It’s Monday. Let’s start the week with something light.
Back in February, New York Times ran an article questioning the incredible wealth of the Malaysian Prime Minister. Among the snippets that can be read:
Much of the concern, even in Mr. Najib’s own long-ruling party, involves questions about the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund. More broadly, though, the prime minister’s trappings of wealth and the widely broadcast tales of his wife’s outsize spending — the diamond jewelry, the collection of extravagantly costly Hermès Birkin bags — have become a focus of Malaysians’ rising unease with their government’s institutionalized culture of patronage and graft.
“We are very concerned,” Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a member of Malaysian royalty and an independent-minded elder statesman of Mr. Najib’s party, said in an interview in Kuala Lumpur last summer. “We want people of integrity to be up there.”
Mr. Najib, who earns an annual salary of about $100,000 as prime minister, has been battered by news media reports of his wife’s lavish spending. A notable episode involved the Birkin bags: A series of photos that went viral on social media in Malaysia showed Ms. Rosmah holding at least nine of the purses. They typically cost between $9,000 and $150,000 apiece.
Ariff Sabri, an aide to Mr. Najib from 2000 to 2004 who joined the opposition in 2012, said the prime minister kept “piles and piles” of ringgit bills stacked in his safe. And invoices and other documents obtained by The Times show millions of dollars in jewelry ordered for Ms. Rosmah in Hong Kong in 2008 and 2009 — diamond and emerald rings, and diamond, emerald and ruby bracelets.
Contacted by NYT, the Prime Minister’s Office issued an explanation regarding the matter. Basically the PMO said nothing is unusual with all the travel, jewellery purchases or the piles of money in any safes because those came from his position and inheritance money. In their own words:
“..neither any money spent on travel, nor any jewelry purchases, nor the alleged contents of any safes are unusual for a person of the prime minister’s position, responsibilities and legacy family assets.”
Since legacy family assets were mentioned, people were questioning if the late Tun Razak had left tremendous amount of wealth to his sons. That explanation had caused much uneasiness and a few days later, the Prime Minister’s siblings issued a brief declaration to dispute the statement made by the PMO. They are saying:
“We wish to put on record that Tun Abdul Razak was a highly principled man, well-known to all who knew him for his frugality and utmost integrity and any statement or inference to the contrary would be totally false and misleading to his memory and to his service and sacrifices for the nation. We take issue with anyone who taints his memory, whatever the motive. We would also like to add that our whole family is united on this issue.”
Surprisingly, the Prime Minister himself agreed with his brothers in that Tun Abdul Razak was a frugal man, living a simple lifestyle. The 180 degree turn sounded like this:
“Throughout his career, Tun Abdul Razak was never involved in corruption or wrongdoings. He placed the country’s needs above his own and this can be seen in his engagement with the people and also contribution to the country, which has become his legacy. Since his involvement in politics till his last days in office, Tun Abdul Razak was always known to practise a simple lifestyle and was frugal as well”
This then raised further questions, as to why PMO made that misleading statement, and as asked by the Opposition – what exactly is the source of his ‘outsized’ wealth?
“I am certain that Najib will agree with me that his lack of transparency and the exposé of his family’s hidden and not-so-hidden wealth will only encourage more unhealthy speculations on the origins of his family’s outsized wealth,” said Tony Pua who is also DAP National Publicity Secretary.
“Regardless of the drama behind the relationship between Jho Low, Riza, Najib and his wife Rosmah, which may be worthy of a Hollywood script, the fact of the matter from the various reports is that the Prime Minister’s family has been able to spend and acquire assets globally worth hundreds of millions of ringgit,” said Pua.
Therefore, he added, if Najib believes that his source of unusual wealth and a lifestyle of exuberant luxury is all acquired scrupulously, then he must explain how he obtained them when his only occupation was as the Pahang Menteri Besar (1982-1986), Cabinet Minister (1986-2004), and Deputy Prime Minister (2004-2009) before assuming the Prime Ministership since 2009.
Until today these questions were never answered. Maybe it never will.
You might also want to read:
- A Dungu Plan