Malaysia’s PM Najib Hangs On

But it’s unsure for how long as intraparty forces coalesce against him

Malaysia appears almost in a state of suspended animation – on the surface – over allegations on July 3 by the Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report that the state-backed investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd had directed nearly US$700 million into Prime Minister Najib’s personal accounts prior to the 2013 election.

“We have never had a disclosure like this before,” said Ambiga Sreenavasan, the former head of the Malaysia Bar Council, who is an increasingly influential figure in the opposition. “We would expect some response, that there would be a complete statement. Everybody is waiting to see what is going to happen.”

One well-placed Kuala Lumpur lawyer said bringing down the prime minister is a long shot. He has survived a decade of scandals as defense minister and prime minister and “Malaysia has a huge carpet and there are a lot of bumps under it. This is going to be a bigger bump than before. But it’s still a bump under the carpet.”

Others disagree. The slow drip of support away from Najib within his United Malays National Organization, while not public, is increasing as party leaders grow deeply worried that the massive corruption revolving around the revelations will destroy the party’s 60-year hold on power. But despite growing and widespread anger throughout the country, the opposition has been torn apart by dissent and there appears no unified opposition that could bring it down.

Muhyiddin Yassin, the 68-year-old UMNO Deputy President and Deputy Prime Minister who has been waging a behind-the-scenes campaign allied with former Premier Mahathir Mohamad, is said by friends to be increasingly confident that “the Teflon prime minister,” as one source said, is facing growing certainty that he will be forced to stand down.

If Najib does go, and Muhyiddin displaces him with Mahathir at his back, the outlook is probably ominous for those closest to the prime minister, particularly Khairy Jamaluddin, the son-in-law of former Premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who Mahathir also disposed, at least partly because he was so angered by what he felt was Khairy’s use of his influence as the man closest to Badawi’s. When Badawi fell, Khairy, out of favor for a time, managed to maneuver close to Najib and in effect became one of the prime minister’s closest advisors. Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, is also likely to become a target.

“This time it’s different [from previous scandals],” a source with close ties to the party said. “This time there is evidence that the money went into [Najib’s] account. That is against the law. The party leaders know that.”

Malaysia’s PM Najib Hangs On
July 6, 2015 – Asia Sentinel
By John Berthelsen


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