A wash-out in Washington

Opinion  |  Dean Johns
Published:  |  Modified:

It’s hard to imagine why Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak thought it was a good idea to try "cleansing" himself of suspicions of involvement in the alleged laundering of billions from 1MDB by staging a meeting with US President Donald Trump.

Considering his well-known penchant for unconsciously employing truth-revealing puns in his proclamations, perhaps he suddenly perceived the word “washing” in “Washing-ton” and the connotation of “white-wash” in “White House” as signs that he should take his personal dirty laundry there.

Or else it occurred to him that by appealing to the White House incumbent as not only a fellow golfer, but even more so as fawning golfer in support of the president’s trumped-up crusade to “make America great again,” he could create the kind of mutual admiration and assistance situation in which, as Najib never tires of repeating, “I help you, you help me.”

In other words, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” or more appropriately to the Washington and White House context, the classically proverbial “one hand washes the other.”

The trouble being, in the case of Trump and Najib, both hands were dirty, or at least allegedly so.

In fact, the very same US Department of Justice (DOJ) that is investigating alleged dirty electoral deeds in cahoots with Russia by supporters of Trump, if not yet specifically the man himself, is also hot on the trail of the alleged Najib’s 1MDB gang of money-launderers.

And, as gleefully told and re-told by the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CNN and other US media so inconveniently truthful and accurate about Trump’s wash-out of a presidency that he’s resorted to falsely slandering them as "fake news," Najib has a whole laundry list of scandals to his name.

As a member of the Malaysia’s ruling Umno/BN for 40 years or so, he’s allegedly implicated in all of the regime’s countless dirty deeds, from its systematic corruption of the nation’s judicial, electoral and other institutions, and ceaseless plundering of public funds, to the still-unresolved Scorpene submarines scandal and associated murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu under his watch as defence minister, in addition to the 1MDB swindle.

In short, Najib is even more of a wash-out as prime minister of Malaysia than Trump is proving to be as president of the US, and has been a total wash-out for far, far longer than Trump has been or can ever be.

As Josh Rogin of the Washington Post wrote in advance of Najib’s arrival to try and treat the White House as his personal laundromat, his "authoritarian power grab" is worse than anything Trump has done.

As former US ambassador to Malaysia John Malott noted in a similarly hard-hitting article, Rogin pointed out that, while Trump has made empty threats to jail political opponents, “critics of the Malaysian government have been routinely imprisoned.”

“While Trump uses mere rhetoric to undermine the credibility of the free media, Najib uses criminal law to silence them,” Rogin continued.

“While Trump may wish for more compliant judicial and legislative branches, in Malaysia all checks and balances on executive power have been essentially stamped out.”

Now, with an election looming, having lost the popular vote in the previous one, and “engulfed by allegations (that) he pilfered billions from his own country’s sovereign wealth fund,” Rogin further wrote, Najib “craves international legitimacy.”

As it turns out, Najib craves “international legitimacy” so desperately that he’s happy to buy it...

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