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And the Newsmaker of 2016 is...
Published:  Dec 29, 2016 6:30 AM
Updated: Jan 5, 2017 5:48 AM

Over the past 16 years, Malaysiakini has without fail named a top newsmaker as we bring the curtain down on the year.

A newsmaker is defined as “someone whose actions make news headlines, who effects the course of public discourse and creates an impact in Malaysian politics, for better or worse”.

Malaysiakini has nominated 16 candidates for the Newsmaker of 2016 award. A total of 1,393 participated in the seven-day poll, opened only to paying subscribers of the news portal.

They voted by indicating their preference for each of the nominees – one vote being the lowest and 10 the highest.

And here’s their verdict - for the first time, this year’s award goes to an acronym – MO1 aka Malaysian Official 1.

MO1 was mentioned 36 times in the civil suit filed by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in July to recover US$1 billion in assets allegedly tied to corruption at Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. But the identity of MO1 is no mystery.

Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan was among those who named Prime Minister Najib Razak as MO1. “Only an idiot doesn’t know who that person was,” he said.

The US lawsuit, dubbed as the largest ever case brought by DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, was an attempt to seize assets allegedly bought with “stolen” 1MDB money, among them luxury properties in New York and Los Angeles, Monet and Van Gogh paintings and a Bombardier jet.

According to DOJ, a total of US$3.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB, a fund Najib established in 2009 and whose advisory board he chaired.

Meanwhile, the runner-up to Newsmaker of 2016 is no stranger to Malaysians. He is last year’s winner - former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a man loved by some, hated by many. At 91, he continues to hog the headlines and has recently embarked on a campaign to oust Najib from power.

Mahathir is a three-time winner of the award. He was picked Newsmaker of 2005 (along with Rafidah Aziz) as well as in 2006.

No 3 on the list is Bersih coordinator, Maria Chin Abdullah, who has ably filled the rather big shoes left by Ambiga Sreenevasan, who was named Newsmaker of 2012. Maria was arrested and detained on the eve of Bersih 5 rally, but that did not stop thousands of Malaysians from going to the streets to call for free and clean elections.

Zunar aka Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, the country’s most famous political cartoonist, is at No 4. Arrested for umpteen times, he is facing a litany of charges which could potentially see him serving up to 43 years in prison for criticising the government.

The man at No 5 needs no introduction - Jho Low, an associate of Najib and the alleged mastermind in the alleged “heist” of 1MDB’s billions. A flamboyant mover and shaker over the past decade, he has apparently gone into hiding.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who is facing corruption charges for the purchase of a bungalow, is at No 6. At No 7 is Johor crown prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, who has been royally vocal on a number of issues.

He is followed by Anis Syafiqah – the student leader who organised the TangkapMO1 rally. She was recently suspended by Universiti Malaya.

The Top 10 list is rounded off by two groups of Malaysians – the Orang Asli of Gua Musang and the country’s Olympians and Paralaympians.

Here’s the full list:

MO1, Malaysian Official 1, the man mentioned 36 times by DOJ

- 11,645 points



Mahathir Mohamad, former PM and Bersatu leader

- 10,928



Maria Chin Abdullah, Bersih coordinator

- 10,790



Zunar aka Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ulhaque, cartoonist

- 10,119



Jho Low aka Low Jho Taek, confidant of MO1

- 9,348



Lim Guan Eng, Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general

- 9,130



Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, Johor crown prince

- 8,766



Anis Syafiqah Mohd Yusof, student leader and organiser of TangkapMO1

- 8,235



Orang Asli community in Gua Musang, Kelantan

- 7,784



Malaysia's Olympians and Paralaympians in Rio

- 7,711



The also-rans

Mohamed Apandi Ali, Federal Court judge turned attorney-general

- 7,419



Siti Kasim, human rights lawyer and activist

- 7,419



Rosmah Mansor, wife of PM Najib and Newsmaker of 2013

- 7,199



Khalid Abu Bakar, inspector-general of police

-  6,796



Abdul Hadi Awang, PAS president and former Terengganu MB

- 5,054



Jamal Md Yunos, Sungai Besar Umno chief and red-shirt leader

- 4,634



Yesterday: Top 10 news of 2016

Previous newsmakers

2015 - Mahathir Mohamad

2014 - Passengers and crew of MH370 and MH17

2013 - Rosmah Mansor

2012 - Ambiga Sreenevasan

2011 - Bersih supporters

2010 - Ibrahim Ali

2009 - Teoh Beng Hock

2008 - YOU

2007 - VK Lingam

2006 - Mahathir Mohamad

2005 - Joint award - Rafidah Aziz and Mahathir Mohamad

2004 - S Samy Vellu

2003 - Husam Musa

2002 - Zainuddin Maidin

2001 - Rais Yatim

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