Sydney Morning Herald
October 8, 2015
Bangkok: Sultans of Malaysia’s nine states have joined influential figures in the country’s ruling party calling for a swift and transparent investigation into a political scandal involving prime minister Najib Razak.
In a rare intervention in politics, the sultans said Mr Najib’s failure to resolve allegations of corruption in a debt-ridden sovereign wealth fund he oversees has created a “crisis of confidence” in the country.
And turning up the pressure further on Mr Najib, former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin said there may “hidden hands” trying to cover up people implicated in allegations swirling around the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund, he was quoted by the Malaysiakini website as saying.
“It is though there are hidden hands that want to cover-up the wrongdoings of certain parties. This is unacceptable,” he said.
Mr Muhyiddin remains a powerful figure in the party even though Mr Najib sacked him earlier this year in a purge of officials involved in investigations into the fund.
For weeks Mr Najib has resisted calls to step aside during investigations into his oversight of the fund that is billions of dollars in debt.
The prime minister has also refused to explain how US$700 million turned up in his private bank accounts ahead of elections in 2013, saying only that he has not taken money for personal gain.
Party supporters say they gave Mr Najib a “hero’s welcome” when he returned last weekend from a trip to London and New York, where he spoke at the UN General Assembly.
But analysts say his United Malays National Party (UMNO) remains beset by internal rivalries, jealousies and betrayals after operating for decades on a system of patronage and money politics.
Mr Najib is clinging to power with the support of a majority of UMNO divisions in the country’s Malay heartlands.
His supporters are also increasingly pushing the party’s Islamic credentials, even to the extent of inflaming racial tensions with Chinese and Indian non-Muslims, critics say.
Analysts say the intervention by the sultans, who have a largely ceremonial role, will shore up support for anti-corruption and central bank officials investigating the sovereign fund.
“The findings of the investigation must be reported comprehensively and in a transparent manner so that the people will be convinced of the sincerity of the government, which shall not at all conceal facts and the truth,” the sultans said in a statement, adding the scandal had impacted a collapse in the value of the ringgit currency, financial markets and the economic climate.
Opposition parties and critics seized on the statement that was widely seen as indirect criticism of Mr Najib’s handling of the crisis.
Islamic opposition party member Mahfuz Omar told local Malaysian news media that the sultans’ comments should pressure Mr Najib to step down, saying the government is run like a “mafia” with those who oppose him “cut off” and “threatened.”
A. Kadir Jasin, a former editor of the UMNO-owned New Straits Times newspaper, wrote in his blog that Mr Najib will be seen as defying the sultans unless he initiates an immediate investigation into the fund.
“Unless Najib and his extremist supporters have lost their minds and are disloyal to (to the sultans) they would do as has been decreed,” he said.
Mr Jasin is an ally of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad who has been waging a relentless campaign for the removal of Mr Najib from office.
Asia Sentinel, a Hong Kong based on-line publication that reports extensively on Malaysia’s politics, says a long list of Malaysia’s most prominent and influential figures have asked Mr Najib to resign in recent weeks, including his three brothers and UMNO veterans Musa Hitam and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
The report quotes insiders as saying Mr Najib agreed to hear the appeals but that his influential wife Rosmah Mansor had insisted he remain in office.