The Malaysian government should immediately set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to analyse and investigate in detail allegations of extraordinary wealth belonging to several Malaysian leaders and politicians, which have been exposed in the Pandora Papers recently.
What are the Pandora Papers? They consist of 11.9 million leaked documents that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published beginning on Oct 3.
These leak papers have made international headlines and have begun to draw serious attention within Malaysia.
The papers have exposed the secret offshore accounts of 35 world leaders, including current and former presidents, prime ministers and heads of state as well as more than 100 billionaires, celebrities, and business leaders.
The news organisations of the ICIJ described the document leak as their most expansive exposé of financial secrecy yet, containing documents, images, emails and spreadsheets from 14 financial service companies in nations, including Panama, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, surpassing their previous release of the Panama Papers in 2016, which had 11.5 million confidential documents.
Estimates by the ICIJ of money held offshore (outside the country where the money was made), range from US$5.6 trillion to US$32 trillion.
Among those names are former British prime minister Tony Blair, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Montenegrin president Milo ĐUkanovi, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, United Arab Emirates Prime Minister and Dubai ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and many more.
More than 100 billionaires, 29,000 offshore accounts, 30 current and former leaders, and 336 politicians were named in the first leaks on Oct 3.
Our government cannot afford to remain silent and do nothing pertaining to these revelations made through the Pandora Papers as the names of a few Malaysian leaders and politicians have also been named in them.
People in the country demand to know the truth. They want to know the authenticity of the leak papers itself, the source of income of those named in the leak papers and whether their income has been obtained legally or illegally.
People also want the government to take immediate and stern action against anyone found to have violated any existing local laws upon conclusion of analysing and investigating the leaked papers.
As such, the government should strongly consider setting up an RCI to scrutinise every detail in the Pandora Papers involving our local leaders and politicians.
Through the RCI, we will able to gather experts who are independent, truly knowledgeable and have enough experience to investigate all the arising issues in the leaked papers.
The RCI is normally established to look into matters of great importance to the people and the country.
These can be matters such as government structure, the treatment of minorities, events of considerable public concern or questions over economic performance.
In Malaysia, the RCI is regulated under the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950 (Act 119).
Section 2 of the Act also clearly stipulates that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may, where it appears to him to be expedient to do so, issue a commission appointing one or more commissioners and authorising the commissioners to enquire into:
(a) The conduct of any federal officer;
(b) The conduct or management of any department of the public service of Malaysia;
(c) The conduct or management of any public institution which is not solely maintained by state funds; or
(d) Any other matter in which an enquiry would, in the opinion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, be for the “public welfare”.
The term public welfare is extensive and can also include the recent exposure over the Pandora Papers, which can affect public interest and welfare.
The results of the RCI have often been published in a report and will include many suggestions or recommendations that can be read, analysed and taken into serious consideration by any relevant authorities and agencies for further action.
Setting up the commission is not something new as we have done it many times in past since we gained our independence.
For example, the Royal Commission on Salaries and Conditions of Service of the Public Service back in 1965 and recently an RCI to investigate issues related to the Muslim pilgrims’ fund, Lembaga Tabung Haji in July.
Setting up an RCI is very important as it can increase public confidence and trust in the government over their commitment to combat crime and corruption in the country.
Muzaffar Syah Mallow is an associate professor of Faculty of Syariah and Law, at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org