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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

RURAL MALAYS GAWK AT ROSMAH’S EXQUISITE JEWELLERY BUT STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND 1MDB DEBACLE, DOJ LAWSUITS – ANALYSTS

THE RM117.1 million pink diamond necklace bought for the wife of “Malaysian Official 1” with funds allegedly siphoned off 1MDB will unlikely make much of a dent in the support for Barisan Nasional at the next general election.
Analysts said Malaysians in general were not entirely convinced about the 1Malaysia Development Bhd issue and the US Department of Justice (DoJ) civil suits to seize assets purchased with money allegedly stolen from the state investor.
While some people believe the scandals surrounding 1MDB, there are also many who do not buy any of it, said Institut Darul Ehsan deputy chairman Prof Mohammad Redzuan Othman.
“From what we have learned in our past surveys, the overall view of the people when it comes to 1MDB and the DoJ suits is this – people are still wondering whether it is all true or false.
“People are overwhelmed with information (about the alleged scandals). If there was truly impact, we would have seen the people rising to protest by now.
“That has not happened, like what we had seen with the Anwar Ibrahim issue,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
The sacking and jailing of Anwar, PKR’s de facto leader and former deputy prime minister, inspired the rise of the Reformasi movement in the late 1990s against the BN administration.
Lacking impact on the ground
Redzuan said while opposition politicians from Pakatan Harapan have been talking about how 1MDB’s losses have led to the people’s sufferings, this so-called hardship does not seem to be felt on the ground.
“Looking at how the Hari Raya celebrations are going, life does not seem so bad. People are still busy celebrating. The roads are jammed up with cars.”
Ilham Centre’s executive director Hisomuddin Bakar also does not think the DoJ civil suits, including the pink diamond mentioned in the filings, would be able to impact adversely on Prime Minister Najib Razak and BN, as the scandal had become too complicated for those living in the rural areas.
Malay voters in rural areas are BN’s largest vote bank.
To talk about the pink diamond necklace, one would have to explain the entire 1MDB scandal – how the fund raised money, overpaid for power assets, made losses, recorded debts of billions of ringgit, and how money allegedly ended up being used to buy luxury properties, hotels, a Bombardier jet, artworks and finance a Hollywood blockbuster.
And then there are the three DoJ civil suits filed last year and this month.
The latest DoJ suit filed earlier this month noted that nearly US$30 million (RM128.7 million) were allegedly stolen from 1MDB to buy jewellery, including a 22-carat rare pink diamond set in a necklace worth a jaw-dropping US$27.3 million, for the wife of MO1 in 2013.
Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan had previously confirmed MO1 as Najib. The DoJ suit did not list the pink diamond necklace as an item to be seized.
Hisomuddin said the 1MDB-DoJ issues would only work on voters who were active in getting and sharing information via social media.
“This issue is not gaining much attention because it is too complex to put into words and terms that the traditional Malay community can understand,” he said.
Bread-and-butter issues
Hisomuddin said the rising cost of living and the economic hardships felt by many should remain the main narrative at GE14.
For PH to effectively use the 1MDB-DoJ issue in their election campaign, he said the challenge would be in explaining the entire scandal in simple language and tying it to the current financial difficulties of many in urban as well as rural areas.
For those in rural areas, like during the festive season, the issues of concern remained the rising prices of goods, like how local beef now cost RM35 a kilo, he said.
“People are complaining about red snappers fetching RM45 a kilo, golden snappers RM43 per kilo and mackerels RM9 a kilo,” he said.
“The pink diamond is an issue for the middle and upper classes.”
Long-drawn controversy
The 1MDB issue had long been linked to Najib, who previously chaired the fund’s advisory board. He has denied the accusations of graft, power abuse and any other wrongdoing related to 1MDB.
In January last year, Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali cleared Najib of any wrongdoing in relation to the RM2.6 billion deposited into his personal accounts in early 2013. The money was reportedly a donation from the Saudi Arabian royal family and not from 1MDB.
While several countries, including the US, Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg, have started investigations and legal proceedings to either seize assets allegedly bought with 1MDB funds or by prosecuting individuals for money-laundering, no one has been charged in Malaysia.
The government has also downplayed and dismissed the three DoJ suits filed in the US, which sought to forfeit almost US$1.7 billion in assets and represented the largest action ever brought by the DoJ under its kleptocracy asset recovery initiative.
Government leaders have even dismissed the DoJ suits as “foreign interference”.
Yesterday, Apandi accused the DoJ suits of being politically driven. Apandi said the American agency would have formally contacted him if the legal action did not carry an ulterior motive.
Only good for a laugh
Cartoonist Zunar, who is known for his controversial comics on Malaysian politics and scandals, recently weighed in on the latest DoJ suit by producing several drawings inspired by the pink diamond necklace.
The big-haired female character in his cartoons now wears a necklace and a ring with huge diamonds.
Previously, Zunar only drew the character with a big ring.
But Institut Darul Ehsan’s Redzuan said PH should not bank its hope on the pink diamond, or even the 1MDB scandal, as it will be anything more than fodder for jokes at GE14.
“Maybe as a joke to poke fun (at BN). But to sway voters against BN, it won’t have much impact.”
– https://www.themalaysianinsight.com

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