COMMENT | Many observers are now expecting an earlier election although the next Malaysian general elections are not due until next year. Some even predict that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak may call the election soon after meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington DC. After the earlier visit by Saudi King Salman and his latest meeting with China President Xi Jinping, he is cementing his reputation as a leader sought after by the masters of our universe.
Kleptocracy assets recovery
Undoubtedly, the media spin will convey the impression that the PM has no problems with US authorities, despite the US Department of Justice's (DOJ) ongoing investigations into 1MDB. Indeed, the Kleptocracy Assets Recovery Initiative (Kari) enables civil procedures – not criminal prosecution – to recover ill-gotten gains.
And the US gets to keep at least a quarter of what is recovered if the country seeks to recover the assets; in other words, a country will only get back three-quarters of the amount recovered at most. But if the country’s authorities are in denial about the losses, nothing gets returned to the country!
While it is quite well-known that access to US presidents can be"‘bought," the "going price" varies. After revelations about the fixer who arranged for the PM’s golf game with the last POTUS became known, there was much talk about how much Malaysians spent, and what the president’s "fund raiser" acknowledged receiving, giving rise to much speculation about "leakages" along the way, and the other recipients on the gravy train.
But to be fair, the PM has already played golf with "the Donald" before he won and occupied the White House. Apparently, Trump signed the photograph of them together, inscribing “To my favourite Prime Minister,” which surely counts for something.
End of neutrality, non-alignment?
In this 50th anniversary year for Asean, and Razak (Abdul Hussein's) commitments to make it a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (Zopfan), and to non-alignment, it is certainly desirable that we remain non-aligned and neutral between the two superpowers of our times, the USA and China. Running to please one and then the other, from pillar to post, is hardly what was envisaged by him as he sought to make Malaysia non-aligned and neutral.
The Malaysian PM is reputedly among a handful of leaders, including Egyptian President Field Marshall as-Sisi and Filipino President Duterte, who have received invitations to the new White House. As a well-spoken national leader who has successfully repositioned Malaysia internationally, most significantly by realigning the country with the Saudi and Chinese leaderships, the invitation should come as no surprise.
Malaysia is one of the forty odd countries participating in the Saudi-led military assault on Yemen although most Malaysians (and Indonesians) of Arab descent hail from that part of the Arab world. It is also well known that most leaders of participating countries have been generously rewarded for their support.
The concern for Malaysians, especially for those who still believe in neutrality and non-alignment, is how participation in a secretive, non-UN sanctioned military intervention on another non-aligned country is consistent with all that the country has stood for since Razak’s time.
Admittedly, I am one of a small handful of independent Malaysian observers who took the PM seriously when, in response to DOJ's allegations, he claimed to receive very considerable funds from a Saudi source rather than in connection with 1MDB.
Many of the PM’s critics insisted that it was all 1MDB connected, and considered my view to be an apologia for the PM. Of course, the PM’s credibility would have been enhanced if the authorities provided details and evidence of the alleged payment and repayment...