Malaysia’s Najib-Mahathir Battle Royale Heats Up

February 20, 2016

Malaysia’s Najib-Mahathir Battle Royale Heats Up

by John Berthelsen

RPK enters the fray and draws Mahathir’s sons into the war of attrition

Malaysians have been watching with depressed fascination as a no-holds-barred war between former Prime Minister Mahathir tiMohamad and his onetime protégé, current Prime Minsiter Najib Razak, unfolds. The contest seems to be descending to new levels, with Najib now going after Mahathir’s family and Mahathir going for Najib’s paid UMNO defenders.

The struggle is partly driven by almost daily revelations from Raja Petra Kamarudin, once Malaysia’s most influential blogger and government critic as the publisher of Malaysia Today. RPK, as he is known, joined Najib’s forces sometime ago but turned up the heat in the middle of last year. He has been attacking various regime critics including the Mahathir faction and the opposition while defending Najib and the United Malays National Organization.

Walking on Najib’s side

RPK spent years in modest circumstances, existing partly on donations from backers of now-jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim until he turned and denounced Anwar. He is now equipped with a new BMW and a flat in London, according to Sarawak Report editor and publisher Clare Rewcastle Brown who has become a new target of his attacks. He is also said to be the proprietor of a Manchester restaurant called Gossip. His rise in assets seems to parallel his changing views on Najib.

In 2008, RPK fled Malaysia ahead of criminal libel charges filed by the Najib family after he made a statutory declaration that Najib’s wife Rosmah was present at the 2006 murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu. He later backed away from that, but has prudently remained out of Malaysia ever since.

While his antipathy to Mahathir has been a feature of Malaysia Today for years, his rising affection for Najib began last June. It has most rewarding for this blogging icon ever since.

Family affair

Since Mahathir’s forces were completely neutralized at UMNO’s December annual general meeting, the 90-year-old ex-premier began what has been called a “guerrilla campaign” at the grassroots level to try and convince the rank and file to oust the 192 district chiefs who hold the key to voting Najib out as UMNO president. That is said to have made Najib go after Mahathir’s family.

Despite appearing unassailable domestically, Najib is the target or closely identified with the targets of an astonishing number of international investigations including a US Justice Department probe into expensive properties in New York and California and the funding of the movie the Wolf of Wall Street, produced by the production company partly owned by Najib’s wife’s son.

1MDB, the state-backed investment fund which he serves as economic adviser, faces a probe allegedly over the loss of US$4 billion in Switzerland. The Singapore government has sequestered the bank accounts of several 1MDB officials and big questions remain over the mysterious transfer of nearly US$700 million into Najib’s private bank account in Malaysia, and the transfer of the funds out to an unnamed destination a few months later. French authorities have accused two officials of a subsidiary of the defense giant DCN of bribing Najib in the 1995 sale of submarines when he was Defense Minister.

None of this has gained traction with UMNO leaders. Mahathir and Muhyiddin Yassin, the Deputy Prime Minister fired by Najib, have made little headway, thus the grassroots campaign. Mahathir has come under a barrage of counterattacks, not just by RPK, saying the deep corruption of the Malaysian political system actually was facilitated by the former premier during his 22 years in power, a statement that bears some truth. Now Najib’s forces have begun go after Mahathir’s family, again not without reason.

Mukhriz is the first casualty and Mirzan and Mokhzani next?

The first to fall was the 51-year-old Mukhriz, Mahathir’s son who Najib persuaded to run as Chief Minister of Kedah state in the 2013 general election. Najib drove him out of office February 2, after a two-week standoff when a majority of state lawmakers said they had lost confidence in his leadership. It is widely believed that Najib had to make extravagant financial promises to persuade fence-sitters to switch.

If Raja Petra’s blog entries are any indication, the next targets are Mahathir’s two businessman sons, Mirzan and Mokhzani.

The 54-year-old Mokhzani, whose assets are estimated at US$1.2 billion, has been rumored to be the target of an insider trading investigation for more than a year – starting at about the time his father began to intensify his attacks on Najib – into the 2013 purchase of Yinson Holdings Bhd., a provider of offshore support services for the upstream oil and gas sector. In 2012, Mokhzani was listed as Malaysia’s 14th-richest businessman. There were widespread rumors in 2015 that Najib might use Mokhzani’s business activities as a cudgel to get Mahathir to back off. So far, Mahathir is sticking to his guns, saying Najib isn’t fit to be Prime Minister.

Mahathir, Raja Petra said in another blog entry, is in a “last desperate attempt” to save Mirzan from prosecution. In 2013, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists listed Mirzan, Mahathir’s eldest son, as the director and shareholder of three offshore companies including his major commercial vehicle, the Labuan-incorporated Crescent Energy Ltd. His main investment vehicle is Crescent Capital Sdn Bhd, an investment holding and independent financial advisory firm. He also holds a non-executive director position in Philippines-based San Miguel group Another Labuan offshore company is Utara Capital Ltd, in which Mirzan is named as sole shareholder and director.

A typical example of RPK’s broadsides against the Mahathir sons appeared in a February 15 entry on his blog: “If the issue about living beyond your means comes to question then the government should have investigated how Mirzan Mahathir managed to own Konsortium Perkapalan Berhad? The company eventually accumulated debts of RM1.7 billion and Petronas was asked to bail out the company to save his son. So that comes to yet another conflict of interest since this was done when Dr Mahathir was the Prime Minister.”

Malaysia Today on February 19 contains 10 stories attacking either Mahathir; the Parti Keadilan Rakyat opposition coalition; Tong Kooi Ong, the owner of the major financial daily The Edge, which published a hard-hitting series on 1MDB that got the newspaper suspended for three months; and the Wall Street Journal among others.

RPK quoted Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak as rebuking those who believed Wall Street Journal Financial Editor Ken Brown’s assertion that Saudis had nothing to do with the mysterious US$681 million that appeared in Najib’s accounts in 2013.

He accuses ousted Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin of “telling Malaysians to punish UMNO by voting opposition in 2018 so that the Prime Minister can be ousted.”

One story asks what Mahathir did with RMB$100 billion of UMNO money. Another says Mahathir has no respect for the culture of the country. He also lumps a flock of government opponents together, asking Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz, who left UMNO for the Democratic Action Party, to “tell us whether Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, Francis Yeoh, Vincent Tan, Ananda Krishnan, AP Aramugam, G. Gnanalingam, Lee Kim Yew, and so on, are proxies for UMNO or are they actually proxies for Dr Mahathir — who is using UMNO as a front to accumulate RM100 billion (which some say may be even RM200 billion)?

The point is Dr Mahathir preaches and moralizes whereas when he was Prime Minister for 22 years he was even more blatant in his abuse of power and the money he lost through his misadventures — if they were misadventures in the first place and not acts of corruption. But then at that time we were not allowed to question what he did the way he is questioning others today. And when the allegations were made and he was asked to explain his actions we never said he was guilty until and unless he can prove his innocence. We accepted the doctrine that someone is innocent until and unless it has been proven that that person is guilty.”

9 thoughts on “Malaysia’s Najib-Mahathir Battle Royale Heats Up

  1. It is proof that Najib has got the relevance and reference wrong on Mahathir. His excuse that Mahathir wasted and stole more money is only a part relevant. If Mahathir did wrong, it does not mean the leader following him can do the same. In fact, since Najib benefitted from Mahathir’s wrong, the onus is on him to stop and even reverse it if he can. Arguing Mahathir’s wrong is dead wrong for Najib. It’s his job to fix it at least not do it, not repeat and make worst.

  2. This RPK semi-white anglophile has no morality of right and wrong. Even the prostitutes Bethnal Green has some sense of right and wrong , even though they use their body to earn this half Malay-half welsh prostitutes his twisted mind to the highest bidder. Just because Tun is alleged to have been corrupted in the past this senseless mongrel justifies Najibs present day despicable conduct. What kind of morality is this for a spineless creature living in t comfort with sudden wealth while Malaysians are helpless struggling to redeem their country from an evil regime. Even dog is grateful for a pat but this canine he has lost his moral compass .

  3. It sounded like one of those 1980s Hollywood movies where an old retired presumably reformed brilliant ex-thief was persuaded to come out of retirement to catch a still active young thief who is even more brilliant.

    In those movies, which usually have some unforeseen bungling thrown in for comic relief, the old guy always wins in the end.

    Real life imitating reel life? Let’s sit back and enjoy the “movie”, or is it more of a “show”?

    As they said, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

  4. RPK is an epitome of how money trumps everything. He claims to hold the high moral ground steadfast but later succumb to money. We can only wonder if his early stance was to increase people’s bid for his services substantially. It is so sad that he is another person, whom at this age, will leave a legacy that will be reviled by others.

  5. ‘It’s not about RPK, folks.’ Conrad

    I disagree. It is about the corruption and the affirmation of the ‘Cash is King’ motto, that seems to be about the only thing Jibros is really good at. It’s about selling away integrity and conscience to the highest bidder. Mercenary Soullessness.

    The commentators here are not missing the forest from the trees, but are expressing their value judgments, which on the face of it, are ‘valid’. Not to say some may not do the same, when put into similar circumstances.

    As i do not know RPK personally – nor do i care to know – ultimately folk like that, shaft themselves up pretty good. My dearly departed gradpappy used to say: “The only thing folks ultimately possess is not money or materiel, but their good name.”

    Octo is relentless and i don’t think Jibros can turn around the negative ‘Perceptions’ – especially using has-been hacks like RPK. Those who have retained their candor, honesty and maintained their conscience, have voluntarily left or are sidelined. Defending the indefensible is a profound absurdity.

    The adage of Might is Right or Bare-Faced Denial despite the proffered evidence, no longer holds water in this Age of Information – especially when Waffling, Hedging, Outright Lying and ad-hoc ‘Confusion’ reigns.

  6. “I disagree. It is about the corruption and the affirmation of the ‘Cash is King’ motto, that seems to be about the only thing Jibros is really good at. It’s about selling away integrity and conscience to the highest bidder. Mercenary Soullessness. ” – CLF

    I disagree with this. RPK has always sung for his supper. Political parties (BN and PR (PH) have always paid for their propagandists and ordinary folks only care when their words confirm their beliefs or offend their sensibilities.

    If it is an affirmation of anything, it is that truth or facts or objectivity is lacking in partisan discourse and we should be careful in constructing idols less they fall on us.

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