The corruption scandal involving former prime minister Mahiaddin Yassin’s Jana Wibawa program is a classic case of the well-connected bumiputera stealing rakyat’s money in the name of the bumiputera.
It is about the bumiputera having no shame about stealing from another bumiputera.
It is the never-ending story of endemic corruption in Malaysia. It is about bumiputera greed, lust for power, abuse of position and inflated egos.
There is only one word that best describes Mahiaddin’s legacy. Treachery.
Mahiaddin, the architect of the Sheraton Move, proudly boasted that he was a “Malay first and Malaysian second,” does not need enemies to bring him down. His wounds are self-inflicted.
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, under the cover of the Emergency Rule, Mahiaddin ruled with an iron fist. With parliament dissolved, his actions were not scrutinized. He could do as he wished.
From the emerging corruption scandals, it appears that instead of helping the rakyat during lockdown, Mahiaddin and his close aides merely helped themselves.
In the past week, several key Bersatu leaders, including Mahiaddin, have been questioned by the MACC. It looks like he has further to fall.
Perhaps, Mahiaddin’s most treacherous act is the shame he has inflicted on the Malays.
He insulted all the honest, hardworking Malays who are now tainted with his brush.
In November 2020, Mahiaddin introduced the Jana Wibawa project, a stimulus program for struggling Malay contractors to make them more competitive and to help boost the nation’s economic recovery during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
However, it was alleged that family members of some Bersatu leaders had been awarded various government contracts.
Similarly, crony companies which made substantial political donations to Bersatu would also “win” the contracts.
The open abuse of Jana Wibawa prompted the president of the Malaysian Malay Contractors Association (PKMM) Mohamed Fadzill to announce that it was an “open secret” whereby selected Malay and bumiputera contractors had been awarded government projects by direct negotiations.
He claimed that the projects had also been awarded to companies “friendly with a particular political party” despite having neither experience nor expertise.
He said former PM Ismail Sabri had said he would investigate why eligible Malay companies were excluded. What happened to Ismail’s investigation?
Yesterday, those closest to Mahiaddin have been implicated.
Bersatu information chief Wan Saiful Wan Jan was charged with soliciting a bribe of an unspecified amount and for receiving a bribe of RM6.96 million between July 8 and September 30, 2022.
At a separate court, Segambut Bersatu deputy chief Adam Radlan Adam Muhammad was charged with seeking a bribe ranging from 3.5 percent and 7 percent of the value of a project.
Following the charges against Wan Saiful and Adam Radlan, Mahiaddin claimed that Bersatu was a victim of “selective prosecution.”
The rakyat disagree. For five decades, dishonest politicians have used the bumiputera agenda to take advantage of other bumiputeras.
Rich and politically connected Malays have distracted, tricked and stolen from poorer, more gullible and ignorant Malays.
The Jana Wibawa program, like most other affirmative action programs designed to help bumiputeras, has been abused to benefit the elite Malays. For decades, there was no political will to stem this abuse.
Perhaps now under PM Anwar all this is about to change.
The key ingredients of affirmative action programs like Jana Wibawa are these: the politician, the minister, the government project, taxpayers’ money, the bumiputera angle and for added bonus, the Emergency rule.
Politicians use such programs as a stepping stone to get rich quickly.
The added bonus for Jana Wibawa was that Emergency rule prevented scrutiny of Bersatu’s actions.
The minister is the enabler. He approves the contracts while the PM gives the final nod to proceed.
The program involves government projects which are funded by taxpayers.
Eligible bumiputera companies should qualify, but in truth, only cronies or family members of corrupt politicians are awarded the contracts.
In the end, it is the elite, well-connected bumiputeras who have robbed the poorer bumiputeras.
If we were to criticize corrupt Malay businessmen or incompetent bumiputera companies, we will be accused of being anti-Malay/bumiputera!
The other tragedy of Malaysia is that Malaysians dare not criticize incompetent and corrupt bumi companies because the critics will be seen as being anti-Malay/bumiputera. Some are punished.
In the end, anyone who demands integrity, meritocracy and transparency in bumi companies will not speak up.
The failure to criticize means that corrupt bumi companies and incompetent bumiputeras thrive.
The Jana Wibawa scandal was allowed to happen because Mahiaddin is weak. He cannot pretend that he was not aware of what was going on in Jana Wibawa during his tenure.
Last week, Mahiaddin and former finance minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz were questioned by MACC officials. Unsurprisingly, Mahiaddin tried to pass the buck by claiming that Jana Wibawa was Zafrul’s brainchild.
By attempting to distance himself from Jana Wibawa, Mahiaddin succeeded in showing that he was just another weak and arrogant Malay politician who refused to take responsibility for his actions.
Malaysians furious with the never-ending corruption scandals would like the MACC to disclose detailed information in Jana Wibawa, such as which company was awarded the contracts; what is the approved amount; and who is involved?
We thought that the convicted felon Najib Abdul Razak and the 1MDB scandal was bad, but it appears that Mahiaddin is worse!
He is a disgrace to Malaysia, and more importantly to his race and religion.
- The EdgeMarkets: Bersatu’s Wan Saiful and businessman Adam Radlan to be charged in court over Jana Wibawa scheme
- New Straits Times: Jana Wibawa: Direct nego an open secret
(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)