I have read lawyer Chooi Mun Sou’s memoirs “Malaysia My Home – Quo Vadis” which raised various questions on the future of Malaysia. The book is a “must read” for all Malaysians.
Firstly, whether Jalil Ibrahim, the Bank Bumiputra internal auditor who was sent to Hong Kong to be assistant general manager of Bumiputera Malaysia Finance (BMF) to curb the BMF scandal but was murdered at the Regent Hotel, Hong Kong in 1983, had died in vain – with more bumiputras becoming rich, corrupt and involved in mega-billion-dollar scandals like the 1MDB scandal, in the name of “race and country”.
This question is particularly relevant today as more and more Malaysians are asking where Malaysia had gone wrong in nation-building, why instead of becoming a world-class great nation, we seem to have lost our way for over half a century, losing out to Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam and in danger losing out to more countries in future – to China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines!
Can we reset and return to the nation-building policies and principles in our Constitution and Rukun Negara – constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy, separation of powers, rule of law, good governance, public integrity, respect for human rights, Islam as the religion of the nation and freedom of worship for all other religions and national unity from our multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural diversity where there are no first-class and second-class citizens whether based on race, religion or region.
Secondly, why we had not learnt from the RM2.5 billion BMF scandal in the early eighties, as there may not be a multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal equated as “kleptocracy at its worst” in the last decade if the recommendations of the Ahmad Noordin BMF Inquiry Committee had been acted on by the government then.
The BMF Inquiry Committee identified a “Concerted Plan “ by various BMF top officials and George Tan to make use of Bank Bumiputera funds to make money in Hong Kong during the start of the property boom in 1979, but were top UMNO politicians involved?
The BMF Inquiry Committee recommended further investigations and my call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the BMF scandal were ignored.
As I said in my speech in Parliament in March 1986, two events prevented any cover-up of the BMF scandal, firstly, the BMF scandal took place in Hong Kong outside Malaysia, which made it impossible for the authorities to fully influence events and developments; and secondly, the murder of Jalil Ibrahim, which led to the Hong Kong police to seize BMF documents and the discovery of the BMF scandal.
But as I told Parliament in 1986, the full story of the BMF scandal had not been told although the BMF Inquiry Committee had “opened a large window and throw light into the BMF scandal”.
Many areas of the scandal remained hidden away, like whether there was a master-mind of the BMF scandal, and if so who; where had the RM2.5 billion in the BMF scandal gone to and who were the people who had benefitted from the ill-gotten gains.
Thirdly, why the three members of the BMF Inquiry Committee – Tan Sri Ahmad Noordin, Chooi Mun Sou and Ramli ibrahim – are not the role models for Malaysians?
Chooi’s commitment to integrity and “doing the right thing – “not just for myself but for my family, my firm, my colleagues and my country” – is palpable.
He quoted Thomas More, Gandhi and Justice Bao who symbolised honour, integrity and rectitude.
He reminded lawyers of Section 42(1) of the Legal Profession Act 1976 which states, “The purpose of the Malaysian Bar shall be – to uphold the cause of justice without regard to its own interests or that of its members, uninfluenced by fear or favour”.
He has a painting of a stern and forbidding Justice Bao with steeling gaze in his office, Chooi & Company.
He narrated in the book that he had told his partners that he was prepared to resign to spare them from the consequences of being a member of the BMF Inquiry Committee, but his partners backed him all the way.
Fourthly, Chooi’s siblings have migrated overseas but Chooi has chosen to stay in Malaysia as it is his home though he asked “Quo Vadis?”.
His credo is probably summed up by this passage in his book:
“…I have experienced hope followed by loss, followed by hope and loss again as I progressed through the years. Through it all, I have seen the rule of law erode. This is the danger we must all guard against, as it opens the way to the arbitrary and unreasonable exercise of power. This is what undermines the legitimacy of government and which ultimately could lead to a failed state one day.”
With Malaysia and the world opening up with the over-two-year Covid-19 pandemic transitioning to an endemic, can Malaysia prevent a second Malaysian Diaspora by re-igniting hope among Malaysians that the country could be saved and is not on the rollercoaster to a failed state?
These are Chooi’s last three paragraphs in his book:
“I remember from 65 years ago, when Theresa and I celebrated Merdeka at the Royal Festival Hall in London, our joy at the birth of our country and the high hopes we had for the future. I had great optimism that we would be truly united as a nation and race would not divide us. Malaya, now Malaysia, is my home and my country. I will take the good with the bad, and I will not despair. I will keep hoping and maintain the courage to fight for a better future.
“The next general election must be held before May 2023 and I can only pray that my wishes can come true for a country where the government of the day will fulfil the election pledges they made and without double standards; corruption is banished from all aspects of life; Malaysians from all walks of life can advance in any sphere and any endeavour on merit, and not due to race or religion; political parties can discard race and religion as a criteria for membership and represent all the people of the country; every Malaysian is taught in school to love and respect the country and one another; and we can all be different and yet united.
“Will this ever be possible? On this, I take comfort in the words from the Gospel, Mark 10:27, that ‘everything is possible for God’.”