An unprecedented victory

UNPRECEDENTED. That's one way to describe the past one month since Malaysians went to the polls and elected a new government that toppled the once invincible Barisan Nasional, which had ruled the nation for over 60 years.

As we go around the country, it's obvious when we see many more smiling faces than previously as Malaysians relish the abrupt change in the political landscape and are very much looking forward to a reborn nation over the next five years under the new Pakatan Harapan government.

Uppermost in their minds is the opportunity to make Malaysia great again after years of hitting world headlines for the wrong reason with a spate of scandals linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), dubbed the world's biggest financial fiasco in recent years.

It's been a roller-coaster ride of the highest order particularly on the newsfront as hardly a day passes without Malaysia hitting world breaking news headlines, starting with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad being sworn in as prime minister for the second time at the age of almost 93.

Worldwide reaction has been very positive with many leaders welcoming the peaceful transition of power in Malaysia while the social media is agog with praises for the sheer people power that triggered the political tsunami.

The swearing-in at Istana Negara for the prime minister was not without drama as it was much delayed but the entire nation heaved a huge sigh of relief when it took place late at night on May 10, instead of the traditional morning ceremony.

The May 9 election also saw the Election Commission (EC) deliberately delaying the announcement of the final outcome of the polls and it was done in the wee hours the next day although its chairman Tan Sri Hashim Abdullah had promised just a day earlier that all the results would be known by 10pm.

Tens of millions of Malaysians were waiting in front of their televisions the entire night but Hashim and his fellow EC members finally appeared around 3am while unofficial results from the vote counting centres had clearly shown the Pakatan Harapan coalition had swept into power.

Curiously enough until today, the EC chairman had not come out to publicly explain why he chose to delay announcing the results.

Then there was this stunning tell-all press conference by Datuk Seri Shukri Abdull, who chose to step down as the No. 2 man in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) two years ago when he was harassed from all corners – including the threat on his life – for leading a probe into the case involving SRC International, a unit of 1MDB, and the RM2.6 billion in the personal account of then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

His session with the media on May 22 was emotionally charged and he was in tears when he spoke of the harrowing time he went through in the face of threats by those who tried to stop the investigation.

I have covered countless big-story press conferences in my long career in journalism but let me say without hesitation that this ought to be the most unforgettable one.

I have known Shukri for quite a number of years as I have been sitting on two of MACC's advisory panels and there is no doubt in my mind that he executed his task fearlessly and with unquestionable integrity.

Shukri's presence at MACC headquarters could not have been more significant because he was there as the newly-minted MACC chief commissioner, hand-picked by Mahathir to pick up where he left off as far as the case against Najib goes.

He was ready to take the case to court when then attorney-general Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail was unceremoniously removed from office on July 25, 2015.

There was pin-drop silence despite the presence of a huge gathering of local and international media corps when Shukri said he "almost died" and had to flee to the US to seek help from a contact at the New York Police Department, who provided him with three bodyguards.

The media practitioners who attended the press conference must have been shocked when they realised that here was a man who had to seek protection, all the way in the US and could not get one in his own country, for trying to do an honest job that he had sworn to perform.

He had been warned that he "could be next" (after the attorney-general) and worse, he would be charged with conspiracy to bring down the government.

This was the last straw and the unkindest cut of all for the 58-year-old who had spent his entire working life as a graft buster.

Now that he has made a stunning comeback, and as the No. 1 at MACC no less, we can all expect this amazing civil servant to complete his unfinished business with all the freedom at his disposal.

As the noose is fast tightening up around those plotters and players in the SRC scandal, the nation now awaits with bated breath his next move.

I asked Shukri at the press conference how close he was to wrapping up the probe, he said: "We just need to get statements from two witnesses who went missing last time. It's so close now."

One lesson that key institutions in the country must learn from the Shukri episode is to never let it happen again.

At the other wing of MACC headquarters where Shukri met the media, there was another drama when Najib arrived for his appointment with interrogators.

He spent several hours there followed by some more hours two days later.

And earlier this week, his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor was similarly probed at the same venue but the glare of TV cameras were more focused on the handbag she was carrying, given her penchant for such accessories that reportedly could cost more than the price of a bungalow.

There was no shortage of high news value incidents post-GE14, and the one that stunned everyone was when raids by the police on a condominium linked to Najib netted cash worth a whopping RM114 million in various currencies.

The value of jewellery, handbags and other valuables stashed in many more luggage bags and boxes seized at the condo was yet to be ascertained.

The man of the moment this week is newly-minted Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, whose appointment was finally assented to by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V after a three-week standoff.

Also handpicked by Mahathir for the job, the prominent lawyer has vowed that all matters relating to 1MDB will be his immediate priority. He also promised a repeal of all oppressive laws while selective prosecutions will cease immediately.

There will be no more boring stuff on the newsfront in the coming weeks, that's for sure. And we newshounds have never had it so good.