Out flew the web and floated wide—
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me”, cried
The Lady of Shallot – From The Lady of Shallot by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
By all outwardly appearances, Malaysia has one cool prime minister in Najib Razak. He runs about his business cheerfully, telling other Muslim countries to watch out for foreign intervention just months after his government confirmed he received a “donation” of some US$680 million from Arab princes and donors.
Cool cat, he is.
But behind the scenes, nothing could be further from the truth.
The DoJ report last July 20 has shredded the main narrative of the story that he has sold to Umno’s warlords: that the bulk of the funds in his bank account was a donation from Saudi Arabia.
The party bigwigs and his supporters have found comfort in the Najib line that the money in his account was halal because it was from a foreign donor.
Zahid Hamidi has also said he met influential people in the Saudi government who confirmed that funds were funnelled to Kuala Lumpur from Riyadh.
Yet the DoJ tells a different report. That the money certainly came from funds spirited away from 1MDB through a web of companies and bank accounts to end up in his personal accounts in AmBank in Malaysia.
But of course, they don’t name him, only euphemistically referring to him as Malaysian Official 1. In a revelation yesterday, the Sarawak Report cited Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission investigation papers are referring to him as B1.
So many euphemisms and monickers, so much money to take and spend. But now the penny has dropped. Behind the cool demeanour of a politician protesting his innocence is a desperate man working overtime to salvage whatever reputation he has left.
Najib has now instructed his officials to put together another report so that he can convince his party officials that the story of the Saudi donation was not some yarn spun together in desperation.
He knows that though the likes of Zahid and Hishammuddin Hussein are not strong enough to mount a challenge and force him out, Yet, they are less likely to defend him in public now that the main crutch of the narrative has been destroyed.
When was the last time these two men have defended Najib? And who has said Umno should defend Najib even if they are labelled as balaci (minions) and macai (lackey). Was he serious, or was he sarcastic?
One has to wonder what is happening in Putrajaya.
After all, Najib’s top diplomat Anifah Aman skipped a key Asean meeting early last week in Vientiane, leading to speculation that he had to handle the fallout from the DoJ lawsuit. One of the meetings was with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
What gives? Did Anifah go to New York with Najib’s personal lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who also happens to be Malaysia’s Ambassador-at-large for human rights affairs?
No one is talking but what is ostensibly a private matter by those named in the report is beginning to swallow more state resources for mitigation.
Also contrary to perception, the PM’s office is a mess, with factionalism rife. Increasingly, they are clueless how to defend a wounded and severely-damaged leader.
Advisers are giving a plethora of opinions and strategies, linking the DoJ action to Malaysia’s growing and warming ties with China, and to the use of donations to either or both the Clinton and Trump campaigns to ensure the DoJ action comes to naught.
If only the US was like Malaysia, where matters can be settled, one Putrajaya man told The Malaysian Official 1.
It isn’t, for sure. The DoJ action continues, and the man in the hot seat can only fret further and lament why his two closest foreign friends – US President Barack Obama and Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong – had a wonderful state dinner in the White House yesterday without him ever having a chance of being feted the same way.
Maybe because Malaysian Official 1 is just like the durian. A thorny fruit that leaves a big stink long after it is gone.