EU Acts against Malaysia to ensure Clean and Fair Elections (GE-14)–Curbing Palm Oil Imports

February 23, 2018

EU Acts against Malaysia to ensure Clean and Fair Elections (GE-14)–Curbing Palm Oil Imports

by Reuters

Image result for Najib Razak under Pressure from European Union

An European Union (EU) decision to curb palm oil imports was the last thing Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak needed ahead of a coming election, with rural voters already aggrieved over financial scandals at state-owned palm oil agency FELDA.

Around 10 per cent of Malaysia’s 30 million people belong to families who own smallholdings dedicated to harvesting palm oil, and they account for the majority of voters in nearly a quarter of the national assembly’s 222 seats.

Image result for Najib Razak under Pressure from European Union

Putting the Heat on Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak ahead of General Election-14

Girding for a general election due by August, Najib was given a taste of the discontent rife in the countryside when hundreds of farmers flocked to Kuala Lumpur last month to protest a pending EU move to phase out the use of palm oil in biofuel.

“I will not support the government if they don’t resolve this issue,” said Abdul Rahman, a farmer who runs a smallholding in Negeri Sembilan, a state an hour’s drive south of the capital.

“The failure and inexperience of the government led to the EU’s boycott of our palm oil,” he told Reuters.

Najib can ill-afford to lose votes from Malays in rural areas that have hitherto been a rock-solid votebank for the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the party that has led every multi-ethnic coalition since Malaysia emerged from British colonial rule in 1957.

Image Credit: Zainul Abiddin

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Actor Robert De Niro*

Aged 92, and having stood down in 2003 as Malaysia’s longest serving premier, Mahathir Mohamad has come out of retirement to lead the campaign against his one-time protege Najib, having forged an unlikely alliance with jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Malays’ loyalty to UMNO has been tested by the steady flow of stories over the past three years about 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), a state investment firm whose funds, critics say, were used by Najib to boost his campaign for the 2013 election, which he narrowly won while losing the popular vote to an opposition bloc led by Anwar.

Najib, who chaired 1MDB’s advisory board until it was dissolved in 2016, has consistently denied any wrongdoing over the billions of dollars lost by the fund, but an ongoing kleptocracy investigation into 1MDB in the United States – the biggest mounted by Department of Justice – has kept on the frontburner.

To cement authority and protect himself, analysts say Najib needs to lead UMNO to a convincing victory.

Losing US$500 million

The 1MDB controversy has damaged Najib’s standing more among urban Malays, but over the past year rural Malays have found their own reasons to be upset.

Malaysia’s 650,000 smallholders, who cultivate 40 per cent of acreage dedicated to palm, fear they will bear the brunt of the EU ban, which William Simadiputra, an analyst at DBS Vickers, reckons could cost Malaysia about US$500 million (S$656 million) annually in export revenue.

Malaysia’s plantations minister Mah Siew Keong told Reuters the government is working on expanding export markets to other non-traditonal palm buyers like Iran, Vietnam and Japan in a bid to shore up demand.

But the government’s threat of retaliatory trade measures against the EU has been scorned by critics, who say it will lead to further loss of palm oil business to competitors.

“By saying you will ban EU imports you are just pushing away the palm oil business to Indonesia,” said Wong Chen, a lawmaker with the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) party.

Malaysia hasn’t given up trying to persuade the EU to think again, raising its objections with a visiting French defence minister last month. France is hoping to sell Malaysia fighter jets worth about US$2 billion.

FELDA Scandals

Smallholders have seen monthly incomes drop as low as RM1,000-2,000 (S$336.60-S$673.20) when palm prices were low, forcing many into debt over the years.

And when allegations of corruption surfaced last year at the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), a state plantation agency founded to alleviate rural poverty, the government came under fire in the small towns and villages that make up the Malay heartland.

Many of FELDA’s 112,000 settlers took loans to invest in Felda Global Ventures, a listed unit of Felda that raised US$3 billion when it was launched in 2012 and has since seen its share price plunge by 60 per cent.

FGV’s chairman was forced to quit last year, and its chief executive was suspended for four months during a government probe into suspicious transactions at a subsidiary. He later resumed his role.

Najib moved to appease FELDA settlers last July with cash handouts, subsidies and debt waivers totalling nearly RM 1.5 billion.

“The game is to constantly keep the palm planters happy,”said PKR’s Wong Chen. But they are far from happy. The controversies at FGV have barely abated. Critics say it overpaid buying assets, notably the US$505 million purchase of a 37 per cent stake in an Indonesian palm oil firm.

Questions have also been raised last month over a FELDA land deal in Kuala Lumpur, which allegedly points to criminal fraud.

FELDA did not reply to a request for comment. But, on this most recent land deal scandal, Najib said in a blog post that the government would “ensure the interests of FELDA and the settlers are not compromised”.

However, this core constituency’s patience with the government may have run out.

“These issues have raised anger among the settlers,” said Mazlan Aliman, president of the National FELDA Settlers’Children Society (ANAK). “They see the government is not serious in addressing these issues, but instead try to cover up.” “The damage that has been done is too big. It will influence the mood of voters in the upcoming elections, especially in FELDA areas,” said Mazlan


Malaysia’s Vaunted Land Distribution Scheme Turns Sour


February 22, 2018

Malaysia’s Vaunted Land Distribution Scheme Turns Sour–Crony Capitalism is alive and well

by John Bethelsen

Malaysia’s long-praised Federal Land Development Authority, or Felda, founded in 1956 to resettle the country’s rural poor into newly reclaimed jungle areas to enable them to grow crops such as palm oil and rubber, has lost RMB1.5 billion (US$382 million) in a political deal to prop up a friend of Prime Minister Najib Razak, according to an internet news portal covering the international palm oil industry.

Image result for Najib Razak and Rajawali's Peter Sondakh

Peter Sondakh (Tan Sri) of the Rajawali Group  seen with another Najib Crony, Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Dato Seri Zahrain Hashim

The International Palm Oil Monitor, established in 2017 to cover the industry, quoted a due diligence report prepared by the KPMG international accounting firm detailing what it called “numerous concerns/improprieties” including cash flow problems, an inflated acquisition price, non-compliance with laws and regulations, excessive borrowing and excessive amounts which are due for repayment to the banks and tax evasion in the purchase of 37 percent of the flailing Indonesia-based PT Eagle High Plantations TBK oil palm concern controlled by Peter Sondakh, an Indonesian Chinese, through his Rajawali Group, named a Tan Sri, one of Malaysia’s high-ranking if arcane honorifics.

Image result for Najib with Sondakh

The Saviour of FELDA–Najib Crony Tan Sri Shahrir Samad

“Essentially, as we know, the purchase was a bailout of Eagle High and Peter, who is a good friend of Najib,” said a well-connected businessman in Kuala Lumpur. “Peter owns the St Regis Hotel in Langkawi and in Bali, among other things. Last year, Najib and family and friends spent two holidays in Bali – all courtesy of Peter. Last weekend, they were in the St Regis in Langkawi for Chinese New Year holidays, again courtesy of Peter.”

The KPMG report was actually produced about a year ago and has been written about, although it has been handled very carefully by Malaysia’s mainstream press, all of which is controlled by the government. According to the International Palm Oil Monitor, Eagle High has also received intercompany interest-free advances of US$26 million – none of which has been repaid. The US$505.4 million for the 37 percent is said to have been a 95 percent premium to the closing price at the time, or Rp580 (US0.042 cents) per share. Eagle High is now trading below Rp204 per share.

Although the story has been floating around, it has achieved added significance because Felda has become a major issue in Malaysia’s upcoming general election, which must be held before June 26 and is likely to be called sometime in April, political analysts in Kuala Lumpur say.

Image result for Peter Sondakh and Najib RazakJawabnya–Crony Najib Razak

The land scheme, which is given major credit for keeping rural Malays and Indians loyal during Communist attempts to take over the country in the 1950s and 1960s, is in deep trouble from a variety of sources. It is almost sacred to the Barisan Nasional, or national ruling coalition, and particularly the United Malays National Organization, so much so that it is called UMNO’s fixed deposit.

Under the scheme, new settlers were each given 10 to 14 acres to cultivate crops, usually rubber or oil palm. They were required to reside in planned villages where their homes, built by FELDA, were located and included piped water and electricity. Schools, medical centers and places of worship were also provided. The schemes were designed as cooperatives.

But the government engineered a disastrous initial public offering in 2012 on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. The thousands of smallholders who bought what became known as FELDA Global Ventures at the time of the IPO saw their investments fall by half because of disastrous mismanagement.

While the shares surged in 2017 following a management change, the original owners who form UMNO’s vote bank have been furious. Net profit fell by more than 96 percent between 2012 and 2016. For the past year, the entity, which is the world’s largest crude palm oil venture in the world, has been attempting to cope with the Eagle High scandal.

Enter Mahathir Mohamad, the fire-breathing 92-year-old former Prime Minister who has vowed to drive Najib from office. He has campaigned implacably in the Felda areas, saying the scandal is a textbook example of how to steal from the government.

“With all the bungling in Felda, this adds to the woes of the BN as far as getting support from Felda settlers in the General election,” said a Kuala Lumpur-based political analyst. “These are people who loved Mahathir and remember back to his period in office as a time when the country’s economy never stopped growing.”

They are also the people who the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition, with its component the Democratic Action Party, has never been able to touch significantly because of their mistrust of the ethnic Chinese.

Today, according to a February 20 release by the International Palm Oil Monitor, “Felda is sitting on a paper loss of approximately US$300 million. Additionally, Eagle High’s market capitalization is below US$420 million, which means Felda’s 37 percent is now valued at just US$155.4 million, less than one-third what it paid in the first place.

Image result for Isa SamadFormer FELDA Chairman and Najib crony Tan Sri Isa Samad taken in by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commmission but later released. It turned out to be another charade


Eagle High’s problems have been compounded by the fact that in April 2017, the European Union pushed through a regulation to ensure that palm oil imported must come from sustainable sources after 2020.

“This does not bode well for Eagle High, whose unsustainable palm oil practices as well as its lack of RSPO and ISPO certifications have been widely documented. Given this, it is unlikely that Eagle High’s revenues will improve in the coming years. In fact, it is more likely to decline once the European Union regulation takes effect,” the Palm Oil Monitor said. “All in all, it looks like Felda’s investment in Eagle High has proven to be a complete bust and did not pan out the way Felda had hoped.”


When Criminals like M01 and his cohorts go free, and good men are going to jail, we Malaysians are doomed

February 13, 2018

Malaysia: When Criminals like M01 and his cohorts go free, and good men are going to jail, we  Malaysians are doomed

by Dato’ Dennis Ignatius

When good men go to jail & scoundrels go free

“When exposing a crime is treated as committing a crime, you are ruled by criminals.” ~ Anonymous

It was a rude reminder of the times we live in: Rafizi Ramli, Member of Parliament and PKR Vice-President together with bank clerk Johari Mohammad were sentenced last week to 30 months in prison for leaking details relating to the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal. They are now out on bail pending appeal.

Improper conduct

NFC, a poorly conceived government-funded initiative to help the nation attain self-sufficiency in beef-production, became mired in allegations of nepotism, mismanagement and misappropriation of funds. In his 2010 report, the Auditor-General drew attention to “improper conduct” at the NFC which was funded by a RM250 million soft loan from the government.

Rafizi followed up with further startling allegations based on leaked bank records.

In March 2012, the CEO of NFC, Dr Mohammad Salleh Ismail (husband of then UMNO minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil) was charged with four counts of misappropriating RM49.7 million from NFC. He was later acquitted of all charges.

The end result: millions in public funds remain unaccounted for and no one has been held liable. Pretty much par for the course these days.

Following the outcry over the scandal, Shahrizat resigned her ministerial post. With the support of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, she continues to thrive in politics as head of Wanita UMNO. In 2016 she was bestowed one of the nation’s highest honours (PSM) which carries the tittle ‘Tan Sri.’ She is expected to contest a safe seat in the upcoming general election and might well return to cabinet.

Adding insult to injury

When all is said and done about this case, when you cut through the legalities and political spin, what is left is simply the inescapable conclusion that the justice system has failed us once again. They can finesse the facts and garnish the truth but the stench of it will long endure.

Image result for shahrizat abdul jalil

Dare you accuse me of being corrupt. That’s insulting. I am thoroughly corrupt mind and body. I learned the art of making  money effortlessly from UMNO leaders. NFC project came in my dreams. Fleece the cows and make huge amounts of money.–Anon

Shahrizat (photo above) now insists that she and her family were the real victims of the whole affair because they were subjected to “half-baked stories [that were used] to manipulate the people regarding the case.” She and her husband also claim, rather disingenuously, that it was all the negative publicity surrounding NFC that caused the project to fail. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

It is also laughable that she blames Rafizi for all her problems and makes it out to be a political attack against her and her family when it was in fact the Auditor-General who first drew attention to irregularities in NFC. And it was the police who filed criminal charges against her husband, presumably because they had reason to believe that a crime had been committed.

Standing with Rafizi

Rafizi may well end up in prison and his days as a member of parliament may be over but he will always remain a hero to the public. He modelled for the nation what a member of parliament ought to be – selfless, courageous and principled. If only more of our public officials were like him….

We may not be able to do anything about the sentence but there is much that we can do to ensure that both Rafizi and Johari are not abandoned or forgotten. They stood for us; we must now stand for them and let them know that we value their sacrifice and service. If they go to jail, we must do our part to help their families.

Image result for Rosmah MansorShahrizat’s Mentor  FLOM Rosmah Mansor


And we must use the power of our citizenship to vote against those who abuse our trust. Make no mistake, when those who expose abuse are jailed and scoundrels go free (as so many have over the years), our democracy is diminished and tyranny empowered.

Image result for edmund burke quotes

To stay silent, to do nothing in the face of such injustice, is to become accomplices to our own oppression.

The Big THHE-Yinson Scam

February 7, 2018

The Big THHE-Yinson Scam

by Din  Merican

Image result for Tabung Haji-Yinson ScamThe Insolvent TH Heavy Engineering Berhad (THHE)


On January 10, 2018,  the Court of Appeal granted a stay to GMOS (a bumiputra Sarawak company) vs THHE, the insolvent Tabung Haji Company which wanted to sell out to a chinese company Yinson Bhd.

This is the background story about how this sell out was disguised as a scheme of arrangement to scam a bumi company:

Image result for Tabung Haji Chairman Azeez Rahim
              Chairman of Tabung Haji Mamak (Indian Muslim) Azeez Rahim

Four Year Ago, Chairman of Tabung Haji the Mamak (Indian Muslim Azeez Rahim, made Tabung Haji Heavy Engineering (THHE) induced  Global Marine Offshore Services (GMOS), a Sarawak bumi company to partner it in a company called Flowtech in an oil and gas business. There were 2 parts to this project:

a)  buying a FPSO vessel called  DP1 which GMOS had to put in RM60m ; and

b) an EPCIC Layang2  contract in Sarawak that PETRONAS would award via Nippon which THHE promised was so lucrative that GMOS would become overnight a big bumi Oil & Gas player.

GMOS believed THHE and put it in that money. That was the beginning of screwing this bumi company. The vessel project  was loss making and became a burden to both GMOS and THHE that bankrupted THHE and made it a PN17 company.

Azeez then planned to get a Chinese company Yinson Bhd to appear as a white knight by taking over THHE business. Yinson paid Azeez a big bribe to allow Yinson to buy over the lucrative EPCIC Layang2 project and leave the DP1 vessel project to be shouldered solely by GMOS. This was disguised as a scheme of arrangement to be sanctioned by the Court.



Yinson paid pittance so that THHE can then use the money to be seen as paying some 400 petty creditors 20cts to RM 1.0.

Yinson needed the EPCIC project badly as all this while their business has been overseas mainly in Vietnam. It is very strange indeed to be a listed company in Malaysia but without any track record in oil and gas to show off to your peers.

THHE virtually surrendered every detail of the Layang2 EPCIC project  lock stock and barrel. The whole entire board of THHE was as usual, clueless to the scheming of Mamak Azeez.

Yinson and Azeez cleverly proposed a private deal to Nippon for Yinson to use its own dormant vessel 4Rainbow rather than the original DP1 Vessel intended for the Layang2 EPCIC. Both Aziz and Yinson made a big kill from this deal.

This backdoor acquisition disguised as a white knight rescue gave Yinson the opening to enter the Sarawak O&G business and suck out another Sarawak resource  without any participation from any of Sarawak local company. No bumi in Malaysia and not at all in Sarawak will get any piece of this cake. Yinson will award  all the works to be done outside Malaysia.

Image result for nor badli munawirDatuk Nor Badli Munawir Mohamad Alias Lafti, former Chief Executive Officer of TH Heavy Engineering Bhd, which is a Tabung Haji subsidiary, was charged in the Sessions Court here today with five counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT), involving more than RM2.5 million.


Congratulations to Azeez as he had in the meantime been able to blame all of  Tabung Haji’s and THHE’s losses and problems on the previous bumi CEO and caused CEO Datuk Nor Badli Munawir Mohamad Alias Lafti to be charged by MACC using A-G Apandi Ali for allegedly abuse of power whereas it is a fixed up charge against Nor Badli.

Related image                                        Malaysia’s First Lady Rosmah Mansor and Mamak Azeez, Chairman of Tabung Haji

As Azeez is close to Rosmah, naturally all these have the blessings of PM Najib to allow a direct negotiation contract just to rescue THHE which ad earlier bought the vessel  (DP1). PM Najib is doing the exact same thing as he did in 1MDB and FELDA.

Image result for the edge paper malaysia on Yinson


The Edge, in a fake news article called Yinson as the “white knight”, who is rescuing THHE whereas in reality Yinson is screwing a Sarawak bumi company and THHE.

The Court of Appeal saw this as Yinson eating all the meat and leaving only the bones to GMOS and THHE and blocked the Scheme of Arrangement on  January 10, 2018.

Again another bumi company  is made to be the fall guy and the corporate plunderer Chinese Yinson is hailed as a white knight.

But in the last 2 weeks, Yinson has been using the media to rig the share market by posting fabulous stories that the Scheme of arrangement and novation of DP1  will not be affected  by the Court of Appeal stay order. Yinson was even bold enough to state that the stay order was just temporary and will be removed shortly.

Now how would Yinson know about the outcome of a case when the appeal is not yet heard? How can Yinson be so confident that they will win the appeal?

Image result for chief justice raus sharif

              Attorney-General Apandi Ali (left) and Chief Justice Raus Sharif

From the grapevine, apparently Yinson has managed to get Chief Justice Raus to fix the case earlier thsn its actual dare before a selected panel of judges. Why would the Chief Justice do that?

Already the Bar Council is challenging Chief Justice Raus on his illegal appointment Surely, it is unbefitting for the Chief Justice to meddle in this way. But this Chief Justice doesn’t care whatever allegations are made against him.

Something is really smelling fishy in the Palace of Justice. Justice hurried is justice harried!


Read this:



Malaysian Governance: It is a Najib-led ”Malaise System”, not the Malays

January 26, 2018

Malaysian Governance: It is a Najib-led ”Malaise System”, not the Malays

by S Thayaparan@www,

“Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves.”

― Bertrand Russell

COMMENT | Malaysiakini columnist Thor Kah Hoong’s ‘It’s a malaise of the system, not Malays’, is a snapshot of what is wrong with the discourse in this country. Thor is a friend and this piece is not a rebuttal or anything like that, but I just feel I have to say a few words.

Image result for The Myth of the Lazy Native

Saying not all Malays are lazy is just as meaningless as saying all Malays are lazy. Why? Because whether Malays are lazy or not is not the issue when it comes to discussing the system.

Let us say that the system of privileges actually benefited the majority of the Malay community. Let us say that Islam was applied “fairly” to all and we were all under the shadow of syariah law. Would this be an acceptable system? Would race relations in this country be better? Would it still matter if a Malay was lazy or not?

Okay, let us say that not all Malays are lazy. Would it make a difference if those not lazy Malays also supported Malay rights and believed that Islam should be imposed on all Malaysians because they believed that Malaysia was an Islamic state?

Image result for Mahathir the malays are lazyReally? It is time to revisit Dr Syed Hussein Alatas’ The Myth of Lazy Native, which is a serious rebuttal of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s The Malay Dilemma.


Is there really a difference between a “lazy” Malay who supports this system and a “not lazy” Malay who believes that the system serves a purpose? People love to talk about corruption as if, if there was no corruption, the system that enables a whole community to believe that they were the “masters” of this land and Islam defines their identity, would be okay. Get rid of MO1 (Malaysian Official 1), and that is the first step.

The first step to what? I made my case for voting and a two-party system, but the reality is that unless we change the system, unless a majority of Malays truly believes that the system is detrimental to all Malaysians, we will never be able to change anything in a meaningful way.

People blame the indoctrination programmes of the Umno establishment for destroying the Malay mind but seem oblivious that the opposition, in its current incarnation, is doing the same thing.

Image result for Rice farming in KedahRice Farming in Kedah–It is back beaking work–Is she lazy?

Some people like to use the lazy Malay/not lazy Malay argument as a means to introduce “class” into the discourse. In other words, the system disenfranchises a large section of the Malay community.

However, what it boils down to is the efficacy of the system and perhaps even utilitarian arguments, instead of the morality of the system. I am sorry it took so long to get here, but the system and the Malay community are not mutually exclusive.

Partisan politics in this country has reached ridiculous levels. There is a right-wing Malay website, which idolises Donald Trump, believes that Najib Razak should not give in to the “left” and quotes Western news sources about the evils of the left, which it equates with the DAP and Malay activists and politicians who do not subscribe to mainstream Malay dogma.

A cursory reading (and fact checking) of some of these sources the website quotes will reveal anti-Islamic writers who would most definitely laugh themselves into a right-wing hysterical fit, if they knew that a so-called right-wing Malay/Muslim site was agreeing with them.

Demonised as ‘liberals’

Never mind that there has always been agitation in the Malay community. However, mainstream Malay power structures post-1969 have done everything in their power to define the narratives in the Malay community. This is why when Malays who want to radically change the system stick their heads out, they are demonised as “liberals” and anti-Muslim.

They are not supported by mainstream Malay power brokers (establishment and opposition) or the mainstream of the Malay community. They are penalised because they are a constant reminder that the system and the Malay community could be mutually exclusive. They understand that beyond corruption and the Arabisation process, the Malay community is the system and this is deleterious for the country and the community.

I have attempted to make this point before. I get that most people are not interested but it is worth repeating – “I do not think that the problems of the Malays are that they are not unified; I think the problem of the Malays is that they have no real choices when it comes to ‘Malay’ leadership. Race and religion are the basis for all ‘Malay’ political parties and Malay politicians are hampered by these two imperatives – or so they say – which makes it impossible to have a greater Malay polity that is progressive and egalitarian.”

Now I know that I am going to get a lot of flak for this but it is true. The ideological and constitutional foundation of mainstream Malay/Malaysian politics is that the system and the Malay community are not mutually exclusive. If you support the opposition or you support the Umno establishment, then you support this narrative. Whether it is true is not the point. The point is that you are voting for political parties that define the system.

This is why a close friend of mine who is a Malay – which is important – told me that despite my exuberance for Harapan – a gross mischaracterisation I would argue – the idea of voting for Harapan is one of diminishing returns. In fact, he always sends me this YouTube video, whenever Harapan plays to script instead of deviating from it.

Now I am not saying that the non-Malays had no part in making this system but as recent events have demonstrated, most of us have very little intention of destroying the current system. Replacing Najib, in case you did not get the memo, is not destroying the system. It merely means we are setting the system back to its default setting.

Maybe this is why so many young people can’t be bothered to vote and many others who do not buy into the apocalyptic fantasies of the opposition can’t wait for this election to be over.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The Sins of Najib Razak

January 4, 2018

The Sins of Najib Razak

Image result for Trum[p and Najib razakMalaysia’s Kleptocrat shakes hand with America’s Super Mario at The White House last year

In a year that had its fair share of symbolic moments, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak took home a fistful of trophies.

One prize was his cameo meeting in September with US President Donald Trump at the White House, which counts as a juicy political point for the coming general election.

 Najib brought “strong value propositions” for Trump in the form of a multi-billion dollar commitment to buy Boeing jets, an offer to push AirAsia to buy General Electric engines and a pledge to increase investments in American infrastructure.

With this gesture “to strengthen the US economy”, the premier secured numerous pay-offs, including blunting the barbs of his critics on the US Justice Department’s investigation into the troubled state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

Though there was some collateral damage from the trip, the net gain from an electoral viewpoint would be in the PM’s favour, although Najib did remark that his comments on helping the US were misconstrued.

The tacit endorsement which Najib has earned from his meeting with the US leader would play well in rural electioneering, especially since his Washington trip was followed immediately by another photo op with British premier Theresa May.

On the home turf, Najib raised his score as the commander-in-chief of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition through a number of moves that served to blindside the opposition parties or at least, put them on the back foot.

In early April, the government made the unprecedented move of clearing the parliamentary order paper of its business to make way for a Private Member’s Bill.

Image result for Hadi Awang and Najib Razak

The next day, PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang tabled a motion to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, seeking to grant the Syariah Court powers to impose stiffer penalties on all crimes except those with the death sentence.

The enhancement of the Syariah Courts’ powers, a prize long sought by PAS but hitherto beyond its parliamentary reach, is the clearest indication to date of the coming together of the Islamist party with Umno in an electoral alliance, despite their long history of political enmity.

The shifting alignment only reflects the growing importance of religion as a cement to hold together the fractured Malay voter base.

Another aspect of this theme is the hosting of the King Salman Centre for International Peace at the Islamic Science University of Malaysia, following Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud’s visit to Malaysia in March.

Not only does this move strengthen Najib’s legitimacy as a leader among Muslims, but it also burnishes his credentials as a key ally in the global fight against terrorism.

All this would go some way towards mitigating the damage that his one-time mentor turned nemesis, the tenacious former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has been inflicting on his image since the elder leader joined forces with the opposition parties.


Among the list of sins that is being laid at Najib’s feet is the view that he has sold out the country’s strategic interests to obtain a funding lifeline from China. The East Coast Rail Link, among a laundry list of infrastructure projects, has been singled out for particular criticism. The PM’s team has worked hard at fending off these claims, and Najib has retorted that he would never sell Malaysia’s sovereignty.

Helping to contain Mahathir’s virulent campaign to unseat Najib, the quick-acting Royal Commission of Inquiry into Bank Negara’s foreign exchange losses in the 1990s has shifted some attention away from his litany against the PM to the debacle that took place under Mahathir’s watch.

While the inquiry report is being challenged by Mahathir, it continues to have life enough to give Najib and his team ammunition for their battle with detractors.

Even if the electorate were unimpressed by their leaders’ quarrels over past and present scandals, they would likely be motivated by the long list of benefits that Najib announced in his budget for next year.

From a reduction in income tax rates to easier hiring of domestic help and discounts on study loan repayments, to name a few, the message that Najib has sought to convey to voters is that his government is listening to their needs.

In keeping with this softer touch, Najib paid a courtesy call on de facto Pakatan Harapan leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim when the jailed opposition leader was in hospital for an operation on his shoulder joint in November.

If nothing else, the gesture would sit well with voters who see it as a sympathetic or even magnanimous act by the nation’s leader.

That’s a good feeling to ride, going into perhaps the toughest election challenge that the BN has faced in decades.

Image result for Mahathir takes on Najib razak


But still, for Najib, the coast is not as clear as he would wish it to be. He has to face the increasing number of voters unhappy with the rising cost of living, the never-ending problems with FELDA and its companies (whose settlements in the Malay heartland form the core support of UMNO and the issue of 1MDB that will not easily fade from the scrutiny of international media. Also, the emergence of new politics in Sabah and Sarawak, for which the political mantra — Sabah for Sabahans and Sarawak for Sarawakians — could sway both sides of the political divide.