By WAME VALENTINE
Reporting in Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia played host to the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) where Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was scheduled to give the opening speech. But Mr Najib was rocked with a multi-million dollar scandal just days before the commencement of the global anti-corruption conference.
Tens of thousands of angry protesters clad in yellow tee-shirts marched through Kuala Lumpur demanding his resignation when allegations that Mr Najib took hundreds of millions of dollars surfaced.
It was revealed that US$700m (FJ$1.5b) was pocketed by Mr Najib from unnamed Arab donors after a recent investigation into alleged mismanagement of state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) of which Mr Najib is the chairman. 1MDB is a state investment fund established after Mr Najib came into power in 2009 with the goal to transform Malaysia into a financial hub.
The Prime Minister has since withdrawn from speaking at the anti-corruption conference instead sending his minister responsible for integrity, Paul Low, to replace him.
The theme of the three-day biennial conference is Ending Impunity.
Mr Low was a speaker at the IACCs Country Experiences in Dealing with Governance and Corruption session yesterday. When asked by a delegate as to why the Prime Minister had given the anti-corruption conference a miss, Mr Low said that he had advised him to do so. He was advised that if he comes, he might face fierce activists. I said to him that I can go (on his behalf), he said.
Transparency International, one of the organisers of the IACC, called on the Malaysian government to ensure independent investigations into corruption allegations, and that prosecutions and punishments are followed through, irrespective of who is implicated.
If Malaysia is to get through its current crisis then the government must let those who know how to investigate corruption do their job. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission must be able to act independently and be free from political interference, said José Ugaz, chair of Transparency International.