FAMOUS LAST WORDS OR SOME SUCH

Election-talk hung in the air. It was 1999 and fresh from sacking Anwar Ibrahim – he was in prison without bail – Dr Mahathir’s term was nearing its end. 

We’d just returned from Kelantan and Terengganu where the mood seemed anti-government. My colleague, Simon, and I were now heading to meet Deputy Mnister Ibrahim Ali in the Pan Pacific Hotel.  

The place was packed, and Simon spotted Ibrahim having lunch with his officers. He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.  But he could always be relied on for the suitably inflammatory comment, the racist dig that Umno believed would always unite the Malays behind it.  

In short, he had Dr M’s complete confidence.  

But the interview was disappointing. The politician didn’t admit there were problems in the party and predicted a thumping win for the government.  He was particularly disagreeable about Anwar, gloating about his imprisonment and waxing lyrical over Dr M’s leadership.

Ibrahim, an MP from Kelantan, then asked me what I thought: we told him of our trip north. 

“You won’t like this,” I began and told him a story about how he, personally, would lose his seat. Indeed, I said we thought Umno would fare dismally, especially in Terengganu. 

The deputy minister turned red and looked furious. Glaring, he slammed his hand on the table and bellowed a profanity.

If my Hokkien’s right, he was referring to a man’s unmentionable, but I digress. His roar must have been loud because it silenced the room, and every eye followed the politician as he stalked out in high dudgeon. 

I was merely lashing out at his boorishness. But it was ironic because Ibrahim not only lost badly but the Islamic Party of Malaysia swept both Kelantan and Terengganu. 

Who knew? 

Political mistakes can have consequence. No, we aren’t talking about Ibrahim, but one made by Dr M’s successor, Abdullah Badawi. 

Let me explain. The in-your-face racism of an Umno assembly can be jarring. I remember a rookie from the Star – a young, Malay girl – being comforted by colleagues from other papers after she was so traumatised, she broke down. 

That’s why, apart from some speeches, the gatherings are never carried live. 

Only Abdullah Badawi thought otherwise. It may have been the error that the National Front continues to rue.  

When thousands of, especially, Chinese -Malaysians witnessed Hishamuddin Hussein brandish a kris (ceremonial dagger) and uttering veiled threats – de rigueur for any Umno Youth leader – they were appalled. 

But they remembered.

It occurred in 2005 and an assembly has never been televised since.  

In 2004, Abdullah took the Front to its biggest win ever. No one thought anything might be different in 2008.  

But I remember Opposition MP, Teresa Kok asking me if anything had changed. When I looked puzzled, she replied: “The crowds at our rallies are 2 or 3 times bigger.” 

Michael Devaraj was a socialist who’d unsuccessfully challenged Works Minister S Samy Vellu in two previous elections.  Like Teresa, he too felt something had changed.  

Not Samy though. In fact, he was brimming with confidence when Nadeswaran and me approached him in his centre in Sungei Siput.

After assuring us that he would, indeed, thrash the hapless Michael, he asked if we knew him. 

Why?

“He is a very nice fellow,” said the late, great Samy sadly. “I’d hate to see him lose again.” 

He needn’t have worried. 

ENDS

THE MAKING OF A MALAYSIAN METAPHOR 

When Jho “Felonious” Low recently boasted about losing 10 pounds, Macao remained indifferent. 

Even scornful.

“Hallelujah,” growled the Times’ social-affairs columnist through gritted teeth.  A dour, dyspeptic dragon, she loathed show-offs who snacked on caviar and crackers, and her next sentence was positively dripping with bile.

“That’s like removing a deck chair off the QE2,” she snarled, and all Macao knew there was a trend afoot.

The term “fugitive Malaysian” may soon descend into the realms of hackneyed cliché like a “no brainer” or a “sticky wicket.” 

Indeed, at one dizzying, moment, Malaysia briefly threatened to punch above its weight in the master criminal sweepstakes because we boasted not one, but two fugitives.  

The parallels seemed disquieting enough to give social scientists pause. Both the fugitives were slick, both, fat and both were from Penang. 

Was this the triumph of char kway teow over common sense?

Maybe not. “Fat Leonard” was rearrested Tuesday in Caracas.   

According to Reuters, Leonard was the mastermind behind one of the largest bribery scandals in US military history. 

The Malaysian fugitive’s  alarming propensity for shattering dubious world records is an alarming new trend. Like Charles Ponzi, a future global crime is sure to be named after its Malaysian architect in such florid prose as “a monstrous fraud, huge and epic in all its convoluted, Jho-Low’ian proportions.” 

Now there’s a Malaysian metaphor for the world stage. 

Leonard Glenn Francis didn’t know what Felonious had been smoking but he wished he had some. He’d cut off his GPS ankle bracelet before fleeing from house arrest in San Diego. He’d been awaiting sentence over a bribery scheme that lasted over a decade and involved dozens of US Navy officers.

The flabby flatterer had bribed enough US naval brass to secure  lucrative contracts for his global ship-service business. 

But when he escaped three weeks ago, the US pulled out all the stops. Ten American  agencies searched for him and authorities offered a US$40,000 (RM182,000) reward for his arrest.

The re-arrested reprobate isn’t a happy camper. For one, he wished he’d been 50-lb lighter so the US Press might dub him Lissom Leonard but, fat chance!  For another, he was peeved with the bounty on his head which he felt was too small for a Smooth Criminal.   

Unlike Felonious, Francis had actually pleaded guilty in 2015 for  criminal inducement.  Felonious had merely returned assets – a yacht, a plane, art, houses, jewellery – worth billions in pleas “not amounting to an admission of guilt.” In Leonard’s book, that made Felonious “stupid.” But he was free and he wasn’t.

Fat Leonard had been caught offering prostitution services, luxury hotels, cigars, gourmet meals and more than US$500,000 in bribes to Navy officials and others to help his Singapore-based ship servicing company.

Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least US$35 million for servicing ships, many of which were routed to ports he controlled in the Pacific.

The plump ex-Penangite had been contemptuous of the officers he’d bribed – he called them “animals” in one video – while claiming “cover-up” as his tentacles had allegedly reached up to the admirals in charge. Although over 30 officers have been convicted, no one in the Naval High Command has been indicted.  

Meanwhile, the beefy brigand had been a heartbeat away from being forever extradition-free.

In Caracas, he’d been stopped from boarding a flight to Moscow. 

ENDS

*Revised version folks! A TIME FOR HARD QUESTIONS

During the 90s, my news-editor was V G Kulkarni, a sinfully cynical guy who’d once worked for Indian intelligence. It explained why he was the only Review correspondent barred from Pakistan. 

In any case, VG was in Kuala Lumpur to supervise my first “cover” story for the magazine. We’d just interviewed Dr M – where VG, at one point, addressed him as “Mighty M” through steepled fingers. Even so, it was a good interview as an irritated Dr Mahathir is always good copy. 

Discussing it over beers, Rob Montford, our photographer, suggested that VG might have been harsh as Malaysia was going “great guns.” 

(In 1995, the country was barreling along at 9-plus % annual growth and was being touted as the next “tiger economy”).

The former intelligence officer looked at us incredulously. “This is an incredibly   lucky country,” he retorted and, jerking a thumb at me, continued, “he can lie in his hammock and play the guitar and food will grow around him. It’s so fertile.” 

VG was being outrageously simplistic, of course, but he isn’t the first to venture such opinions. Malaysia is blessed with incredible resources, some of which just keep multiplying. 

Standout example: in 1984, I was told at a Petronas briefing, that the country had enough oil reserves for “24 years.” Those years have flown by, and we are still producing. Meanwhile, our gas reserves have more than tripled. And it will keep rising. Oil and gas reserves generally increase, pari passu, with new technology.

As I write this, on the 59th anniversary of our country’s creation, I am reminded, nostalgically, of the Malaysia Lat portrayed in his cartoons. 

Lat’s great strength was his unfailingly good-humored take on all things Malaysian. And in so doing, he made us feel good about our country and ourselves. 

He portrayed a delightfully, innocent Malaysia, shorn of its ancient race suspicions, devoid of its not-quite-suppressed religious bigotry. It is a Malaysia we long for and no longer believe we will attain.  That notion is now, and perhaps forever, consigned to the realms of what-might-have-been.

But we remain a lucky country. With the scale of waste and profligacy that Malaysia has displayed over the last 50 years, it is something of a miracle that we continue to remain credit worthy. 

But we cannot continue to push our luck. The important thing is to, first, get our government finances in order. The way forward isn’t rocket science either. 

First, make government procurement fully transparent through open tenders. Its current opacity lends itself to corrupt practice, a suspicion borne out during the Rosmah Mansor trial.   

And the New Economic Policy (NEP) must be reviewed. Over the last 60 years. it’s probably the single biggest contributor towards government bloat, waste, and incompetence.

In the 1990s, a minister told me that if the Malaysian people knew how much money had been spent on just one agency – Mara ( an agency focused on the economic, entrepreneurial and educational advancement of the Malays and Bumiputeras) – they would be shocked. And let’s not get started on the state economic development corporations or the 90s push to create a Bumiputera industrial and commercial community. 

These concerns are all known but gets airily swept away under the overarching and not-to-be-questioned banner of the NEP. 

It is time to ask questions. The ringgit isn’t a reserve currency and we’ve been running on empty since 1998. 

ENDS

ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY

It’s a proven fact that capital punishment is a detergent to crime – All in the Family’s Archie Bunker 

A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car but a man who has gone to university may steal the whole railroad – President Theodore Roosevelt

The family that steals together stays together. 

It’s the apparent moral underscoring the outcome reached in Kuala Lumpur’s High Court last Thursday. 

Judge Zaini Mazlan threw the book at the accused, and it may as well have been Crime and Punishment given the weighty sentence. Rosmah Mansor, the wife of ex-Premier Najib Razak, was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to ten years in jail and RM970 million in fines. The latter is the highest in Malaysian legal history. 

Barely over a week ago, Najib began serving a 10 -year sentence for abuse of power and money laundering. He also faces a fine of RM210 million which, if unpaid, increases his sentence by another five years. 

If you were to include the former premier’s tax bill, the once-rampant First Family is looking at a potentially crippling RM2.8 billion in fines. 

That’s a lot of Cartier watches. 

But spare a thought for the condemned. Their only support comes from some sections of Umno and others dazzled by Najib’s “wealth.” But it’s abundantly clear that the Razak family themselves were either too embarrassed or ashamed because none of his brothers showed up courtside. Even his first cousin, the minister, has remained deafeningly silent. 

These people have led sheltered, pampered lives. It was Rosmah, after all, who thought that a RM1,200 haircut at home was “normal.”

In short, they have no clue how the common man, let alone the convict, lives and so the prospect of prison must surely fill them with unspeakable dread. 

So why did they do it? The answer lies in the arrogance of a ruling party that has never lost an election in over 60 years. 

They thought they’d never be held accountable because they would always remain in power, the better to sweep everything under the carpet. As Newsweek columnist Gerry Wills famously observed: “Only the victors determine what the war crimes are.” 

But the hubris remains. After he delayed paying his tax arrears, there were moves to declare Najib a bankrupt. The former PM furiously called it a move to “end my political career.” If he still thinks he has a career, he’s a bigger optimist than Johnny Appleseed! 

Meanwhile, Jho “Felonious” Low, the ample architect of the 1MDB fraud, gnawed his nails anxiously as he watched the grim proceedings in Malaysia. He had decidedly mixed feelings about the whole debacle.

What was happening to his friends was terrible. 

But it could have been worse, it could have been him.

Now he had two, new worries. One, Tom Wright, the author of Billion Dollar Whale, was using crowd sourcing to find him.

Worse were the fines that his friends now faced. Would he be asked to share in their burden or could he safely invoke the old “I’m not my brother’s keeper” clause?

Decisions, decisions.

ENDS

THE DOGS MAY BARK BUT THE CARAVAN MOVES ON

You can’t fix stupid: there’s not a pill you can take, or a class you can go to. – US comedian Ron White  

One suspects a great many politicians in Umno thought of Ismail Sabri the way mathematician Von Neuman thought about arcane math, that there’s “no sense in  being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

But the Malaysian premier may be a great deal craftier than anyone gives him credit for. 

It is generally accepted that Brother Ismail likes the job and wants to keep it. But a segment of Umno led by Messrs Najib and Zahid, twin heroes-tuned-zeroes respectively, want an early election. The two HTZs are, apparently, convinced than a snap poll will somehow bring them political survival.

Going by Darwin, the duo’s chances aren’t great: extinction is the rule and survival is the exception. 

Even so, they remain undeterred but, to use a chess idiom, Brother Ismail has maintained a Sicilian defence of such complexity, it’s so far repelled all comers.  

Much to the chagrin of the duo, the wily premier has ignored, evaded, parried, and procrastinated with the best of them.

And, occasionally, he’s come back swinging. 

Consider his position in the ever-spreading Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) scandal.  

Last week, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC)  revealed that the defence ministry and Boustead Naval Shipyard, the  contractor given the job,  had ignored the navy’s views on the project. 

The PAC disclosed that not a single ship had been completed although RM6 billion had been paid out by the government,  adding that the navy should have received five of the ships by August, that is to say, now. 

Surprise, surprise, the project had not been publicly tendered out but simply given to BNS through direct negotiations, a much-beloved Umno practice first created during the tenure of one Mahathir Mohamad.

In many ways, the LCS scandal has aroused a great deal of public anger. Unlike 1MDB, it didn’t involve complex money-laundering webs, global banking rules or fugitive crooks who hobnobbed  with Hollywood royalty. This was a straight forward “RM6 billion spent and nothing to show for it!”

So, the public wanted to know, where had the money gone, and into whose pocket? It was stuff that the ordinary man understood, grand theft rooted in treason.

At the material time, the premier was Najib and the defence minister, Zahid. 

Jibby has been  sarcastic about the matter but, in fairness,  he’s got far bigger problems now. For his part, Zahid denied any link to the matter. Then he changed tack and brought up “security” as possible cover. 

He advised restraint, warning that the release of the project’s details might expose state secrets and jeopardise  national security. 

According to the Star, Zahid said that the government should handle the matter “wisely” and “not be influenced by public opinion.”

But it appears that Brother Ismail was being influenced by public opinion. 

On Wednesday, the government declassified all documents regarding the LCS investigations, effectively making them public.  

On Thursday, the NST had this headline. LCS scandal: Report reveals Zahid involved in procurement process.  

It might get  worse for the guilty parties.  Putrajaya is  considering a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the matter. 

It almost always ferrets out the truth. 

ENDS

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Behind every great fortune is a crime – French novelist Honoré de Balzac

Jho Low, the plump pirate better known in select criminal circles as Felonious, was entertained by the joke and, as always, delighted in his friend’s masterly grasp of understatement. 

He’d just read that Fearless Leader, once a Malaysian Premier, had revealed to the Kuala Lumpur High Court that he had “only RM4.5 million in assets.” 

Politicians from every component party of the National Front government were moved. They knew the real root of all evil was a lack of money. 

But most people weren’t politicians, they were more cynical and distrustful and generally seemed unbelieving.  Fearless felt injured. “You think you’ve got problems?” snarled Malaysia’s once-most-powerful man. “What about me?”

It was a good, if pointless, question. Ever since 2014 amid the gradual revelations, the whispered rumours, and the increasing awareness of the gravity of the 1MDB problem, Fearless had had to deny, evade, duck, prevaricate, obfuscate or simply lie to Parliament and the Malaysian people about the matter.  

That takes a lot of nerve, an epidermis of no mean thickness and, surely, much heart-hammering amid the blood pressure of a giraffe. And, lest we forget, he had to return home to daily karaoke (Girls just wanna have funds) and occasional counsel (Can I advise you something?).

The extent of Fearless’ pre-emptive efforts to distance himself from 1MDB are slowly emerging. On Thursday, an anti-corruption agency officer testified that Fearless amended a 2016 audit report on 1MDB that was to be presented to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee “to shield himself from legal consequences.”  

And what do you think he felt every time he attended an international meeting after 2016, after the US’ Department of Justice had made sure the 1MDB scandal had made the world’s headliners, when the magnitude of the fiasco was becoming clear?  

Are they giving me the cold shoulder and ignoring me, or am I imagining it? 

Oh My God, is that a knowing look in Lee’s eyes? 

It must have been a time to try anyone’s soul and Felonious sympathised because he knew the extent of the heist. Neither did he feel any remorse about the matter. In fact, he’d recently offered RM1.5 billion to Putrajaya to forget the whole thing but the ingrates had declined.

As for those who accused him of burdening future generations with debt, he charitably forgave them as they did not know it was condoned. Didn’t the Bible say, “Blessed are the children for they will inherit the national debt?”

Felonious considered himself a principled man because, principally, there were only two rules governing crime and Rule 1 was unambiguous: never get caught. 

The second, which he was particularly proud of, simply referred the seeker of knowledge to Rule 1.  

Fearless considered his friend’s position neither here nor there and thought it cold comfort. Meanwhile, his defence team anguished over his RM4.5 million “revelation” because they’d been calculating their bill. 

And so it goes. And, in this instance, only the Bamboo River remains.

Still, silent, waiting.

ENDS

TILITING AT WINDMILLS SUCKS OR THE FOLLY OF DOTAGE!

The surprising thing about young fools is how many survive to become old fools – Doug Larsen, US newspaper columnist 

The older he gets, the better he thinks he was. 

It would be ludicrous for anyone to suggest as much but, at 97, Dr Mahathir Mohamad seems convinced that he remains Malaysia’s future.

On Thursday, the former premier announced a new Malay-Muslim coalition, the Gerakan Tanah Air, or GTA, which “is… a bid to change the government.”

His motives were clearer the day earlier. Then, he said the new coalition was necessary “if we want to save our country, our nation, our religion.” 

Dr Mahathir should be clear. Who, or what, is threatening the country and Islam? 

Indeed, the question of any threat to the Malays or Islam must be aimed at the Malays themselves because they control all the levers of government and, by virtue of that, well-nigh everything else if they had a mind to.  

The monarchy is exclusively Malay while the civil service, the armed forces and the police are overwhelmingly Malay. Even the majority of elected legislators are Malay with a good many in opposition, which only illustrates democracy at work. Even the courts are Malay-dominated.

So, what’s Doc talking about?

I also find it seriously depressing to hear the same, tired rhetoric 65 years after independence. Can’t he come up with better cliches? 

Has he stopped to consider that his statements might be considered indifferent at best, and insulting at worst, to a large number of Malaysians? 

It  presupposes that the country is of, by and for the Malays. Full stop. It appears that, to his mind, the remaining 36%, or 11.5  million people don’t, or should not,  matter. 

Actually, like many Malaysians, I know that the nation faces at least two serious threats. 

They are, however, not vague or irresolute. These are the real and palpable threats of dishonesty and corruption that will destroy Malaysia if not checked. 

We find it fashionable, no, convenient to dismiss Singapore, to denigrate its achievements because, well, it’s “small.”   

But why is there so little corruption there, a fact acknowledged by international bodies?   Because, there, the law is strictly enforced and everyone knows it. Would-be criminals know retribution will follow and that’s been key.

In Malaysia, unfortunately, tolerance of corruption has been widespread for a long time, but it felt like – or we liked to think it was – small potatoes. Now, like fissures spreading out from an earthquake, mini-1MDBs seem to be breaking out.

The latest is the Littoral Combat Vessel disaster where we learn that the government has spent RM6 billion on naval vessels for the country’s defence needs but has “nothing to show for it” despite eight years having passed. 

We’re told that both the Ministry of Defence and private firm Boustead had “ignored” the Navy’s views on the matter. 

That no one’s screaming with indignation or baying for blood only reinforces the notion that we are corruption-tolerant or, at least, resigned to it. 

The other threat is the creeping use of religion and race to justify crime. When it is said it’s OK to vote for a corrupt person because he is of a certain religion, danger is truly everywhere, and we should head for the hills.  

Now if the old man could tilt against said threats and not at windmills, I’ll begin listening.

ENDS

MAKING A MOUNTAIN FROM A MOLEHILL

It was in Vietnam where I discovered Google Translate wasn’t just necessary but desirable.  

I was in Ha Long, a picturesque, Unesco-recognised hamlet jutting into the Gulf of Tonkin and located 165 kilometres northeast of Hanoi. 

It was where we’d driven from. Rebecca was there to attend a four-day APEC Business Advisory Council meet, one of which was in Hanoi and the rest, further north. I had no business being there but, then again, I’d never been to North Vietnam. 

Indeed, there I was in the Royal Ha Long Resort – never knew they’d had 

a monarch – where I was basically at a loose end. The TV had all the news channels, an interesting cooking channel: Gok Wan on perfect Chinese fried rice is always riveting. But I drew the line at Eastwood and Freeman conversing tersely in Vietnamese in an otherwise gripping Unforgiven. 

A perusal of the hotel’s brochure revealed there was a gymnasium on the 3rd floor. It seemed a good idea. 

You stepped out on the 3rd floor and turned right to face a glass door that opened into an outdoor gym. 

But Ha Long in July is an anything-up-to-38-degrees kind of dry heat that one associates with heat stroke. It was 11.45 in the morning and the gym was doing its best to imitate a sauna. 

I was approached by a youth who addressed me in questioning Vietnamese. Meeting incomprehension, he thrust a mobile phone at me and telegraphed “type”.

Idiot that I was, it took me a full 30 seconds to cotton on. Then I typed “Aircon?”

He read the translation, nodded and rushed out.

In a few minutes, I heard a hum but felt no change, the gym remained implacably full-throttle Sahara. 

“Give it time,” he counselled, via his phone and he was right. It was fine in 15 minutes. 

Google Translate is the glue that holds tourism together in Ha Long. You used it for well-nigh everything because very few locals spoke the language. 

But they were eager, no, desperate to learn. Vietnam, we learned, is a country with very big ambitions and goals, one of which is becoming the next China.  Learning English, apparently, is one of its many prescribed routes. 

It’s led to considerable injustice, a comment delivered to us with some heat by the resort’s manager, a likable Swiss who used to run KL’s Mandarin Oriental and now efficiently manages the resort with “a little Vietnamese and plenty of sign language.”  

He told us how Western backpackers from Europe pass themselves off as “English teachers just because they are white.” English teachers get as much as $US1,000 a month which is a “King’s ransom” in the country. 

“I’ve met some and they’re rubbish,” he snorts, “but with that kind of money, it’s paradise here.” 

Even so, Vietnam seems to know what it’s doing. The country’s economy is already the third largest in the region and it’s expanding fast, growing 7% during 2022’s first half. This from a country that’s recovered from three major wars and only really started growing in the 1990s.

They are already huge in agriculture and, thanks to Trump’s sanctions on China, have been one of the biggest beneficiaries of US investment out of China. More importantly, it knows where it’s going. 

At a farewell dinner hosted by the resort’s owner, the head of the region’s Communist chapter told us that “we will be a high income nation by 2045.” It didn’t sound like an idle boast. 

We should be so lucky. 

ENDS

THE RISKS OF RETALIATION 

I was never ruined but twice: once when I lost a lawsuit and once when I won one. – Voltaire, French author, playwright and humanist 

Malaysia is belatedly realising that the law’s outcomes can be hugely expensive. 

Early this year, an arbitration court in Paris awarded the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu a staggering US$14.92 billion (over RM69 billion) against the Malaysian government.

How did this come to pass? 

Its antecedents date back to 1878 and an agreement between the then Sultan of Sulu, one Baron de Overbeck (then Maharaja of Sabah) and the British North Borneo Trading Company’s Alfred Dent. 

The Sultan agreed to cede large tracts of land in Sabah to the company for an annual fee. The agreement also stipulated that the payment would be continued by future heirs. Indeed, the British continued the payments until 1963. 

The year saw the creation of the Federation of Malaysia with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore joining Malaya to form a new country. The point here is that, in 1963, Malaysia’s new federal government continued the annual RM5,300 payment to the Sulu Sultan’s heirs. Indeed, it was maintained in unbroken fashion until 2013. 

During the year, over 200 Filipino militants “invaded” Sabah by way of Lahad Datu to claim the land in the name of the Sultan of Sulu. In the event, the gang surrendered but not before 16 Malaysians lost their lives. 

In seeming retaliation, the Malaysian government, then headed by Najib Razak stopped the annual payments to the Sultan’s heirs. But Kuala Lumpur had maintained those payments for 49 years, an unbroken stretch that seemed to presume a legal obligation on its part.   

It isn’t clear if Najib sought legal advice at the time. The Attorney General then was Gani Patail, a Lahad Datu native himself and a person who’d already been AG for eleven years. 

Nothing happened for four years until, sometime in 2017, the Sulu heirs suddenly took the matter to arbitration in Europe.

Why wait for four years? It had to be money. It was US lawyer Jonathan Sturges who famously quipped that “justice is open to everyone in the same way as the Ritz Hotel.” 

The quip was made in the early 1800s and it rings even more true now. According to Britain’s The Financial Times, “the heirs, backed by a London law firm, have been bankrolled by a UK investment fund, Therium, in a litigation process that has now cost in excess of US$10 million.”

Clearly, the sharks had sensed the blood in the water. Unfortunately, Putrajaya hadn’t. 

Indeed, the Najib administration ignored the matter altogether. The heirs, their lawyers and Therium, smelling money in the air, didn’t.   

Putrajaya is now awake to the danger: the Malaysian  government may have assets in at least 165 countries and many of them are at risk of  seizure. It is  moving to set aside the award. 

It will be long and expensive, alas. And a lesson in the perils of retaliation. 

ENDS

A SNOWFLAKE’S CHANCE IN HELL 

You only lie to two people in your life, your girlfriend and the police – Jack Nicholson in Chinatown 

The Economist doesn’t mince its words. 

In an op-ed piece headlined “The toxicity of Boris Johnson,” it talked of a deadly toxin menacing “ministers and their party” and “chairing their meetings.” Apparently, Bojo was not only a toxin but a “serial liar,”  

No one should be surprised. As a rule, aren’t all politicians less than sparing with the truth? Donald Trump played so fast and loose with the truth that he even attempted the Big Lie: in the face of massive evidence to the contrary, he claimed that he’d won the 2020 Presidential elections. He still does.

And there are some segments of American society that believe him!

“You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free,” goes a famous Biblical saying. Not in Malaysia though. Instead, the truth made Fatboy flee, and Fearless Leader want to. This was, of course, after the results of Malaysia’s 2018 general election made it plain that their jig was up.  

Now Fearless is behaving as if Grand National Theft has been legalised, while the cheerfully flabby Felonious is apparently, attempting to “settle” with the Malaysian government, if recent news on an online news portal is to be believed.  

“The only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself,” observed Winston Churchill. Dr Mahathir was clearly a student of Churchill. Consider how he lauded the “success” of his heavy industrial projects of steel (Perwaja) and autos (Proton). 

The amount of money both projects cost the taxpayer is unclear, but they must surely run into the tens of billions. 

Dr M professed distaste for Anwar Ibrahim’s “moral misconduct” and it was the stated reason for sacking him as deputy premier in 1998. 

But the same distaste wasn’t evident a couple of years ago when Azmin Ali, Dr M’s blue-eyed boy then, was caught in a similar circumstance. 

Different strokes for different folks, it seems, is an acceptable hypocrisy in politics.

Fearless himself lied through his teeth between 2014 and 2018 every time he was questioned over 1MDB in Parliament. 

Everything was hunky dory with the agency, he assured Parliament. And no, Felonious had nothing whatsoever to do with the agency, he had no role in the company and that was the absolute truth, so help him God.  

His story changed after he was charged in court in 2018. Then, everything was the fault of Felonious. Or the directors. Or Goldman Sachs. Or the Arabs.

But not him. Never him. How could it be him? He’d been too busy being PM. 

He continues the fiction now. Unashamedly, would be the word to describe how he carries it off. Shameless, unblushing, unembarrassed, and brazen are others. 

Actually, Fearless comes across as the quintessential Umno politician.  Having deprived the Malaysian Treasury of more than the monies awarded to the heirs of Sultan of Sulu (RM69 billion), he continues to swagger about the Malaysian political stage as if he were a potential premier.

He’s got a snowflake’s chance in hell. 

Right?

ENDS