Recently I advanced the possibility that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak may be contemplating an early retirement ahead of the General Election. This view was in response to former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam who maintains that there are three ways whereby the country can be rid of the Prime Minister.
The first which Musa mooted is through Umno. It is one which he thinks is “near impossible”. As he is someone who is privy to what takes place behind closed doors at the party’s high levels, this judgement may be plausible. The fact that Dr Mahathir and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin have given up their fight to oust Najib from within is indication that the Prime Minister commands the loyalty of the majority of Umno’s Supreme Council members, even if the lower rung leaders may not feel that he deserves their loyalty and should be booted out.
A second way which he suggested is for Malaysians to decide whether they want the Prime Minister to stay on or step down through the next election. This option may well be the one that determines the fate of the embattled Prime Minister. It is one which most outside observers appear to be leaning towards.
What was unexpected was the suggestion by Musa of a third way — actually, number two in his listing order. This third way he argues is through “foreign intervention”. He noted that this “seems to be the route the ‘movement’ (Save Malaysia) is pursuing. It is significant that unlike the first way which he dismissed, he thought that “This option has possibilities, even if remotely”.
One can speculate as to why Musa emphasised this “foreign intervention” possibility which clearly is a red herring designed to muddy the waters of political change in Malaysia.
Its effect though has been predictable. Unsurprisingly this third way is now being vigorously proclaimed by pro-Umno political bloggers as well as by loyal ministers led by Communications and Multimedia minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak as the reason why the 1MDB scandal has made the international news; and why some of the leading figures involved in the scandal are the subject of criminal investigations by authorities in various parts of the world. See his statement “Foreign interference, deliberate sabotage and double standards” in his blog.
The Wall Street Journal’s latest Pulitzer Prize
Two foreign anti-Malaysian agencies associated with the United States have so far been identified by the PM’s defenders. The first, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is far from being a radical or anti-business newspaper. In fact, it can be considered to be pro-Malaysia in its reporting on the country. The second is the US Department of Justice whose interest in the case is that the 1MDB case represents the DOJ’s kleptocracy unit’s largest asset seizure (more than US1 billion 1MDB-linked assets) according to its 136-page complaint.
As a United States business news daily with American ownership, the WSJ obviously stands up for US business interests. But its mission statement also says that it stands “for free trade and sound money; against confiscatory taxation and the ukases of kings and other collectivists; and for individual autonomy against dictators, bullies and even the tempers of momentary majorities.”
The paper has won more than 30 Pulitzer Prizes in its history with the latest given for its reporting on the Prime Minister and 1MDB. It will be interesting to see how the Prime Minister who has threatened to sue the newspaper intends to proceed with clearing his name and getting even with this foreign interloper.
Many analysts expect that this resort to crass and clumsy Umno finger pointing to blame foreign agents for what is happening on 1MDB may have some impact at the kampung level. But is it working at the level of the educated masses?
The opinions expressed over the independent Internet media since the 1MDB scandal emerged in the public eye show clearly that most Malaysians perceive of this as a scandal exposed and primarily driven by local interest and action rather than as a foreign concocted or driven one.
Malaysian opposition way ahead of foreigners
For a start, the Communications Minister’s aides will do well to conduct quick search of the Hansard records and internet media to track the local “contribution” to this news story from its earliest days. While the lead in the international breaking news on 1MDB may be seen to have come from Sarawak Report based outside the country, it was local opposition politicians that raised the initial outcry.
Speaking when debating the Budget in Parliament, opposition leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had warned that “The government is gambling away national security and finances by appointing 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to handle billions of ringgit worth of development projects”.
He famously said, “I’m not jealous of Jho Low (right) spending time with Paris Hilton, but the fact is that upon checking with the companies commission, 1MDB has no business address and no appointed auditor”. “It is also questionable that its chief executive officer only reported on Oct 12 that they made RM425 million profit, just days before the budget was tabled. “How can the government approve such a company to take on a project of such national importance? What is the Prime Minister’s interest in this?” he asked.
The first AWSJ report on 1MDB and the Prime Minister appeared in July 2015. The first Sarawak Report on 1MDB and Jho Low appeared around May 2014.
Anwar’s prophetic denunciation of 1MDB took place in October 2010.
The persistence of the cry wolf call on foreign intervention in the 1MDB case leads one to suspect that this may be a prelude to more desperate attempts aimed at stoking Malay nationalism to protect our “national honour and sovereignty”.
Lim Teck Ghee