The six-paragraph PMO statement on Wednesday on Cabinet meeting on RM 42billion 1MDB scandal signifies the arrival of “The Whale” in Malaysian politics overshadowing not only the 10-Minister PM Department but the 35-Minister Cabinet
The London Sunday Times expose on Sunday, which shook the Najib administration to its very roots with reports of joint Sunday Times-Sarawak Report investigations into the RM42 billion 1MDB scandal and revelation that they have obtained access to thousands of 1MDB transactions and email which 1MDB had attempted at the end of last year to wipe out from all its computers, employee laptops and servers, started with the story of “The Whale”.
In its report “Harrow playboy linked to troubled Malaysian fund”, Sunday Times London of Sunday, 1st March 2015 which launched its series of investigation exposes on 1MDB scandal (which has forced the Malaysian authorities to seriously think of an “exit strategy” for Najib in 1MDB) opened as follows:
“IN THE summer of 2009, a Malaysian nicknamed ‘the Whale’ appeared on the New York nightclub scene. He would travel with a large entourage in a fleet of Cadillacs and his party would spend tens of thousands of dollars a night in the company of socialites such as Paris Hilton.
“’The Whale’ is said to have celebrated his 28th birthday with a four-day event in Las Vegas that included a party at a pool surrounded by caged lions and tigers. Manhattan was abuzz with questions over his identity and the source of his wealth.
“It emerged that the ‘mystery man’ of the nightclubs was the Malaysian tycoon Taek Jho Low, who had been educated at Harrow School and the Wharton School in Pennsylvania. He claimed his success was due to being in the ‘right place at the right time’.
“Low certainly has a wide range of business interests, building up a £650m investment fund that he started at university. He also runs Jynwel Capital, a Hong Kong fund with investments in media, retail, property and commodities. His family is independently wealthy.
“There has been speculation, however, over his role at Malaysia’s state investment fund, which the bank Merrill Lynch warned last year had racked up debts of £7.8bn. The fund, 1MDB, is turning into a running sore for Najib Razak, the Malaysian prime minister, who chairs its advisory board, and a potential liability for his country’s balance sheet.
“Senior fund officials have previously insisted that the charismatic Low, who is known to be close to the prime minister’s family, has had ‘zero’ involvement in 1MDB.
“Arul Kanda, the fund’s executive director, said last month: ‘Jho Low has no ties with 1MDB and I have not come across any document that linked him to this company.’
“However, emails and documents passed to the Malaysian investigative website the Sarawak Report and seen by The Sunday Times expose for the first time the young tycoon’s role as a secret broker for 1MDB.”
While Malaysia is making waves in international socialite circles with the contribution of “The Whale”, what is little noticed is the arrival of another “Whale” in Malaysian government and politics – epitomised in the six-paragraph statement of the PMO on 1MDB after the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
“The Whale” in Malaysian politics and government is not Jho Low, but the PMO Communications Unit headed by a foreigner which has overshadowed not only the 10-Minister Prime Minister’s Department but the entire 35-Minister Cabinet.
I observed yesterday that the Cabinet meeting and outcome on 1MDB yesterday seemed to have been scripted and choreographed by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s “master publicist” Paul Stadlen with one objective in mind, to avoid accountability for the RM42 billion 1MDB scandal in the whole month of Parliament beginning on Monday, and this appeared to borne out by the six-paragraph statement issued by the PMO after the Cabinet meeting.
In fact, the six-paragraph PMO statement on the 1MDB could have been prepared even before the Cabinet meeting as all that is required of the 35-Minister Cabinet is to follow the script choreographed by Najib’s master publicists so that the six-paragraph statement could be issued intact after the Cabinet meeting, without any change of punctuation marks.
If this represents the political scenario in government and Cabinet today, then we are seeing the Najib Cabinet – already dismissed by Tun Mahathir as “half-past six” and Tun Daim Zainuddin as “deadwood” – being pulverized into total inconsequence and irrelevance by Najib’s second “Whale”, the PMO Communications Unit!
In the past month, Najib’s PMO “Whale” has been making its presence felt – showing that it reach is well beyond the imagination of any one Minister in Najib’s Cabinet and that it could even act with impunity.
On February 10, 2015, the PMO tarnished the credibility, independence and professionalism of the Malaysian judiciary when it came out with a statement defending the Federal Court’s 5-0 unanimous decision on the Anwar Ibrahim Sodomy II case even before the completion of the Federal Court judicial process –indication that the government was privy to the Federal Court decisions before they were delivered in open court.
Although little noticed at the time, the PMO had already waded into international controversy a day earlier when the New York Times report of Feb. 9, 2015 quoted a PMO statement attributing the Prime Minister’s expenditures, including the million-dollar purchases of his wife’s jewellery and shopping sprees, to the Prime Minister’s inheritance.
This is the PMO statement as quoted by the New York Times:
“Neither any money spent on travel, nor any jewellery purchases, nor the alleged contents of any safes are unusual for a person of the prime minister’s position, responsibilities and legacy family assets.”
The PMO statement in the New York Times had greatly offended and outraged the four brothers of the Prime Minister, Johari, Nizam, Nazim and Nazir who, in a rare private statement expressed worry that the name of their father, who was known for his frugality, would be tarnished by such talks of family assets.
Although Najib belatedly came out with a statement agreeing with his four brothers about Razak’s frugality and integrity, former New Straits Times group editor-in-chief, Kadir Jasin, questioned Najib’s media advisers and strategists whether they have lost the plot in bringing up the Prime Minister’s grandfather’s role in financing his education in the raging controversy over his family inheritance.
Up to now, Najib has yet to be forthcoming about the PMO statement about his “inheritance” – in particular what the PMO meant when it referred to “…the alleged contents of any safes…” as it raises the question what, where and how many such safes, what are in the safes and in which country are the safes located.
But these embarrassing errors do not seem to hurt Najib’s PMO Communications Unit, which is expanding from strength to strength to the extent that it could not only anticipate Federal Court decision on Anwar’s Sodomy II case, make controversial statements about Najib’s inheritance, but seemed to have taken over Najib’s 1MDB publicity offensive to the extent of scripting and choreographing Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting on 1MDB.
Why is Najb allowing such a “Whale” to exercise unaccounted power to overawe his Cabinet and other government departments as well?