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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Sympathy for Shafie? What about taking away money belonging to the public

Opposition leaders may be ignoring an important point when they condemn the arrest of Shafie Apdal as an alleged political move to smear the image of Parti Warisan Sabah ahead of the 14th general election.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) claims it arrested the Warisan president to question him as it investigates the alleged misappropriation of funds meant for mainly rural projects in Sabah. It said the misappropriation occurred between 2009 and 2015, when Shafie was rural and regional development minister.

Whether or not the investigation is selective, the point to remember is that politicians, regardless of which party they belong to, must be asked to explain themselves if they are suspected of taking away money belonging to the public.

Sabah has been crying for development for the longest time. If it’s true that RM1.5 billion of funds meant to stop the crying has gone missing, we would expect the opposition to be interested to know where it all went to.

Meanwhile, Warisan has been trying to garner sympathy for its president. But perhaps sympathy should be reserved for the rural people of Sabah, who sorely need the amenities that other modern societies take for granted.

What he have learned so far from revelations made by the MACC is shocking enough to make us demand that no mercy be shown to parties guilty of depriving Sabah’s rural people of their rights.

It is indeed high time that something serious be done against the scourge of corruption, not just in Sabah, of course. But since we’re discussing misplaced sympathies in the East Malaysian state, it is well to remember that MACC last year made its biggest seizure with the alleged recovery of RM114 million from the homes of former Sabah Water Department’s top directors.

Apparently, the amount included RM53.7 million in cash and it took MACC officers 15 hours to count it. Of the sum, RM45 million was said to have been seized from former water department director Awang Mohd Tahir Mohd Talib and RM7.5 million from his deputy Lim Lam Beng. The remaining RM1.18 million was in foreign currencies.

The money was reported to have been stashed in cupboards, drawers and a car boot.

Also allegedly found were 19kg of gold jewellery, 97 designer handbags and 127 land titles for plots valued at a total of RM30 million. A further RM60 million in bank accounts was frozen.

Awang Mohd Tahir, his wife Fauziah Piut and Lim were subsequently taken into police custody and charged under the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Act. They pleaded not guilty to all 37 charges filed against them.

All in, that was more than RM200 million that should have gone to water projects to benefit millions of citizens in a state where many areas still have no piped water supply.

The way things are going in Sabah, it seems the only people who prosper are the handful who have power or even a semblance of it.

Shafie was the eleventh person that the MACC arrested in the current case. It has been reported that the agency was scrutinising 72 projects for suspected embezzlement of funds.

The projects come from a list of 350 that the ministry of rural and regional development was supposed to carry out between 2009 and 2015 in Kota Kinabalu, Kudat, Kota Belud, Ranau, Beaufort, Keningau, Lahad Datu, Tawau and Sandakan.

The RM1.5 billion is said to have come from RM7.5 billion allocated for water, electricity and road projects.

Some RM170 million in bank accounts and assets of the companies involved in the projects have reportedly been frozen.

More than 45 people have been questioned since the probe began last month.

By Sheith Khidhir Abu Bakar

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