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Pandora Papers and Malaysian Ministers

Those legit, sneaky Pandora Papers

“Que será será“. 

No, no, he didn’t break out into song. But these were the words of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim yesterday when commenting on his (once again!) fast-disappearing prime minister dream yesterday.

And according to the I-might-never-become-PM Anwar, part of the reason he might miss out on his forever quest to be Malaysia’s top dawg is cos he does crazy stuff like repeatedly bringing up the Pandora Papers to Parliament to be debated in the open. (Spoiler alert! His motion was denied.)

It’s moves like those that make you mighty unpopular among the “whole power apparatus, political elites, conglomerates and apparatchiks” (his words!).

If you’ve been living in a pineapple under the sea, the Pandora Papers refer to the 3rd tranche of leaked financial papers (11.9 million confidential docs to be exact) naming politicos, heads of state, celebs and the Richie Richs of the world – and of Malaysia – who use offshore accounts as the Airbnb for their billions.

It followed the same vein of the first 2 tranches — the Panama (2016) and Paradise Papers (2017) — by throwing off the veil of secrecy shrouding money (and an eye-watering sum of money, at that) movements of the Rich, Famous & Powerful.

BUT, we gotta note that this, while annoying AF and highly morally questionable, isn’t necessarily illegal, lest you are laundering money (think 1MDB).

So was our PM-forever-in-waiting being a touch melodramatic with his Doris Day impersonation? Yes and No. 

Yes, cause when is he not? And no, because while moving money offshore in this manner is a common practice by the one percenters, it’s still a matter of urgent public interest – public being the remaining 99 percent of us.

What makes this especially galling is that it not just concerns money flowing out of the country and huge sums of unpaid taxes, but also ministers past and present (and we don’t mean ministers of the church-y kind either)! 

There’s Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz (the same guy arguing against imposing windfall tax on profiting companies during Covid-19) and his deputy (Yamani Hafez Mus), former money ministers (Daim Zainuddin) and his underage island-owning sons, ruling party president (Ahmad “Court Cluster” Zahid Hamidi), dan lain-lain!

The monies could’ve been used for anything, ranging from avoiding the tax police, acquiring fancy digs and goods, buying shares in businesses, setting up shell corporations and stashing secret greens from prying public eyes.

Of course most of these chaps have denied doing anything illegal and have claimed they’re angels in Orang Kaya suits. BUT (we like BIG BUTs and we cannot lie!) as pointed out by the Port Dickson MP (MP, not to be mistaken with PM) in Parli, the exposé could give the wrong impression to the public if not explained thoroughly and responsibly.

FYI, back in 2013, the same folks that brought you the Pandora Papers warned that offshore companies could have contributed to the whopping RM871 billion that Malaysia lost to illicit outflow over a decade. 

And yet each year, more and more offshore dealings by our entitled bigwigs are revealed with little, if any, accountability over how much of this is legit and how much should have gone to Putrajaya’s coffers to be used on the rakyat.

Also, also, can we point out that all of this Pandora stuff comes as regular folks like us are increasingly dealing with the financial middle finger thanks to the pandemic, straining household debts and rising poverty numbers; these have forced many to nearly deplete their EPF retirement savings.

Sadly but perhaps unsurprisingly, it would seem that while acknowledging this matter was über important to the people, it was not urgent enough to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Art Harun to warrant debate space on the floor.

And what sayeth shiny new PM Ismail  Sabri Yaakob? Seems he (allegedly! allegedly!) met up with Anwar and sought his advice, to which our selfless non-PM insisted a full probe is in order.

And since we were not able to pinch Anwar to see if he was dreamin’, we’d have to take his word for it that this happened. So, what will PM Izzy do? Investigate the content of this Pandora’s box or close the lid on it, till the next exposé comes along to give him the opportunity to come up with a new excuse?

Artist of the Month
Haili is a cartoonist and graphic artist. An old hat at political art, his satirical work and cartoons have appeared in Gila-Gila, Batu Api and Seloka 21, even Harakah and Suara Keadilan since the 90s. Follow his work on FB @hailikki and Twitter @kartunhaili

Picture of Illustration by Fahmi Reza

Illustration by Fahmi Reza

Fahmi Reza is one of Malaysia's most iconic political graphic artists and activists. Using his wizardry with the pen and his wicked sense of humour, he calls out government and political incompetence and deceit through graphics and posters.

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