najib is perceived a hero, and not just among simple kampung folks. Recall that earlier palace invitation of a few months ago.

This degradation of our society’s norms and values may already be irreparable. In short, the cancer has spread.

Consider Najib’s last moments of freedom yesterday. He was whisked away not in the usual prison lorry but a dark-tinted luxury SUV, with police outriders fit for the Agong. Those tinted windows notwithstanding, Najib was seen through the clear front windscreen to still be in his Armani suit. Mug shots and orange prison garb are only for opposition politicians and the common criminal, it seems.

Najib’s endless legal manoeuvrings, fervent multiple appeals, and cheap delaying tactics did not impress the judges. Najib was found guilty on all seven charges, reinforcing the earlier decisions of the trial judge and appeals court judges. Both appellate decisions were unanimous.

As for spurious delaying tactics, imagine bringing up an issue that allegedly first appeared in social media over four years ago, as the defence attorneys did in trying at the last moment to recuse the Chief Justice. I wished one of the judges would have asked Najib’s smart lawyers whether they had first ascertained the veracity of that alleged Facebook posting. Very elementary, my dear!

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