Today, Tuesday, David Cameron attends a conference in Singapore condemning corruption.
The British Prime Minister has made the issue of rooting out global corruption one of his key platforms as a world leader. He is absolutely right to do so, which is why he should not then carry on to visit Malaysia on this occasion, just as Najib Razak has carried out a shocking strike against all those who have questioned his own corruption.
Sarawak Report wholeheartedly agrees with Mr Cameron that corruption is without question one of the most dangerous forces threatening liberty and prosperity in our modern world and it has been growing exponentially.
Corruption begins at the top and works downward through societies, making it extremely hard to counter before it has done immense damage to the rule of law and well being of the people.
It then spreads outwards to other countries.
Malaysia, for example, has become notorious as the nexus for world timber corruption, with Sarawak-based companies causing havoc across the world’s remaining forest regions with their well-established practice of finding who in power can be bribed into allowing the destruction of their own country’s natural resource.
Cameron will himself point out in today’s Singapore speech how corruption has caused problems for his native London, as dirty money from across the globe has poured into the city, pushing property prices skywards and making it virtually impossible for Britain’s own upstanding citizens to live in their capital city.
Sarawak Report has referred to the problem regularly and pointed out how one of the world’s biggest investors in London property are none other than Malaysians.
How come, we have asked, has this small country of little apparent wealth managed to top the league in recent years for property investment in London, followed by Singapore?
In 2013, Malaysia and Singapore were the top two investors in London property, spending more than UK citizens themselves. Did this, we asked, have anything to do with so-called ‘capital flight’ (siphoning of corrupt money) in advance of GE 2013, in case BN lost (which it nearly did)?
And yet, Mr Cameron was happy to pose that year outside Battersea Power Station, which had been bought and is now being developed by the Malaysian government-owned Sime Darby, which has been one of the biggest players in the criminal destruction of Sarawak’s native lands in the grab for timber and planting of oil palm.
Sime Darby has been moving into African timber areas latterly and has been condemned in those countries for similar criminal practices there.
Cameron is more than right to take his stand against corruption, but he needs to be extremely careful not to be caught out being hypocritical about it. That is the danger of pointing out sin in others, even if it needs to be done.
When Cameron’s plan to include Malaysia in this South East Asia visit was drawn up at the start of this month, Sarawak Report wrote to the UK Foreign Office and High Commission in Malaysia to warn against it.
We pointed out that Malaysia is currently undergoing a political crisis where the very integrity of the man in charge, the Prime Minister, is in question.
We pointed out that Najib Razak has found himself unable to answer basic questions about the theft of billions of dollars from the 1MDB development fund, which he is personally in charge of and that he had equally been unable to answer why USD700 million of 1MDB related money had been traced into his own bank account.
Sarawak Report explained in its letter that to visit Mr Najib Razak in such circumstances would be seen in the eyes of Malaysians as giving this tainted Prime Minister a vote of international confidence and support by a respected friendly nation, with close historical and cultural ties.
He should not do that at this critical time, when what has been left uncorrupted in the Malaysian leadership and institutions are struggling to deal with this massive problem of high level malfeasance.
Najib Razak, having failed to give a proper account over very many months of his actions over 1MDB has nevertheless indicated that the money that went into his account just before GE 2013 was “not for personal use”.
The acknowledgement has been widely understood to imply that this money was taken by him out of the public development fund in order to illegally bankroll BN’s election victory.
Staggeringly, such is the level of morality to which BN has sunk, in the Prime Minister’s own eyes this apparently serves as an excuse.
Indeed, when Sarawak Report exposed similar looting by the Sabah State Minister, Musa Aman (who passed a hundred million dollars of timber kickbacks into his personal accounts) the Federal authorities likewise let him off, because of his assurance that he had only been using the money to illegally rig the local elections.
For what it’s worth, we had in fact shown that Musa had put a good deal of this cash to his personal use, like educating his sons in Australia. But, Najib took no action against him and clearly expects that he too should be let off on the same grounds.
However, Najib has been rightly condemned throughout Malaysia by upstanding people of all political persuasions, races, colours and religions for doing what each of us know to be very wrong.
Even the much revered former strongman of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir himself, of Najib’s own UMNO party has turned against his former protege over 1MDB and has condemned this open admission of illegal funding in 2013 – going so far as to rightly say that it de-legitimises the result of GE 2013, meaning that Najib’s government has no legal status!
We all know what Najib’s response to any such concerns has been. He has outrageously abused his judicial influence in order to drive the opposition leader (who got more votes than him at the election despite the rigging and gerrymandering) into jail.
Najib met the man who was to accuse Anwar the day before he made that accusation in his own house. Then, when the High Court threw out the case for lack of evidence it was Najib who astonishingly ordered an appeal against the acquittal!
So, is Cameron prepared to wade into this crisis at its very height and give an endorsement to this self-proclaimed ‘moderate Muslim democrat’ Najib Razak, just because he has some jets to sell? (we will come back to the matter of these jets).
If so, so much, the world will say, for Cameron’s words against corruption, because it is actions that count.
Consider the absolute gravity of the present moment of this crisis and the crucial aspect of the next 24 hours, during which Mr Cameron’s last minute, snap decision visit is to be made.
Sarawak Report has itself been accused of interfering in Malaysia’s internal affairs by Najib’s own supporters, merely by exercising the right of a free press. We have investigated 1MDB and exposed (along with other brave local journalists and also international papers) the shocking corruption that has outraged the Malaysian public and is now putting Najib under pressure.
In response, Najib has acted to shut us up, as well as Malaysia’s own most respected business paper The Edge, by illegally barring our site from the internet and illegally removing the printing licence of The Edge.
Today, in the face of an aghast public he has taken a further shocking step and sought to shut up his own internal party critics in the same manner.
In a desperate but ruthless attempt to save his own skin, he has conducted the first cabinet reshuffle of his entire career, purely with the objective of removing his critics over this matter of personal corruption and the stolen billions from 1MDB.
Najib has today booted out his own Deputy Prime Minister, who had taken on the role as the most senior member of his cabinet to speak out about Malaysia’s concerns at Najib’s apparent grand corruption.
Remember, Mr Cameron, that Najib has been clinging to his posts against Cabinet advice, instead of taking a holiday over the past few weeks, purely on the excuse that he needs to be there in KL to honour your state visit!
You will be arriving to meet a government where the Deputy PM and four of the cabinet’s other most upstanding senior members have just been sacked for expressing concern over corruption at 1MDB.
You will be greeted by a new Deputy PM, retaining a dual role as Home Minister, who has been publicly announcing that he is looking to have the UK citizen who writes Sarawak Report arrested and extradited by his “friends in Scotland Yard”, because he reckons she has “interfered” in the politics of Malaysia by exposing what everyone knows to be the truth about corruption.
By agreeing to publicly meet with these people you are going to be making a statement that everyone in Malaysia will register as an endorsement of the disgraceful actions that Najib has just taken to protect himself from criticism over corruption and equal endorsement of such threats against a British journalist going about an honest job.
Is that taking a stand against corruption? And is this not the ultimate form of political interference you could possibly make in the domestic affairs of Malaysia to visit it right now?
All to sell some jets?
Consider the other illegal actions that the Malaysian Prime Minister has just taken in this past 24 hours of long knives preceding your visit.
Having spent months insisting that Malaysia waits and does nothing whilst the various ‘task forces’ investigate the allegations over 1MDB, the Prime Minister has now unconstitutionally sacked the key leaders of those task forces.
His announcement this morning that the Attorney General is to be dismissed owing to his “ill health” surprised the AG as much as anyone else, it has been confirmed. Gani Paital had been due to retire anyway in October, but told enquirers he is perfectly well.
It is unconstitutional under Malaysian law to sack the AG in this manner.
Likewise, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, which has been conducting enquiries into the 1MDB matter with sober diligence, constrained as they are by the secrecy demanded of the Prime Minister, Nur Jazlan, has today been sacked.
Jazlan has made clear in recent weeks that he has resisted offers of promotion from the Prime Minister in return for resigning from the PAC.
It is clear to all concerned that Najib wants a tame Chairman, who can then be used to dumb down the work of the PAC, stop asking for the relevant witnesses to appear (Jho Low and Nik Kamil and others having gone into hiding abroad and the two CEO’s having so far refused to turn up at their appointed hearings).
Najib patently wants the new Chairman to also sack the DAP member of the committee. Tony Pua, who is one of the brightest politicians in Malaysia and who commands a lethally forensic knowledge of the issues relating to 1MDB.
Najib’s men want Tony out before they start having to answer questions about what happened at 1MDB – and the PM is readily obliging them.
Does not this series of actions over the past 24 hours contrast mightily with Najib’s own words just yesterday when he told the Deputy Prime Minister:
“The investigation [into 1MDB] is ongoing and we should give those involved space to perform their duties.
“Therefore, all parties – especially those from the government, including Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin – should wait for the findings of the investigation to be released.”
So much for giving those investigators “space” – because he realised he could no longer control these investigators, Najib within hours has sacked them instead.
Who is next on the list the public are asking? The Head of the Central Bank Negara, who is also one of the leading members of the former Task Force set up by the Prime Minister himself?
Maybe also the IGP (Inspector General of Police) who has been a key defender of the PM/FM, but who on the other hand has been rather sitting on the fence, given the growing number of arrest warrants that have been issued against people related to 1MDB?
Indeed, Sarawak Report has learnt from insiders that the anonymous ‘Dato’ arrested yesterday was none other than Abdul Azeez, Rosmah Mansor’s crony chairman of the Tabung Haji pilgrim fund, which was raided earlier this year in order to settle 1MDB’s debt repayments (through a ludicrously over-priced land deal).
With Dato Azeez being so close to Rosmah it is likely that his detention will have caused the eruption of a particular well known political volcano in Malaysia – that of the temper of the first lady.
These dramatic, ruthless, extreme and downright petulant measures against everybody and everything currently troubling the all powerful first couple has all the hallmarks of a Rosmah Mansor strike.
After all, it was Rosmah who was in communication with Azeez, guiding and controlling his statements and decisions, during the Tabung Haji crisis…. has she decided in blind rage that enough is enough and it is time for a total round-up?
Are all these senior leaders of Malaysia’s institutions to be thus sacked and replaced by yes men in order to protect the corruption at 1MDB and Najib?
In which case, the corruption and destruction of the rule of law in Malaysia will have been completed.
Is this worth endorsing by Britain just in the hope of selling some Typhoon Jets Mr Cameron?
Mr Cameron’s advisors should have told him how little prospect there really is for selling jets to bankrupt Malaysia right now.
Cameron has not been shy to acknowledge that trade is basically what this South East Asia trip has been all about. He wants to come back to Britain boasting of an order sheet and to thumb his nose at Europe, reminding it that Britain looks global not merely local when it comes to trade and contacts.
Good for him, but rightly he has also pointed out that trade should promote honesty, liberty and progress – not corruption.
Malaysia is facing a plunging ringgit and debts it can’t pay thanks to 1MDB and other rampant corruption in high places, which has pillaged the country’s institutions for years – till now much of the looting has been covered up, but now the unravelling has begun there is far worse to find out about.
Just yesterday, Sarawak Report exposed how the purchases of hundreds of millions of US dollars worth of diamonds and precious jewellery for Najib’s wife Rosmah have been financed by none other than the shady billionaire friend of Najib, Jho Low, the man behind all the dodgy dealings at 1MDB. How come?
What is clear is that all this has brought Malaysia economically to its knees.
So, unnecessary jets aren’t really on the agenda, although doubtless Najib will be keen to make polite promises, which he can’t keep on the matter.
Meanwhile, it is dishonest of Britain to make the argument that the combatting of Islamic extremism such as ISIS in the Middle East demands more fighter jets for places like Malaysia.
What will combat extremism is the investment that is needed in better infrastructure and civil projects.
What’s more, the force which has been most promoting extremism in Malaysia over the past several months and years has been Najib’s own secretive funding of ‘NGO’s” like ISMA and Perkasa, which have made it their business to stir up religious fundamentalism and hatred.
Najib’s reason? Pure political cynicism, since it has served his purpose to radicalise PAS thereby breaking up the opposition coalition. This move has succeeded, but at what a price to the peace of Malaysian society and at what risk as fundamentalism spreads its canker.
Britain should not turn a blind eye to Najib’s dangerous games with extremism any more than his corruption.
Malaysia’s defence procurement has been historically riddled with corruption from the Scorpene submarine deals to its aviation purchases and Britain’s embarrassing “arms for aid” brush over the Pergau Dam.
And guess who has been the Defence Minister concerned over most of the years concerned? None other than the current Prime Minister who is so busy sacking everyone right now for criticising corruption at 1MDB.
It was Najib who presided over the vast kickbacks over the French Scorpene deal, which went into an account beneficially owned by his personally appointed “negotiator” Razak Baginda.
And, as all Malaysia knows, it was Najib’s own personal bodyguards who so brutally murdered the girlfriend of Baginda, who was threatening to squeal on that deal if she didn’t get a cut.
Everyone in Malaysia knows about the shocking cover-ups surrounding the Altantuya case, a woman blown into smitherenes by weapons grade C4 explosive by Najib’s bodyguards who are currently facing a death sentence, after a court case where the motive was never explored or explained.
Does Britain want to get into another deal like that one to sell a few more Typhoon Jets, or should Mr Cameron discover pressing domestic developments tomorrow and fly straight back home instead?