Since Najib has engineered a visit to the United States he must be innocent of the charges relating to 1MDB, or so says Minister Salleh Keruak, who specialises in bonkers logic on behalf of his boss.
Expect plenty more of Najib’s cheerleaders to latch on to the same theme over coming days. It is why the visit is so important to Najib.
There has been another more sinister development, which many are speculating might be related, namely the mysterious shooting incident in the compound of the house of the former AG (the man who drew up charges against Najib) wounding his personal driver yesterday.
There has long been a deluge of deliberate disinformation and a distinct whiff of deliberate intimidation around the investigation into this massive scandal, which points directly to the top in Malaysia – to ‘Malaysian Official One’, who controlled 1MDB and received much of the stolen money straight into his personal KL bank account.
After all, there can be no mistaking that Najib is ‘MO1′ as described in the court filings by the US Department of Justice.
So, why has the Trump administration agreed to sanction Najib’s request to visit on the eve of his planned election bid in October/November, just as the DOJ has confirmed that it continuing its criminal investigations into this the largest recorded kleptocracy case ever undertaken? Is this not especially so given the DOJ specifically expressed concern earlier this month about the intimidation of potential key witnesses: like, for example, Malaysia’s former AG?
We have already been shown how the visit will be used, which is no surprise. So, whose bright idea was it?
There is a possibility that Najib’s heavily funded lobbying delivered on its promises and that the right people were paid to suggest the cheery invitation. After all, Obama played golf with Najib after his own trusted fundraiser netted half a million ringgit from 1MDB. There is also a possibility that the President’s family companies might have interests to be stroked in Najib’s neck of the woods, Malaysians know all about those sorts of maneouvres.
However, there are also geopolitical issues which the US are doubtless interested in raising with strategically placed Malaysia: just a week ago a US warship suffered a collision in the tight sea lanes of the Malaysian section of the South China Sea, which will have drawn the President’s attention to the right place on the map at least.
Malaysia has become more of a negative for the US under Najib. The State Department and Pentagon will be aware that the PM has started cosying up politically to China, whilst stamping on democracy at home. He has also been allowing all manner of Chinese military incursions into ASEAN waters and opening Malaysia up to China’s infrastructure expansionism and investment.
This has all been linked to 1MDB, of course, since Najib needs Chinese cash to get him out of the economic hole it has driven Malaysia into. Having created all these problems and destabilised ASEAN in this way, the Prime Minister reckons he can now bring his problems to Trump and ask to be let off the 1MDB investigation. In return he presumably promises he will swing back to working with America.
There may be US advisors who say why not? Who cares if Malaysians have to put up with a crooked monster, whom we are propping up for our own short-term strategic interests? We did it with Suharto, Marcos, Noriega and plenty of other nasty dictators, whilst preaching freedom and democracy for ourselves back home. Such voices should be reminded that all those alliances back-fired (given these fellows’ unpopularity) and 1MDB has been linked to direct money-laundering violations in the United States.
Malaysia is facing an imminent election where most people have already demonstrated they would like to vote for someone else, who is without Najib’s baggage and who is also friendly to the United States, namely Anwar Ibrahim (although someone will have to stand in for the opposition leader, since the ciminally implicated Najib has shoved him in jail on spurious charges of being gay).
So, whilst it may be tempting to prop up Najib, others will rightly argue that it would be a moral and strategic error. Najib is a lame duck and will taint anyone who backs him.
He might even ask the US to throw that $3.5 billion plus whopping interest payments he owes into the bargain. After all, by agreeing to pay back IPIC, he has admitted 1MDB does owe it and will have to find all that money. Presently, Najib has written the payments into a crooked inflated contract cooked up between the wanted criminal Jho Low and the Chinese construction company CCCC to build the East Coast Railway – the US will want that stopped.
But, morality apart, why should America let Najib off the hook, let alone pay off those debts? What leverage would that bring? The best Najib ought to hope for is that the US don’t mention MO1 by name until after the election, so that people like Salleh Keruak can carry on lying and pretending that it doesn’t refer to him.
Najib may try to further bargain by offering support over North Korea, in return for a slow-down of the DOJ investigations. Might the Pentagon like that? However, Najib’s record so far has been to nurture one of the closest relationships that North Korea has had with any country in recent years with special trading ties and immigration agreements. North Korean slave labour has even been used by BN crony companies, under deals to take their prisoners, all thanks to Malaysia’s special ties with that odious regime.
Even less impressive, when the brother of the ‘Supreme Leader’ was murdered in broad daylight by his operatives in KL International airport, Najib (after a bit of outrage for the media) let the orchestrators slip quietly out through the Embassy and back home, in accordance with China and North Korea’s wishes.
Najib has also teamed up with another set of players, which Americans and particularly Trump neither like nor trust, namely radical Islamists within his own country.
This is in direct contravention of his attempt to build an image as a ‘global moderate’. For example, Najib has poured money into PAS Islamic Party managed madrassas in recent years, regarded as a breeding ground for division and intolerance.
The main purpose of this and his other gestures supporting Hudud law has been the rupturing of the opposition alliance. However, it shows the price that Najib was willing to pay to claw on to his hold on power. His influence has split up the once far more balanced PAS party, driving all the moderates and secular elements out. Now he is just one step away from a formal alliance with the remaining rump of clerical extremists, who preach in favour of Sharia law and an Islamic State throughout the network of mosques and madrassas that Najib has started funding in return for these hardliners’ tactical support.
The truth is that the genuine and long-term interests of the United States actually coincide with those of most ordinary Malaysians. Like them, America would be better off with Najib gone and a democratically-elected, clean and reformist government in charge over in KL.
If the Trump administration plays other games and moves to prop up Najib (who is also promoted by a number of vested British business interests) the majority of Malaysians will not thank them. That step would also deliver a major and very public blow to America’s moral authority in the world as a champion of the rule of law – all in return for little genuine gain when it comes to Najib Razak.