1MDB case must be watertight, says Malaysia’s Mahathir

June 21, 2018

1MDB case must be watertight, says Malaysia’s Mahathir 


As prime suspect – and defeated Prime Minister – Najib Razak holidays in Langkawi, Malaysia’s new leader says it is better to build an indisputable case than be swayed by populist sentiment into hasty action.

By Zuraidah Ibrahim/ Bhavan Jaipragas


The Malaysian government is taking time to build a watertight case in the 1MDB financial scandal and not be swayed by populist sentiment, according to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib Razak: prime suspect in the 1MDB financial scandal. Photo: Xinhua

His predecessor Najib Razak is the prime suspect under investigation and has been banned from leaving the country. This week, Najib’s decision to go on holiday to the resort island of Langkawi – which coincidentally is the parliamentary seat of Mahathir – sparked fears he was trying to slip out of Malaysia.

Malaysia’s billion-dollar question: where did 1MDB money go?

The government and the people know that billions have been stolen, Mahathir said. But, calling for cool heads, Mahathir said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that the government wanted indisputable evidence. “So the prosecutors now are gathering that evidence so that when they go to the court of law, the judges don’t base their judgment on sentiment, but … on facts and evidence shown in the court of law. So that is why we are taking a little bit more time than we expected.”


He declined to give a timeline on the next stage of the investigations, even as speculation swirled in Malaysia that the charges could be filed against Najib as soon as the next two weeks.

But on Tuesday afternoon, he was quoted as saying that charges would be filed on key suspects – Najib, businessman Jho Low and “a few others” – within months, while a trial would begin later this year.

Charges against Najib would include “embezzlement, stealing government money, and a number of other charges,” he said in the interview with Reuters.

The 1MDB probe extends across six jurisdictions, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore. It has also targeted Najib’s wife, Rosmah, known for her flagrantly ostentatious taste in luxury goods. Set up in 2009 as an infrastructure fund drawn from oil revenues, it has lost US$4.5 billion and is now insolvent. Around US$731 million allegedly ended up in Najib’s personal account. The beleaguered former premier has denied any wrongdoing, insisting that the money was a donation from an Arab benefactor.


Rosmah Mansor, wife of Najib Razak, arrives at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Photo: EPA

Pakatan Harapan: Vulnerable?

In the interview with the Post, Mahathir, who won a stunning election on May 9, was asked about his views of a rising China and the region. In addition to taking questions about the 1MDB scandal, he was also asked to comment on the possible vulnerabilities of his Pakatan Harapan coalition.

While Pakatan now claims 125 seats in the 222-seat Parliament, a recent survey by the reputable think-tank Merdeka Centre has found that the coalition did not win over the majority of Malays, who make up 65 per cent of the population.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is interviewed by the South China Morning Post in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: SCMP Pictures

According to the Merdeka Centre survey, UMNO retained 35-40 per cent of the Malay vote, while the rest was almost evenly split between Pakatan and the Islamic-based party, PAS. In comparison, 95 per cent of Chinese voters chose Pakatan.

Malays have special rights granted by Malaysia’s Constitution. Almost all Malays follow Islam, the official religion of the country. Under the previous Barisan Nasional coalition, the Malay-based United Malays National Organisation was the dominant component party led by Najib. Umno had increasingly played the ethnic and religious cards in elections over the decades.

Supporters of Mahathir Mohamad celebrate his victory in the May 9 election. Photo: Reuters

Commentators credited Mahathir for attracting enough Malays into the Pakatan camp to tilt the balance decisively in its favour. Mahathir has immense stature among Malays as a respected former Prime Minister who held office from 1981 to 2003. The argument, if correct, begs the question of whether Pakatan will be able to retain Malay support after Mahathir steps down, which he has promised to do after two years.

In the interview, Mahathir said there was a clear swing of Malay votes from the Barisan coalition to the opposition in the recent election compared with the previous one in 2015 that contributed to their victory.

Ignoring 1MDB scandal caused Umno’s downfall in Malaysia: Najib

But the Malay vote itself was split between the rural, suburban and urban areas. It was in the latter two areas that Malays had turned against the previous government because they were disenchanted with the “bad things” happening within Umno, especially the corruption scandal.

For rural voters, he said, such issues were harder to grasp but they could understand cost of living woes.

He shrugged off his own personal appeal in winning the Malay vote for the future, saying: “Well, I can’t always be popular, one day I will become unpopular because when you are in the government, you have to do unpopular things. That is not something permanent.” But for now, people were upbeat and they felt that life during his first tenure as Prime Minister was better than during Najib’s time, he said.

Let’s Get Physical

Mahathir, who turns 93 on July 10, was also asked about his physical energy. He laughed, saying it was the number one question he was asked. Although Mahathir, a trained medical doctor, has had two heart bypass operations, he feels fortunate not to have suffered debilitating diseases such as cancer.

His secret to good health? “I think simple things like not putting on weight, not eating too much, proper sleep, a little bit of exercise,” he said, adding that he gets “enough” sleep – about six hours. When he is not able to do that, he has short power naps.

In May, a picture of him at the dining table with just a few spoonfuls of rice on his plate caught the attention of internet users. But then a close-up showed that next to his plate was a small green canister of multivitamin supplements, Berocca. Sales of the supplement received a sudden boost.

Anwar Ibrahim with Mahathir Mohamad in 1997, during the latter’s first stint as prime minister. File photo

Moving On

Under a pact made with his former nemesis turned coalition partner, former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, he is supposed to hand over the prime minister’s position after two years. However, there have been hints recently that Mahathir intends to stay beyond two years.

Asked about this, he admitted there was a lot to be done. Would he stay beyond two years? “Well, I don’t know whether people will permit me to stay longer. If there is some work I can still do, if I am still healthy, I can think and talk.”

But would he do so as Prime Minister? He demurred smilingly and said softly: “Ya”.

Throughout the interview, he answered questions evenly in his trademark unflappable tone, as an aide kept a strict watch on his time. Asked by a photographer for an autograph, he obliged willingly, noting aloud the date to write to accompany his signature. When the Post invited him to visit Hong Kong, the headquarters of the publication, Mahathir politely remarked about the times he spent there.

“My first ever visit to Hong Kong was in 1960. Where were you?” he quipped to his much younger interviewers.

11 thoughts on “1MDB case must be watertight, says Malaysia’s Mahathir

  1. Najib deserve not only to be locked up and keys thrown away, his demeanour of ridiculous excuses of 1MDB says he is morally bankrupt, his life is meaningless like a suffering hopeless animal. The merciful thing to do to Najib and Rosmah would be to put them down, send them to meet their maker.

    • It is easy to sent them to their maker but then the world’s sympathy will be with them.
      Let them experience the pain and agony they had inflicted on the nation and on Malaysians

  2. Pertaining to the question of Malay support, this is a question which I think is a concern not only for PH, but also for UMNO and PAS as well because, even if we take the least favourable position for PH (where we say that at the very most, only 30% of the Malay vote went to it, whilst another at least 30% went to PAS and the remaining 40% went to UMNO), neither of the three party could say for certain that it could retain (let alone grow) that level of support when the next general election arrive. Why? The Merdeka Centre survey finding which stated that the Malay vote was split in favor of UMNO-BN in that general election is based on past data regarding a past circumstance where UMNO-BN was still in power at the federal level from whence it could exercise almost absolute control over our vast national resources (Note: most often than not, during that time, UMNO-BN leveraged on that power to make certain that, (1) it continued to have the upper hand over its opponents during all elections and, (2) not only did it continue to have that upper hand, because it is also intolerable of dissenting views, it most often than not responded ruthlessly and harshly to suppress dissent and silent criticisms thereby instilling fear and fuelling ignorance on the part of the public which ensured that it received support to continue to be the party in power.) But since May 9th 2018, by the grace of ALLAH Almighty, UMNO-BN lost power and therefore does not possess that leverage anymore. In short, the general election result of the May 9th 2018 has created an entirely new circumstance for all parties concerned. And this is precisely the reason why neither party could feel certain of retaining (or growing) the level of that support. I would argue that this is due to three possible future scenarios post May 9th 2018:

    (1) Without being the party in government, going forward, UMNO-BN does not possess the above-mentioned leverage anymore, and this position could lead to a possibility of it losing Malay support, where if it does so happen, then it may become less significant as a Malay party whilst PAS, BERSATU, AMANAH and PKR will each gain where UMNO loses – unfortunately neither party can be certain of this going to happen;

    (2) The various reforms carried out by the PH government post May 9th 2018 although they generate widespread non-Malay support, alienate the Malay voters instead – which is only to UMNO and PAS favor – thereby bringing the fraction further down from the pre-election 30% level, so that come next election PH loses Malay votes substantially and its position as the party in power is weakened – but this is only a possibility that may or may not happen;

    (3) These various reforms at rebuilding the nation carried out by PH government post May 9th 2018 instead influences more Malay voters to support it while at the same time, garnered for it even more non-Malay support, so that come next election, PH is entrenched in power with a 2/3 majority (or even better perhaps?), all to the detriment of both UMNO and PAS – and yet this scenario is no more than an uncertain future event that could not be substantiated at this point in time;

    I think the most important thing to bear in mind in the business of governing is that, when we define Malaysia, we should be reminded that she is a nation of diverse races. Each race’s support is crucial to any party aspiring to power.

    Just a thought, musing to pass the idle time away.

    • The Malaysian demographic shift is a dynamic process but always remember in the end it boils down to bread and butter issues and the future of the nation and the futures of Malaysians.

    • Will of the Melayu have been distorted due to malapportionment also, unless effort to redelineation starts today. As for point #1, UMNO-BN should really want to fight for re-delineation today. If Bersih organizers are true to themselves, they should continue to rally this very week to seek re-delineation today, since there is no talk of it at all.

  3. ” However, there have been hints that Mahathir intends to stay beyond the two years “. – Bhavan and Zuraidah

    The authors of this article refer to this INTENT by Mahathir, daim and his other cronies who have regularly put out signals to this effect , as HINTS. But we followers of local politics are no fools – we know that these HINTS are actually A STATEMENT OF INTENT , that Mahathir and daim and the other cronies plan to continue to lead beyond the suggested 2 years.

    And why not?

    From May 9th 2018 onwards , what Anwar Ibrahim has been doing/saying suggests that he is not much of a leader but is more a SPOILER. He seems to excel in this role. His visits to the royal households , his criticism of Guan Eng , etc., suggests that Anwar Ibrahim is willing to do the wrong thing to accomplish his ambitions.

    On the other hand , Mahathir who has been prone to doing the wrong things, seems to be doing the right things now. Some of these things are:

    1. He is slowly but surely consolidating his position as prime minister ;

    2. With all the news about 1MDB – both genuine and fake – he has opted to go slow to ensure that when the case finally goes to court, the government’s case is FIRM and on a sure FOOTING.

    3. His Cabinet appointments – well some have been pretty outstanding, especially that of Tommy Thomas as Attorney General. As for the other appointments , like Home Affairs, Education and Defence – they seem to be politically expedient appointments and as such commenting here maybe inappropriate.

    4. Moving to replace the heads of Bank Negara and cleansing the GLC’s like Petronas , Tabung Haji , LTAT, Khazanah, etc ., of their over paid but ineffective heads is quite commendable.

    5. Reexamining some of the over priced projects inherited from the previous government .

    6. Cleansing the civil service of some of its dancing and singing clowns.

    All the above plus those that is not listed here, seem by and large like good moves that can help make Malaysia great again . It will also help cement the new values in a new Malaysia. Although hardly 2 months has passed since the change in government, and its still too early to draw conclusions – but its quite apparent that Mahathir is leading the nation in the right direction this time around. If he maintains this direction, maybe he deserves to be around beyond the much touted 2 years.

    Afterall , who wants a spoiler .

    • TDM should be given a chance to clean up the institution mess before exiting or else history may repeat itself. He should ensure that Constitution monarchy acts fully in accordance with the constitution and push back the tendencies that creeped in during the DSNR and Badawi era.

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