Malaysia: Big Momma takes on Governor Zeti

July 31, 2015

Malaysia: Big Momma takes on Governor Zeti

by John

Two powerful women take center stage in spreading scandal as government clings to power

Rosmah and Najib nowRosmah Mansor and The “Boss”

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s controversial wife, Rosmah Mansor, is trying to drive another powerful woman, internationally respected Bank Negara Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, out of the central bank,  according to knowledgeable sources in Kuala Lumpur.

Rosmah is said to be enraged over leaks of her personal financial details. She also fears that Zeti has detailed information on the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. scandal that could bring down the government and the prime minister. Insiders say Rosmah, a lightning rod for criticism over her lavish spending, is the field marshal directing the defense of her beleaguered husband’s government.

“My own view is that Najib will fight to the political death because of the wife,” a longtime academician and political analyst told Asia Sentinel. “She is much stronger than Najib and will not accept any retirement package. She is powerful in her own right.”

The year-long scandal has paralyzed Malaysian politics and played a major role in weakening the economy as Najib twists and turns to keep his enemies at bay. Earlier this week, Najib sacked several members of his cabinet for apparent disloyalty; he has also moved against critical news outlets.

Independent authority

Driving Zeti out won’t be easy. The Central Bank Act of 2009 – ironically passed that year at Zeti’s request after Najib became Prime Minister – insulates the central bank from political influence.

The Governor can only be appointed or fired by the Malaysian King, a rotating monarchy that passes among nine sultans. The current King is from Kedah, the home state of Mahathir Mohamad, Najib’s most implacable enemy. The King reportedly has told Mahathir he is staying out of the matter so that the law can take its course.

Rosmah is said to have targeted Zeti after the Sarawak Report published details on July 9 about the deposit of RM2 million [US$523,400] into her account in Affin Bank, after which Rosmah demanded that Zeti find out who leaked the information within 72 hours or resign. When Zeti apparently declined, she came under attack from blogs said to be linked to Rosmah.

Blogs in the fray 

One of the blogs, “Fromtheeleventh,” alleged that the police Special Branch intelligence unit is investigating Zeti and three other Bank Negara officials for sedition and carrying out a parallel investigation into Selangor state water contracts involving Zeti’s husband, Tawfiq Ayman, and their son Alif.

The blog also alleged that Tawfiq is being investigated for allegedly illegal commissions paid in a bank deal in which third parties benefited from insider information, supposedly which could have been provided by the central bank.

“By virtue of the close relationship between husband and wife, Ayman has access to confidential information that has been used for his benefit in his business dealings,” the blog said, indicating that “new information” had been supplied to investigators.

“The husband is a little shaky,” said a Malaysian businessman, “but Zeti has always acted quite properly.” Another extremely well-informed source told Asia Sentinel, “I would totally believe that Rosmah would try to push Zeti out if she felt threatened.

Bank Negara does have lots of smoking guns on all the dodgy bank transfer documentation, both involving Rosmah and also Najib, 1MDB etc. Zeti isn’t an angel and there could be dirt on her somewhere that could be used, though she’s not been associated with any major personal scandals that I can recall.  It’s more that she’s gone along with wonky stuff as required by politics and maybe got rewarded for her compliance.”

But, he said, “I do believe she still thinks of herself as a professional central banker, so she might actually draw the line here. My impression is that Bank Negara is the most likely of all the investigative entities to really be able to pin something on Najib and Co.”   

Long career

ZetiGovernor Zeti

Zeti has been with the bank for 36 years, becoming governor in 2000.  She was named one of the world’s best central bank chiefs by Global Finance Magazine in 2009 and several times since, and a Bloomberg columnist picked her as one of his favorites to head the International Monetary Fund after Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested on sexual assault charges in 2011.

According to one political analyst, Rosmah is believed to have been behind the dramatic ouster of cabinet members earlier this week, including attorney general Gani Patail and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, replacing him with uber-loyalist Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the home minister. To replace fired cabinet members, who were involved in an investigation of 1MDB, Najib appointed members of a parliamentary committee probing 1MDB. Critics say that committee was designed to nullify the cabinet-level investigation, which is now presumably neutralized.

Rosmah is also supposedly furious over the role former Premier Mahathir Mohamad has played in undermining Najib. “She thinks Mahathir and gang are behind the campaign to pull down 1MDB and the Sarawak Report,” said a well-informed academic.

More evidence?

If the gossip mills in Kuala Lumpur are right, and Rosmah is indeed trying get Zeti sacked, the most likely reason – beyond personal pique – is  that the Bank Negara Governor is in possession of a report forwarded to her on March 13 by the Monetary Authority of Singapore that is said to contain damaging information about accounts related to 1MDB. So far Zeti has refused to talk about the contents of the report, although she said it would be forwarded to other enforcement agencies looking into the scandal. According to Sarawak Report, the account contains merely paper assets whose true value can’t be determined.

Zeti is feeling her way cautiously through the politically fraught scandal, which involves questions over not just massive debts of RM42 billion [US$11.8 billion] but that as much as US$680 billion allegedly was diverted from companies linked to 1MDB into Najib’s personal account, supposedly to be used illegally to fund the ruling national coalition’s successful 2013 general election campaign. 

“Disclosures will stop all investigations if we talk about it,” Zeti told local media. Although she has been criticized by opposition figures and Mahathir for the central bank’s tardiness in moving ahead on the investigation, Zeti is generally regarded as having played a neutral role.

Over recent weeks, Najib has suspended the publishing license for three months of The Edge Financial Daily and its sister publications, which played a major role in exposing 1MDB irregularities. He has also blocked access to the UK-based site Sarawak Report, written by persistent critic Clare Rewcastle Brown. He has blocked several opposition members and activists from leaving the country and the Inspector General of Police has threatened charges against organizers of a planned rally this weekend. 

That led the Malaysian branch of Transparency International to charge that there is deep concern over whether the 1MDB investigation can ever be completed. Gani Patail, the ousted attorney general, was said by insiders to be about to charge the Prime Minister with corruption when he was booted out.


18 thoughts on “Malaysia: Big Momma takes on Governor Zeti

  1. Poor Zeti, hope things turn out well for her! Her father who has contributed so much to the country must be worried that her daughter has got into this mess not of her doing.

  2. Malaysians should feel special in that they are the only ones in the world privileged to see and experience pure evil in human form.

  3. And while everyone is fixated on all the drama going on, our economy is getting increasingly vulnerable to shocks, such as a massive reversal of capital flows due to investor concerns over Malaysia’s political risks and when interest rates rise in the US.

    We were fortunate that in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis of 1998 when the upward trajectory of oil prices in the subsequent years allowed us to have healthy trade surpluses and quickly rebuild our forex reserves.
    Given the low oil and commodity prices today with no catalysts for a rebound in the medium term coupled with tepid inflow of FDI as well as a net outflow of portfolio investments, the depletion of our forex reserves will have dire implications.

    This Bloomberg article makes sobering read. And now we have fallen behind Thailand and the Philippines in terms of investor confidence.

  4. Ah, nothing like a vicious hen-fight to add some feminine touches to an already mind-blowing series of events hitherto dominated by boring though well-dressed males with flashy sideburns and well-trimmed mustaches.

    I can hear R & Z talking over their iPhones, “Hey, your “handsome” husband is corrupt to the very core of his being, and by the way, you should seriously lose some weight”, say one to the other with a snoorty upper-crust tone of voice nurtured from decades of addressing financial bigwigs from all over the World, to which the other replies, with a shrill voice reminiscence of someone who is now an incredibly rich woman owing to saving every cent since childhood, “yea?, what about your darling husband getting more than just you-know-what in bed from his wife to help him to illegally profit from share market dealings?”

    The saga continues.

  5. This is very interesting for people especially Saladin to watch……….Conrad can go to hell if I have to spoon feed him……just watch

  6. The problem in Malaysia is that almost all politicians and senior officials are tainted in some way either in corrupt practises or abuse of power. And when it suits the government these abuses even if very minor can very easily brought into the sunlight and exaggerated for good measure. Result of decades being in power. Only if Zeti is the exception can we hope that she can do something in this horrible nightmare. And I pray that she will sooner rather then later.

  7. The joke going around is that Rosmah told Najib to change the cabinet and when he did she yelled at him saying: “I told you to change the kitchen cabinet and you instead changed the governing cabinet”.

  8. Quoting from the piece,

    ‘’The King reportedly has told Mahathir he is staying out of the matter so that the law can take its course.’’

    Regardless of the fighting Rosmah and Zeti, Mahathir and Najib or leadership in-fighting and crisis, it is important for the people to note that the King has DUTIFULLY asserted the FIRST crucial role-model step in setting the new pace for Malaysia to ‘’start on a clean slate’’ under Democratic Monarchy Westminster Parliamentary System, for the MPs/Leaders to accordingly FOLLOW and PERFORM DUTIFULLY and CORRECTLY in the Separation of Powers of the Administrative, Legislative and Executive.

    And the people are empowered to expect nothing less or short-changed, whoever the power-that-be or may-be.

  9. What Najib is doing is ARGUING EXCUSES. Its what children do when they don’t want to do what they should be doing. In other words, at a time of national crises, he is falling back on infantilism and mediocrity..

    Take for example declaring he will reveal the source of campaign financing if the opposition would do so. Forget the fact the opposition has little (amounts) to hide, the problem is, why is he asking the opposition to LEAD if he is the one that should be leading? If he is asking others to lead, should he not hand over power to the opposition first?

    We see this all the time with rebellious over-entitled strong will children AND Najib is counting on the fact, the easily manipulated over-entitled UMNO constituent don’t realize they are not that great at parenting in the first place to recognize his infantilism..

    We don’t only have a probable criminal as our PM, we have a child as our PM. I suggest if he wants to be a child, he quit and be the child to his Big Momma who at least behave like, while not admirable, the adult more.

  10. All these antics serve to distract the public’s attention to just one simple question that Jibby has refused all along to address and clarify: DID YOU OR DID YOU NOT RECEIVE THE USD700 MILLION IN YOUR PERSONAL ACCOUNTS? WHERE THE HECK IS THE MONEY FROM WHAT DI D YOU DO WITH IT?

    So why all these drama and pancak silat moves to distract?

  11. To the issues and questions raised by @ bigjoe99 and SiangMalam, the following piece posted in TMI would perhaps provide the answer, if not completely,

    Malaysia in crisis, retesting leadership quality and sincerity – KL Lau

    Published: 28 July 2015 8:55 PM

    Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has removed Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail as Attorney-General and made a Cabinet reshuffle.

    Decisively and swiftly, in appointing Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as Deputy Prime Minister, Najib has reinforced the red line Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had crossed.

    Najib has shown he is the boss, at least until the 14th general election.

    He had often articulated in delivering the practice of good governance but was unable to match it with his actions, so far.
    Now, he no longer has the unspoken luxury of using the excuse that the dominating “Mahathirism” of MACCP (Money politics, abuse of power, corruptions, cronyism and puppetry) has been disenabling his will, capability and the delivery system to perform effectively with governance, accountability, competency and transparency.

    Regardless, during this transitional period of tumultuous events occurring, the critical questions are:

    1. Will and can he “Save Malaysia” from the reign and ruin of the rogue culture of “Mahathirism” at no cost to the people or worse, continue to expand it (Mahathirism) further and deeper into “Najibism” at all costs to the nation?

    2. Is this Cabinet reshuffle the beginning of cementing or showing the way for a full or partially non-partisan Cabinet that is inclusive of members across the aisle of Parliament?

    In this crucial transitional period, Malaysia needs to have its compass realigned for sustained growth, inclusively and productively, in terms of political, social and economic developments, successions, peace and stability, moving forward.

    It would appear that this is the last opportunity for Najib to show leadership and sincerity that are truly inclusive or be excluded from the next general election. – July 28, 2015.

    They are all distractions, not just Najib . And @ Bigjoe99 comment of ”What Najib is doing is ARGUING EXCUSES”, he( Najib}, will ” no longer has the unspoken luxury of using the excuse ”. Please refer paragraph 4 of the piece.

    NOT Condoning Najib’s poor performance so far, being born and breed, hopefully not ”die” in the disenabling and disruptive (rogue culture) system created largely by Mahathir in the past 3 decades, and during this transitional period, the people would likely forgivingly give him the last chance to show leadership quality to save Malaysia partisanlly and inclusively WITHOUT (unnecessary) delay or be excluded come 14 GE.

  12. The bottom 3 lines in the final paragraph,

    ”…the people would likely forgivingly give him the last chance to show leadership quality to save Malaysia partisanlly and inclusively WITHOUT (unnecessary) delay or be excluded come 14 GE.”

    should read,

    ”…the people would likely forgivingly give him the last chance to show leadership quality to save Malaysia bi-partisanlly and inclusively WITHOUT undue delay or duly excluded come 14 GE, whether ”Big Momma or Governor Zeti.

    Errors regretted.

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