For decades now UMNO rule has represented the capture of Malaysia’s government by a corrupt cartel.
How else can one explain the unexplained wealth of all its politicians, encapsulated by its current president Zahid Hamidi, famous for his collection of ludicrously expensive Swiss watches, fleets of silly cars and flash lifestyle?
Zahid has been on trial for months for over 70 cases related to exploiting the trafficking of migrant workers by benefitting from the millions they are forced to pay through visas. He has been accused of taking bribes from the companies he appointed and then using a fake ‘foundation’ to cover up the process.
Let’s put it this way, Zahid’s lifelong salary as a politician simply could not have begun to cover the expenses of his royal lifestyle, so if this was not the source of his unexplained cash what was?
Of course, last week after months of jaw-dropping testimony in court, a high court judge dismissed half of those charges on the grounds that the witnesses giving the testimony against Zahid – his alleged co-conspirators who allegedly bribed him – were such an untrustworthy bunch they could not be relied upon to tell the truth.
The ‘moral’ of the story? Make sure you do your deals with people who are such crooks that judges cannot believe their word when they are produced to give evidence!
Meanwhile, Zahid continues to face a swathe of other similar criminal charges related to allegedly abusing his position to cream money out of the people of Malaysia and beyond. Yet, despite this ignominy, his party plainly sees no problem in keeping him as their chief representative as they push and harass for an election which they believe they can this time ‘win’.
After all, he represents them all as politicians who view their office primarily as the top business opportunity their country has to offer. Their decisions are for sale only, contracts are awarded in return for backhanders only, or, as in the case of their previous top dog Najib, projects and contracts are simply created as facades – an excuse to steal billions in ‘loans’ and ‘investments’ from the country’s pension and savings funds to plough into their own pockets.
Over just a few decades a wealthy country has seen all its treasures flogged off by these locusts, leaving hardship for the vast majority of people who could have benefitted from a careful and honest stewardship, and investment in resources, to attain comfortable and modern lives.
UMNO and their religion-peddling political allies from PAS hope that they have managed to keep the majority of Malaysians so poor and desperate that they will fail to notice or understand just how this happened, let alone come to realise that their difficulties have been caused by the theft and corruption of the elite, who offer ‘dedak’ at election time.
However, some matters cannot be concealed. These have included 1MDB, exposed as it was by the international community as the world’s biggest kleptocratic theft on record. The perpetrator being UMNO’s previous boss, Najib, who has been Zahid’s ally during their dogged campaign over the past few months to overturn the election result of 2018 and throw out the court cases against both men.
Najib’s crimes could not be covered up. No AG could drop the documented charges and no judge could ignore the solid evidence of vast theft. Thus, whilst the coup government has quietly moved to drop charges and cut deals with as many of their crooks as possible, the hierarchy of UMNO, with the notable exception of the deeply compromised Zahid himself, came to the conclusion that Najib must be ‘thrown under the bus’ (at least for a while) to satisfy an outraged public.
Put Najib in jail in order to show that UMNO has cleaned itself up, and then hold an election has been the logic of all concerned, including Ismail and his number two.
However, the fact that almost everyone in UMNO is a crook and threatened by each other has undermined this process from the start.
First to hit back has been the outraged Najib himself, determined that he is above the treatment of mere felons who steal to eat. Malaysia has been shamed and humiliated for the past whole two weeks by the disgraceful and self-pitying behaviour of its imprisoned kleptocrat, too pampered by life to tolerate even two days incarcerated in the manner he has inflicted on countless others with far less guilt.
His dreadful, wailing daughter, who has swapped her mini-shorts for gowns and veils, has led a sanctimonious campaign claiming ‘medical emergencies’ to get her father out of his cell and back into five star accommodation to suit his sense of self.
After all, whilst other students mucked in, the precious Nooryana wafted round her campus in the US accompanied by two bodyguards at all times, courtesy of the Malaysian taxpayer whom she thinks should continue to also fork out for Dad.
And, the UMNO prime minister has plainly caved. Despite the protests of outraged prison officials and hospital doctors, who all say Najib is as fit as a flea, leaked papers now confirmed by the admissions of government ministers, show the precious prima dona has been given all the Rolls Royce treatment he demanded.
Citing non-existent ‘high blood pressure’ (apparently caused by constriction within a cell) the dandy prisoner Najib has been moved to a sports rehabilitation centre to enjoy all the care and attention of a recovering athlete plus doubtless facilities to boot.
Not only has the UMNO leadership permitted this disgraceful compromise in return for not providing Najib with the instant and unconstitutional ‘pardon’ the kleptocrat clearly thinks that he deserves bang in advance of an election, but it has also released a staggering RM3.5 million to invest in Najib’s prison accommodation to bring it up to ‘scratch’.
After all, air-con, internet, en-suite bathrooms, soft designer furnishings, servants quarters, gym, cooking facilities, guest accommodation and all the rest – they cost! And unless Najib gets them he clearly won’t shut up.
And, the rest of the UMNO crooks beneath him need him to shut up as they seek to get the rest of their team back off the hook from their own criminal activities and present a ‘cleaned up party’ before Ismail Sabri tries to bluff electors.
As Najib was being smoothed over by blandishments and secret concessions in the course of last week a further astonishing slate of charges were being dropped against yet more of the party’s most egregious alleged offenders as Ismail worked his utmost to pull his gang of crooks together for that election fight.
His tame AG, placed in position immediately following the Sheraton Coup in order to start dismantling charges against UMNO crooks, moved to further release two more on the same day as Zahid’s ‘good news’. Employing the favoured ‘Discharge not Amounting to Acquittal’ the top Najib crony and Tabung Haji raider, Abdul Azeez, was set free on a raft of money laundering charges relating to road projects he had raided, but which the government will no longer prosecute him over.
Likewise, and on the same day, the appalling foul mouth, Bung Moktar, and his wife were also let off the hook (but not on the grounds of innocence) for accepting over RM2 million in bribes over FELCRA projects – again money taken from the poor.
This after a dozen other charged corrupted UMNO politicians have quietly already had their charges dropped over the preceding months by the same team at the new AG’s office.
Ismail’s strategy is to have thereby, hopefully, mollified both these war lords and their allies plus Zahid and indeed Najib as he struggles to achieve unity within his rivalling corrupted ranks to face the electorate.
The altogether unconvincing message will be that at the same time UMNO corruption has been dealt with.
It will be as hard a message to impart as seeking to convince voters that the equally wealthy and ostentatious leaders of their allies from PAS, who represents some of the poorest areas of Malaysia, are all of them modest holy men with not a material objective in sight!