September 25, 2018
CIMB Group Nazir Razak’s Departure sends the wrong message: Competent Professionals are not wanted, only politics matter
by Ho Kay Tat@www.malaysiakini.com
“Don’t be afraid to speak up – express your opinions with honesty.”–Nazir Razak. He has integrity. I admire him for this rare attribute. It is the reason why Nazir is respected and highly regarded in Cambodia. He will be missed by his staff as a role model of professionalism.–Din Merican
COMMENT | CIMB Group Holdings Bhd chairperson Nazir Razak was an early and vocal critic of 1MDB and the opaque manner it was managed.
It is, therefore, sad that he is now a casualty of the 1MDB fallout, as the new government which came to power on the back of public anger over the financial scandal makes further leadership changes at government-linked companies (GLCs).
Most people will point out that Nazir had received money (now discovered to have originated from 1MDB) from his brother Najib as contribution to be passed to others for the 2013 general elections. Like many, he would not have imagined back then that the money came from 1MDB and he has since expressed regret about what he did. It was a mistake.
When 1MDB was set up in September 2009, Nazir had questioned the need for another sovereign wealth fund and the fact that 1MDB was not governed under the GLC framework of governance. After 1MDB issued its first bond – the RM5 billion 30-year sukuk arranged by AmBank Bhd – he criticised the mispricing of the bond, which was issued at a steep discount and carried a high coupon rate of 5.75% despite being guaranteed by the government.
Suspicious about where 1MDB was heading, Nazir issued a directive that CIMB does not do any business with it. It was a decision which upset some of his staff because of the loss in potential revenue from corporate lending and investment banking transactions, and there were billions worth of deals between 2010 to 2013.
When the troubles at 1MDB began to surface with the delay in the release of its audited accounts sometime in late 2013, Nazir worked hard behind the scenes to engage his brother and other senior government officials to address the problems. He warned them of the threat an implosion of 1MDB would pose to the country’s financial well-being – which is what has happened now.
After it became clear to him that no action will be taken, Nazir began to make his views public especially via his Instagram postings.
In January 2014 he penned an article ‘Remembering My Father, Tun Razak’ as an oblique reminder to his brother not to taint the reputation of their father.
Nazir wrote that one minister who served under his father told him: “As the custodian of the nation’s coffers, his frugality was legendary. You had to account for every cent, or he would be on your back.”
In February 2015, responding to a New York Times article which quoted a Najib’s spokesperson as saying that the prime minister was wealthy because he had inheritance money, Nazir and his three other brothers issued a statement to dispute what was said.
“We wish to put on record that Tun Abdul Razak was a highly principled man, well-known to all who knew him for his frugality and utmost integrity and any statement or inference to the contrary would be totally false and misleading to his memory and to his service and sacrifices for the nation.
“We take issue with anyone who taints his memory, whatever the motive. We would also like to add that our whole family is united on this issue,” said the statement which was signed by Nazir, Johari, Nizam and Nazim.
Attacked by pro-UMNO bloggers
Nazir was among those who pressed for Parliament to investigate and he criticised 1MDB’s first CEO Shahrol Halmi and Arul Kanda Kandasamy when they refused to attend the inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Because of his criticisms of 1MDB, Nazir was attacked by the mainstream media controlled by UMNO as well as by UMNO-sponsored bloggers. He and his family were also victims of a blogger – Ahrily90 – who posted vicious attacks on them.
The Edge on Feb 4, 2015 exposed that this blogger was the same person who attacked our chairperson Tong Kooi Ong and Dr Mahathir Mohamad who, like Nazir, had been asking questions about 1MDB.
Ahrily90 was also behind two websites (since taken down) that promoted Jho Low as a smart financier and generous donors to various charities. This confirmed to us that our criticisms of 1MDB were correct and that Jho Low and his cohorts were getting uncomfortable with all the questions we were asking.
It was a frustrating time for us as our efforts were going nowhere. 1MDB, by then led by Arul Kanda, kept refuting our reports and denied that anything was wrong.
I can reveal that The Edge and Nazir worked together, in our respective ways, to expose the wrongdoings at 1MDB to get the government to act against those responsible.
Work was done behind the scenes for a solution. But none could be found.
Instead, in July 2015, Najib sacked his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin and removed investigators. And The Edge and The Edge Financial Daily were suspended as part of the crackdown.By then, there was nothing more Nazir could do.
He was misled by his own brother. Nazir was also personally conflicted – his brother was the creator of the monster that he had warned against. Despite that, Nazir was probably the only corporate leader who had publicly voiced out concerns about 1MDB. He could have chosen to keep quiet.
HO KAY TAT is publisher of The Edge.
The above commentary was originally published here. The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.