Former law minister Zaid Ibrahim is simply not convinced that cabinet members are in the dark with regard to how funds from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) were utilised for Umno's benefit in the last general election.
Zaid said Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's cabinet colleagues should not pretend they don’t know how money from the state investment fund helped them to win in the last general election.
"Why do you think Najib had frequent closed-door briefings with Umno leaders on 1MDB?" Zaid queried in a blog posting yesterday.
"They (cabinet members) cannot feign surprise that Najib had so much cash, not when they gleefully accept his largesse from time to time, without asking any questions.
"They have kissed his hands and failed to express any unhappiness with his generosity."
Zaid also pointed out how there were no cries from the cabinet members about wanting to find out from where this money came from.
His remarks come afterThe Wall Street Journal, quoting local investigators scrutinising 1MDB had traced nearly US$700 million that has been deposited into Najib's personal bank accounts.
In his blog posting earlier, Zaid had said he believes Najib would be "pushed out" by his own friends in Umno.
Labelling this as both an "irony and a tragedy", Zaid pointed out that Najib had merely done what other Umno leaders had done in the past, which was to give Umno members money to pay for elections and to secure their loyalty to him.
However, stressing that he was not condoning what Najib had done, Zaid said corruption and abuse of power were not acceptable, under any circumstance.
Najib’s fault was that he got carried away and became careless.
"He wants those who have benefited from his 'generosity' to acknowledge his position as a leader who personally handed out money to his troops, which is why he needed the funds funnelled into his personal accounts.
"He wants the Umno troops to be beholden to him and to remember him, now that he’s in trouble. In the next few weeks, we will find out if the money was enough to secure their loyalty and support," Zaid said.
A new prime minister?
Acknowledging that Najib could continue telling the public that all the allegations were mere lies perpetrated by his enemies, Zaid thinks Najib should instead start focusing on his "mutinous" troops.
"He has two years to placate the public but he may have just weeks to deal with his Umno colleagues. If he has his priorities right, he might survive longer, but if he loses focus, the momentum to unseat him will be too strong for him to overcome," he said.
And the country might then have a new prime minister.
As to whether Najib's departure would put a stop to the "money-making ventures", Zaid is doubtful, saying that these activities let Umno benefit from government projects.
"In all probability, nothing much will change. The best thing is for the whole cabinet to resign, ask forgiveness from the people for buying their vote," he said.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that US$700 million was transferred to two of Najib's accounts with AmIslamic Bank Bhd.
The transactions allegedly took place in March 2013 and during a period between December 2014 and February 2015.
Najib's critics and two of his own cabinet members have since urged him to sue The Wall Street Journal for the report. The US newspaper has said it is standing by its story.
The prime minister has yet to decide on his next course of action in relation to the allegations.