Malaysia: Anti-Najib protests escalate; Qatar, China interested in troubled fund 1MDB

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KL protesters car
Arrested protesters who took part in a rally against Prime Minister Najib Razak on August 1 in Kuala Lumpur.

Amidst a high-profile scandal about billions of ringgit allegedly siphoned off from state-owned investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Qatar and China have expressed an interest in the assets of the debt-laden fund.

1MDB, the center of several investigations over graft and its management of funds, is seeking to offload assets parked under its power unit Edra Global Energy Bhd, and sell developmental rights in its ambitious and expensive property projects in Kuala Lumpur.

Najib said Qatar’s Emir Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani had indicated that the Qatar Investment Authority was keen to view 1MDB assets and purchase land in its Bandar Malaysia project. The two leaders met in Malaysia on July 31. Najib also said China’s ambassador to Malaysia had expressed his country’s interest.The fund, whose advisory board is chaired by Najib, is looking to pare down $11 billion of debt. It has 14 power assets which could be worth up to $4.73 billion.Najib said the government has a plan to reduce 1MDB’s debt, but needs six months.

“We have a programme to reduce the debts of 1MDB, and the programme is viable. We have to give it time. I would say we need about six months,” he said.

Tenaga, Malaysia’s national power firm, said last month that it had submitted an indicative non-binding proposal to acquire the five domestic and eight international power assets of 1MDB’s power firm Edra Global.

Najib Razak standing
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Meanwhile, Najib has been “cleared” by Malaysia’s anticorruption agency which said on August 3 that 2.6 billion ringgit (approx. $680 million) were indeed deposited into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal account, but that the money was from a “donor contribution,” not from 1MDB as alleged.The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission didn’t say, however, who the donor was, nor the purpose of the contribution. Its officials didn’t immediately respond to further queries.

“Results of the investigation found that 2.6 billion ringgit alleged to have been deposited into an account belonging to the Prime Minister was a donor contribution and not from 1MDB,” the commission said in a statement.

Last week Najib dismissed four ministers and his deputy prime minister who had urged him to respond to the allegations involving the fund. He reshuffled his cabinet in a bid to shore up support. The man overseeing the parliamentary investigation into 1MDB, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Nur Jazlan Mohamed, was appointed deputy home minister and said he would therefore resign from his committee post, bringing the parliamentary probe to a halt at least until October when new PAC members are expected to be chosen.

Meanwhile, authorities in Kuala Lumpur have widened a crackdown on Najib’s critics, forcing the shutdown of newspapers and arresting several dozen people. On August 1, around 20 protesters were arrested at a demonstration calling the prime minister to step down or even to get arrested. Kuala Lumpur’s police chief warned that “stern action” would be taken against organisers and participants of “any rally in the city” and against those who are “spreading rumours that could undermine public order,” and offenders could be prosecuted under Section 505 of the Penal Code which provided for a maximum two-year jail term and/or a fine upon conviction.

Bukit Aman fire
A fire at the police headquarters in KL on July 29 destroyed only “unimportant documents,” police say.

Interestingly, a fire broke out on July 29 at the federal police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur’s Bukit Aman neighbourhood, and, of all things, between the 8th and the 10th floor of a building where files and documents related to economic crime cases are said to be kept. Speculations on social media followed that the fire could have been arson and an attempt to destroy documents related to 1MDB investigations. However, police quickly dismissed such speculations, calling them “rumours” and saying that only “unimportant documents and old paper” were destroyed and an investigation on the cause of the fire was ongoing. The city’s Fire and Rescue Department said that its own investigation report was confidential and not to be made public.

Meanwile, Malaysian opposition parties and activists are keeping up pressure on Najib.

“Malaysians and the world are watching the country being seized by a madness where the government is warring against itself,” said Lim Kit Siang, parliamentary leader from the Democratic Action Party.

“Such madness must stop and Malaysians must face up to one and only one issue – for the Prime Minister Najib Razak to convince Malaysians and the world of his innocence and moral authority to continue to lead Malaysia,” he added.

Even Najib’s party colleague in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and chief minister of Johor state Mohamed Khaled Nordin on August 3 said that the UMNO could “not keep quiet if corruption becomes a culture or trust is betrayed.”

“UMNO cannot keep quiet when the party no longer champions the cause of Malays but is instead used to defend a few under the name of loyalty or discipline in adhering to leaders,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

KL protesters
Another arrest of a protester in Kuala Lumpur last weekend.

Human Rights Watch called on US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Kuala Lumpur on August 4 for ASEAN meetings, to raise the topic with Najib.

“Secretary of State Kerry should publicly tell Prime Minister Najib that peaceful demonstrations are not detrimental to parliamentary democracy, speaking one’s mind is not sedition, and stymieing investigations into corruption will destroy a democracy, not save it,” Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Najib’s biggest critic, influential former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, also weighed in, questioning why a donation was made into his successor’s personal accounts.

“Not even a cent of donated funds for election was deposited into my account [during my time in office],” Mahathir said in a blog post.

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[caption id="attachment_26013" align="alignleft" width="300"] Arrested protesters who took part in a rally against Prime Minister Najib Razak on August 1 in Kuala Lumpur.[/caption] Amidst a high-profile scandal about billions of ringgit allegedly siphoned off from state-owned investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Qatar and China have expressed an interest in the assets of the debt-laden fund. 1MDB, the center of several investigations over graft and its management of funds, is seeking to offload assets parked under its power unit Edra Global Energy Bhd, and sell developmental rights in its ambitious and expensive property...

Reading Time: 4 minutes

KL protesters car
Arrested protesters who took part in a rally against Prime Minister Najib Razak on August 1 in Kuala Lumpur.

Amidst a high-profile scandal about billions of ringgit allegedly siphoned off from state-owned investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Qatar and China have expressed an interest in the assets of the debt-laden fund.

1MDB, the center of several investigations over graft and its management of funds, is seeking to offload assets parked under its power unit Edra Global Energy Bhd, and sell developmental rights in its ambitious and expensive property projects in Kuala Lumpur.

Najib said Qatar’s Emir Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani had indicated that the Qatar Investment Authority was keen to view 1MDB assets and purchase land in its Bandar Malaysia project. The two leaders met in Malaysia on July 31. Najib also said China’s ambassador to Malaysia had expressed his country’s interest.The fund, whose advisory board is chaired by Najib, is looking to pare down $11 billion of debt. It has 14 power assets which could be worth up to $4.73 billion.Najib said the government has a plan to reduce 1MDB’s debt, but needs six months.

“We have a programme to reduce the debts of 1MDB, and the programme is viable. We have to give it time. I would say we need about six months,” he said.

Tenaga, Malaysia’s national power firm, said last month that it had submitted an indicative non-binding proposal to acquire the five domestic and eight international power assets of 1MDB’s power firm Edra Global.

Najib Razak standing
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Meanwhile, Najib has been “cleared” by Malaysia’s anticorruption agency which said on August 3 that 2.6 billion ringgit (approx. $680 million) were indeed deposited into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal account, but that the money was from a “donor contribution,” not from 1MDB as alleged.The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission didn’t say, however, who the donor was, nor the purpose of the contribution. Its officials didn’t immediately respond to further queries.

“Results of the investigation found that 2.6 billion ringgit alleged to have been deposited into an account belonging to the Prime Minister was a donor contribution and not from 1MDB,” the commission said in a statement.

Last week Najib dismissed four ministers and his deputy prime minister who had urged him to respond to the allegations involving the fund. He reshuffled his cabinet in a bid to shore up support. The man overseeing the parliamentary investigation into 1MDB, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Nur Jazlan Mohamed, was appointed deputy home minister and said he would therefore resign from his committee post, bringing the parliamentary probe to a halt at least until October when new PAC members are expected to be chosen.

Meanwhile, authorities in Kuala Lumpur have widened a crackdown on Najib’s critics, forcing the shutdown of newspapers and arresting several dozen people. On August 1, around 20 protesters were arrested at a demonstration calling the prime minister to step down or even to get arrested. Kuala Lumpur’s police chief warned that “stern action” would be taken against organisers and participants of “any rally in the city” and against those who are “spreading rumours that could undermine public order,” and offenders could be prosecuted under Section 505 of the Penal Code which provided for a maximum two-year jail term and/or a fine upon conviction.

Bukit Aman fire
A fire at the police headquarters in KL on July 29 destroyed only “unimportant documents,” police say.

Interestingly, a fire broke out on July 29 at the federal police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur’s Bukit Aman neighbourhood, and, of all things, between the 8th and the 10th floor of a building where files and documents related to economic crime cases are said to be kept. Speculations on social media followed that the fire could have been arson and an attempt to destroy documents related to 1MDB investigations. However, police quickly dismissed such speculations, calling them “rumours” and saying that only “unimportant documents and old paper” were destroyed and an investigation on the cause of the fire was ongoing. The city’s Fire and Rescue Department said that its own investigation report was confidential and not to be made public.

Meanwile, Malaysian opposition parties and activists are keeping up pressure on Najib.

“Malaysians and the world are watching the country being seized by a madness where the government is warring against itself,” said Lim Kit Siang, parliamentary leader from the Democratic Action Party.

“Such madness must stop and Malaysians must face up to one and only one issue – for the Prime Minister Najib Razak to convince Malaysians and the world of his innocence and moral authority to continue to lead Malaysia,” he added.

Even Najib’s party colleague in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and chief minister of Johor state Mohamed Khaled Nordin on August 3 said that the UMNO could “not keep quiet if corruption becomes a culture or trust is betrayed.”

“UMNO cannot keep quiet when the party no longer champions the cause of Malays but is instead used to defend a few under the name of loyalty or discipline in adhering to leaders,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

KL protesters
Another arrest of a protester in Kuala Lumpur last weekend.

Human Rights Watch called on US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Kuala Lumpur on August 4 for ASEAN meetings, to raise the topic with Najib.

“Secretary of State Kerry should publicly tell Prime Minister Najib that peaceful demonstrations are not detrimental to parliamentary democracy, speaking one’s mind is not sedition, and stymieing investigations into corruption will destroy a democracy, not save it,” Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Najib’s biggest critic, influential former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, also weighed in, questioning why a donation was made into his successor’s personal accounts.

“Not even a cent of donated funds for election was deposited into my account [during my time in office],” Mahathir said in a blog post.

34 Page report covering Overview and Development, Islamic Finance, Innovation, Industrial Development & Energy, Hydrocarbons & Tourism


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