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Thursday, June 22, 2017

1MDB - The Jewel of Malaysia's Crown



MP SPEAKS | 'Diamonds are intrinsically worthless, except for the deep psychological need they fill' - Nicky Oppenheimer
It was Tiffany that made diamonds the in thing for women in the 50s.
Captions like "Diamonds are Forever," and "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friends," made Tiffany's sale go through the roof, literally becoming a household name in the age of conspicuous consumption in the US.
Fortunately for some, the carbon-clad reality hit home, and all that glitters, shine less when bathed in bloody conflict - as clearly exposed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie, Blood Diamond. The abundance of blood diamond all over Sierra Leone was one of triggering reasons behind the Sierra Leone Civil War which took place from 1991 to 2002.
Also, the government crackdown on large-scale free-for-all blood diamond mining in Zimbabwe in the early 2000's resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people who were shot with automatic rifles, while tonnes of people were beaten, tortured and raped by the soldiers.
All in all, a staggering three to four million people were estimated to perish due to diamond mining, associated with multiple factors including unsafe working conditions and continuous civil conflicts.
In Malaysia, it would seem that the fetish with diamonds has lasted until today - for some, at least.
James Bond movie flicks like "Diamonds Are Forever" was all the rage in the mid-1970s.
Malaysians took to 007 like it was one of their own, with Jins Shamsuddin donning the role of Malaysian James Bond, often in collaboration with HK movie stars loaned by Shaw Brothers. It was the golden age of Malay movies, as working with non-Malay and international business groups became the norm.
Of course, there was the infamous Mat Bond too, with his slapstick gimmicks and wildly creative ventures into the world of organised crime.
But instead of confining ourselves to the making of better movies in Malaysia, funds pilfered from 1Malaysia Development Fund (IMDB) were channelled to Red Granite, a Hollywood-based production house. The movies the company made mimicked the hedonistic and immoral world of Wall Street seemed like a page from certain characters in Putrajaya.
While the Malaysian national film agency, Finas publicly mentioned that RM500 million worth of funding is required to seriously pursue quality filmmaking and developmental activities, only RM80 million was approved by the Malaysian government in Budget 2017, in order to facilitate the growth of creative industries and film production.
Whereas, more than US$100 million was poured in by Red Granite to produce ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, a Martin Scorsese-directed movie which made a grand total of US$392 million. Personal gains seem to take centre stage over public interest, a recurring theme in Najib Abdul Razak’s administration.
Diamonds, akin to a lesser version of blood diamonds, were bought with the debt leveraged on the Malaysian government's good name, were bought and given away to the likes of Hollywood starlets like Miranda Kerr and even the "spouse of MO1 official."
While we await Miranda Kerr's good sense to surrender the diamonds to the US Department of Justice, those that ended up in the hands of the wife of the "MO1 official," remains shrouded in mystery.
When diamonds are bought with the money pillaged from Malaysia, it goes without saying that "diamonds are not forever."
Handing them over to the US Department of Justice remains the only right thing to do. Strangely, the US Department of Justice is seizing the 1MDB money and diamonds to be returned to the Malaysian people.
Since this is the move of US Department of Justice, it is high time that a bipartisan committee is formed to find out how these funds, including diamonds and all, can be returned to the shores of Malaysia. Or, perhaps they never left Malaysia at all, and are now in the private security box of a certain AmBank account?
As demanded by the Parliamentary opposition leader Dr Wan Azizah yesterday - this 28th of June must be a day of reckoning for those responsible for the 1MDB gargantuan scandal. It begins through deliberation between opposition lawmakers in parliament, as our incumbent BN counterparts continue to be dazzled by glittery carbon.
We have to chart a clear path for stolen assets, goods, and jewels to be returned to this country.
We owe it to 744 top SPM students who were deprived of their desires to further their tertiary studies in prestigious universities despite being promised to by the Malaysian government.
We owe it to the disabled community whose resources and infrastructures are lacking, poorly maintained and misused by certain parties.

We owe it to the sickly and needy who are experiencing physical, emotional and financial burden attributed to the progressively unaffordable medical costs.
Just as Jho Low said "size matters," when he asked for the bigger and best pink diamond, seizure matters even more, now that the civil forfeiture has proceeded apace, and thousands of Malaysians are left stranded with less higher-educational opportunities and reduced healthcare benefits under the BN.
All that glitters surely fade away if left unfettered.

NURUL IZZAH ANWAR is Lembah Pantai MP.- Mkini

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