Saturday, May 9, 2015

1MDB goes to hereafter, will Najib’s reign follow?

10:50AM May 9, 2015
By RK Anand

COMMENT Man overboard!

False alarm. It is just Muhyiddin Yassin abandoning the Bugis vessel, leaving the captain to navigate through the troubled waters on his own. Expect others to follow as it comes down to the stark choice of swim or sink.

When news of the Tabung Haji land deal with 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) erupted, the deputy prime minister, who hitherto was on a soft mode, cranked up the volume.

He blamed the controversy revolving around the debt-laden firm for Umno's defeat in the Permatang Pauh by-election.

Clearly, the wisest thing for Umno to do at this juncture is to distance itself from 1MDB and its president, Najib Abdul Razak. After all, collective responsibility is not for politicians. Pin the blame on one man and watch him burn is their survival motto.

So forget ‘Wolf of Wall Street’, the wolves in Umno are starting to howl.

The pilgrimage fund was set up by the government to help Muslims save money to perform the Haj - a religious obligation for the faithful.

Of all financial institutions, Tabung Haji, in the eyes of a Muslim Malaysian, is the most sacrosanct and to misuse the hard-earned savings of the pious poor is an unpardonable sin.

Throw in a hard-partying, champagne-drinking Chinese business tycoon like Jho Low, a couple of diamond rings and exclusive handbags as well as luxury watches into the mix, and it becomes a recipe for disaster.

Since the spotlight fell on 1MDB last year, the issue failed to gain traction among rural Malays, who form the bedrock of Umno's support.

Even Dr Mahathir Mohamad, one of 1MBD’s fiercest critics, acknowledged that the issue did not affect votes in Tuesday’s Rompin by-election.

To the simple-minded, the 1MDB allegations involved funds in the ‘Here’, and there were just too many numbers and calculations to digest.

But the Tabung Haji fiasco bounds to change all that. It is now about funds related to the ‘Hereafter’.

There is no complex arithmetic to deal with but the simple issue of perception - that the government is sticking its fingers into a hallowed coffer.

Getting difficult to defend Najib

Even Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin expressed concern about Tabung Haji's involvement with 1MDB.

As one of the most popular Muslim scholars in the nation, his views are bound to set tongues wagging in the Malay heartlands.

In expressing his disdain over the land deal, Mahathir questioned the way Tabung Haji used public money entrusted to it.

"Contributors hope that their money with Tabung Haji would be managed for their good but the money is being used to rescue 1MDB, which has lost billions of ringgit,” he lamented in his blog yesterday.

Following the latest revelation, the task for Umno to defend its president has gone from "difficult" to "arduous". Some might even claim that the needle is pointing at "impossible".

Expect Mahathir to further rile up the Malays and Muslims over the issue. He will paint the towns and villages red with the claim that as far as the current administration is concerned, nothing is sacred.

The opposition, too, will add several more coats of bright red, alleging that for Umno, value takes precedence over values.

As for Najib, he better start scouting for the fire exit in Seri Perdana because a mob might come knocking on his front door demanding for a head or two to roll.

And so the crystal ball foretells that the sixth prime minister might not survive his sixth year in office.

Instead of following the footsteps of his valiant Bugis forefathers and sail through a turbulent storm, Najib should have opted to take the safer crooked bridge route instead.

Then again, he might just decide to fight until the end and this could prove Mahathir's prediction true - Umno will be vanquished in the next polls.

RK ANAND is a member of the Malaysiakini team.

~ Malaysiakini

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