Dear Jonathan Marland,
You are a businessman, of the sort that donates a couple of hundred thousand to the Tory Party and then gets made a Lord. You had a go at being a working minister, but soon resigned in order to get back to business and making more money.
But, you kept your place in the House of Lords – after all it impresses people and you paid for it.
Yesterday, you used your title to the hilt, in order to lend a badge of official respectability to what was an entirely unofficial visit by Malaysia’s disgraced PM to the UK, where, thanks to your invitation, he butted into trade talks. After all, you are a Jardine and Matheson man, so doubtless plenty of business to be done in that part of the world for you.
This is what the UK government’s own Department of Business had earlier briefed journalists, who had enquired about Najib Razak’s advertised presence at the conference, which you were hosting:
“Lord Price [Trade Minister] is speaking at the Malaysia-UK investment showcase on Monday
· The event will discuss the importance of the UK-Malaysia economic relationship and the need to work together to open up business opportunities, therefore it is relevant that the Trade Minister attends
· We understand the Malaysian PM will be travelling to London on a private visit – not a guest of government visit – and that he will also speak at the event
· There are no plans for the Trade Minister and Malaysian Prime Minister to meet”
So, the British government was well aware of the awkwardness of this situation, made worse by the fact that the forum was being held in the very same venue that last week hosted its anti-corruption conference, Marlborough House.
With the above statement they delivered a fairly resounding snub to the present Malaysian Prime Minister, whilst attempting to show that the UK remains a friend of Malaysia itself.
Not only did Lord Price deliberately make a show of steering clear of Najib, but his two more senior colleagues, the Foreign Secretary, Phillip Hammond and Business Secretary, Sajid Jarvid both pulled out of their anticipated presence at the opening of the conference, where the key note address was to be given by Najib!
Take a look at the original conference plan, which the two Ministers made clear two days beforehand neither would not be attending after all:
The reason, of course, as any person who reads the political and financial pages of any newspaper will now know, is that Najib is a man under intense personal scrutiny for his plainly unacceptable financial dealings.
It is, moreover, obvious that he is using this foreign trip largely as a means to avoid facing his own Parliament, sitting for just two weeks over the exact same period as his absence.
Yet, when questioned as the facilitator and host of this face-saving exercise for a publicly exposed corrupt political leader, you answered that you didn’t know, or that if you did know you didn’t care and finally that anyway, you claimed (incorrectly) tat there is “nothing proved so far”.
It was, it must be said, a wholly self-daming performance for the watchers of Channel 4 News in the UK and around the world:
This is how you played ignorant to begin with, when questioned on the matter by British journalists from Channel 4 News last night – you hadn’t a clue you said!
“Well, I am uncertain about that particular issue [the US$681 million transferred into Najib’s private account] I am not versed on it….
– (Ch4 Jonathan Rugman) Don’t you think you should be?
“Well, that’s your opinion not mine, my view is that we are here to do business..
– But, just last week the Commonwealth had an anti-corruption conference at this very building…
“Yes, indeed I spoke at it!
– You spoke at it, yet here you are hosting a Prime Minister of a country who is widely accused of being corrupt?
“Well, you are accusing the Prime Minister, not the country.. which is a totally different thing”
Malaysian’s, who deal with corruption issues every day might take issue with you on this matter. However Your Grace was already moving on to a very different set of excuses:
– (Ch4) Well Swiss investigators are looking into…
“They are looking into it, they haven’t as far as I understand come up with any conclusion [oh yes, they have – they have concluded that at least US$4 billion was stolen from 1MDB] I think people are innocent until they are proven guilty…”
Except, now you are a politician, Lord Marland, you surely ought to know that when in public office, someone does not expect to remain until tried and convicted of a major crime before standing down.
Najib has been forced to admit (after first denying it) that he accepted over US$681 million into his personal account from a source he claims was a Saudi donor, but has provided not a shred of evidence to substantiate that claim.
Neither has he explained why it should be acceptable for him to receive a billion dollars from a foreign leader, even if he had (as opposed to having stolen it from 1MDB, which is what the whole of Malaysia understandably believes).
He has also been forced to admit to acquiring another RM60 million plus, which was diverted from public money borrowed from the 1MDB subsidiary, SRC International, into his private accounts and spent on luxury living via his credit cards.
He says he didn’t realise where the money had arrived from or that it was not his – and he unconstitutionally sacked the Attorney General in order to stop being prosecuted over the matter. He also closed down all the four investigations that were being conducted into 1MDB’s missing money at the same time.
So, Lord Marland, do you really think it is acceptable that Najib Razak should continue to remain in office and be treated as a respected international politician, until proven guilty in a Malaysian court?
Do you think it would be considered possible to take such a position in the UK, if it were David Cameron, who had been discovered with such a bunch of billion dollar irregularities surrounding his accounts – particularly at a time when the Swiss AG has declared that US$4 billion has gone missing from a public fund, which this Prime Minister controls and the Malaysian Auditor General has further calculated that the total missing from 1MDB is actually US$7 billion?
If you are waiting for Mr Najib Razak to be convicted in a Malaysian court, after he has moved to sack his previous AG, who had brought charges on the matter; sacked several of his critical senior cabinet ministers, including his Deputy Head of UMNO; stopped the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission investigation into the matter; ignored the Central Bank’s demands that money be returned; refused cooperation with foreign investigators; arrested and detained numerous critics and civil society protestors; introduced punitive new laws to silence critics and prevent demonstrations; slapped sedition charges on record numbers of people, who have queried the matter; arrested several officers and officials who had been investigating the issue; made the Auditor General’s report an official secret; doctored the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee report; threatened the independence of the Malaysian Bar, which questioned the constitutionality of the above actions and lied about the role of the main prosecutor on the case, who was kidnapped and brutally murdered, then, Lord Marland, it purely remains for us to enquire as to who your next guest might be?
Robert Mugabe perhaps? or maybe one of those near Eastern dictators, who have so much access to ready money to tempt eager British businessmen, who like to pose as civilised examples to the world at large?
Editor, Sarawak Report