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Jakarta Post

Of graft convicts, 1MDB scandal and leaderless revolution

  • Fahmi M. Nasir


Kuala Lumpur   /   Thu, September 27, 2018   /   04:13 pm
Of graft convicts, 1MDB scandal and leaderless revolution Student activists holds up clown-faced caricature of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (2nd R) and his wife Rosmah Mansor (2nd L) during a protest over a financial scandal involving state fund, 1MDB, in Kuala Lumpur on August 27, 2016. (AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

Two recent developments in Malaysia and Indonesia have involved corruption. The Supreme Court has just allowed former graft convicts to run in next year legislative elections, citing their constitutional rights. In Malaysia, the launch of two books expose Malaysia’s biggest financial scandal, 1MDB, that contributed to the fall of the Najib Razak government to the hands of the opposition for the first time since the country’s independence in 1957.

Upon reading the Supreme Court decision, I immediately recalled a conversation in 2013 between my mentor, the late Sanusi Junid, a former Malaysian minister for nearly 20 years and a group of young Malaysians, who were asking his insights on political developments.

One of their questions was why so many parliament members (MP) seemed to fail to contribute to debates in lawmaking.  Junid joked that such MPs represented the illiterate in the electorate.   

Can we assume that our Supreme Court viewed there are so many graft convicts in our country that they also deserve representation in the House of Representatives? And who would be the most appropriate candidates to represent them other than former graft convicts themselves?

Back to Kuala Lumpur, the new books The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose by Clare Rewcastle Brown and Billion Dollar Whale by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope received wide coverage and were quickly sold out. 

These developments in Malaysia and Indonesia showed that the corrupt among the elite have mostly found salvation through legal avenues. If this is the case, what can ordinary citizens do?

In 2011, Carne Ross wrote   The Leaderless Revolution, urging citizens to take matters into our own hands to solve problems instead of waiting hopelessly for our ineffective governments.

We might not have the power or avenue to challenge the binding and final decision of Supreme Court, but we can decide to vote the graft convicts out, as the editorial of The Jakarta Post reminds us. This can be done if all voters choose to vote for clean and untainted candidates.

  We could also look at the contribution of the journalist Brown in uncovering the 1MDB scandal. When she sensed that something was terribly wrong regarding 1MDB she started a blog called Sarawak Report to expose the wrongdoing and the shady dealings of politicians, financial and legal institutions across the globe.

Her blog became very popular and received support, especially through information from Malaysians who faced persecution in the country if they attempted to uncover the 1MDB scandal.

Brown’s effort was picked up by mainstream media like The Edge in Malaysia, New York Times and Wall Street Journal in the United States, and finally the 1MDB scandal was investigated by the US’ Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Now, the new government of Malaysia is working very hard to bring perpetrators of 1MBD to court.

Thus ordinary citizens and the voters are reminded that we have powerful tools, the vote, and to be a game changer and to start a leaderless revolution for our better future.


The writer is the founder of the Center for Study and Consultancy of Waqf, Jeumpa D’Meusara and Ph. D student in waqf (religious endownment) law and governance at Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws, International Islamic University Malaysia.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.