Cover Story: Frankly Speaking: Only a full and detailed account of what happened can lead to closure

Cover Story: Frankly Speaking: Only a full and detailed account of what happened can lead to closure
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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on January 11 - 17, 2016.

IN the interview with The Edge, 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy stressed a few times that the problems at 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) should be viewed purely as a business issue and nothing else. We could not agree more. And in our reporting, analyses and commentaries over the past 16 months, we have stuck to the matters of the business, for example, the mode and costs of financing, the mismatch in cash income versus debt servicing obligations, why it overpaid for assets, the manner in which its joint ventures were done and, finally, the issue of good governance or the lack thereof.

Yes, we asked difficult questions and demanded answers. But we stuck strictly to questions concerning how 1MDB ran its business. Not once did we politicise the issue or drag any politician into it.

To give Arul credit, he has certainly engaged the media more than his predecessors. Despite the fact that The Edge is viewed as “unfriendly” towards 1MDB, perhaps because we asked too many questions, he has kept the line of communication open with our journalists. This latest interview is an example and we are appreciative of that.

But this does not mean that we have to agree on everything.

And we certainly do not agree that 1MDB was not helped out of its multibillion-ringgit debt problems by the government. How else would you describe the sale of prime land at a cheap price to 1MDB, which now sells it at a huge premium in order to cut its debts?

To be fair to Arul, the problems were caused by decisions made before he joined 1MDB and he should not be asked, and neither should we expect him to account for them. He was hired to fix the problems and given the limited options, selling all the assets — no matter how painful — was the only viable one.

That said, 1MDB must also be fair to Malaysians who want a full and detailed account of what had transpired. Unless this happens, it is hard to ask for total closure of the matter.