Full transparency called for in 1MDB probe after leak blunder

Malaysian MP Tony Pua demands that state investment unit make all board meeting minutes public to avoid further scandal

Arul Kanda, 1MDB president
Arul Kanda, 1MDB president

State-owned 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) could save itself further embarrassment in the mire of its investment scandal by publishing all minutes of its board meetings, said a prominent Malaysian MP.

Tony Pua, member of the DAP party, said 1MDB had to employ total transparency in the wake of minutes from a meeting in January being leaked and published on the UK-based website Sarawak Report last week.

The Report, whose website has been blocked by Malaysian authorities, says the minutes show that Arul Kanda Kandasmy, the beleaguered president of 1MDB, made inaccurate comments about available cash in the fund’s bank account.

Following the leak, Kandasmy confirmed in a statement that the leaked minutes were genuine, but denied allegations that he had made misleading comments and said the situation over the funds was a "misunderstanding".

The leak has led to even further public outcry in the headline-grabbing ongoing investigation of 1MDB’s handling of billions in public funds, which are missing and were allegedly embezzled. 

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Pua said yesterday that 1MDB must now publicise its minutes to retain any credibility.

"To prevent further untold surprises from turning up on whistle-blower sites, I call upon Arul Kanda to make public all the board meeting minutes, particular for the meetings held after he was appointed the President of 1MDB," Pua said.

Tarun Deo, managing director of Golin Southeast Asia, says 1MDB is suffering from a "huge trust deficit", meaning that even though the questions about its some of its activities are alleged, most of 1MDB’s external stakeholders don’t believe that all is well irrespective of what the organisation says and who says it. 

"In this instance, transparency does help, but just saying ‘I am going to be transparent’ or putting up a set of minutes for all to see - while being a step in the right direction - is no substitute for a series of real and tangible measures," Deo said.

"The organisation needs to activate these to address and respond to the critical issues being asked of it, so that it can begin the process of regaining people’s confidence in the organisation and through that address the trust deficit it faces at the moment."

Miek Gielkens, managing consultant at Lewis PR in Kuala Lumpur, says the golden rule of crisis management is to "tell the truth and tell it fast" to retain a brand’s integrity.

"Even when you don't have all the facts at your disposal, you communicate. You communicate about the steps you will be taking to find out the facts and be transparent about that," she said.

"Equally or maybe even more important in a crisis situation is to be sincere. Saying you have done something wrong is never easy, but it is a sign of strength and leadership that will help you recover faster."

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