The Wall Street Journal reports today that more than 900 Million Dollars was wired to the personal account of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The money allegedly came from banks, government agencies and companies connected to a debt ridden sovereign investment company. Prime Minister Najib dismissed the charge as "political sabotage", but, as we hear from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute, this is just the latest development in a widening scandal.
Prime Minister Najib's popularity plunged after the drop in oil and gas prices. Exports make up about a third of Malaysia's revenue. A new sales tax to make up the shortfall and especially amid allegations of mismanagement at 1MDB, a sovereign wealth fund, where he's chairman of the board. His most prominent critic is former Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammed, now ninety years old, who says billions are missing. In an interview with the New York Times, he said, what Mr. Najib does “is verging on the criminal”. He also criticizes what he called the lavish lifestyle of the Prime Minister's wife, who acts, he said, almost as if she was a prime minister.
Another complaint, is that Prime Minister Najib's unpopularity threatens the ruling party. The United Malays National Organization has headed the government ever since independence from Britain in 1957. But while UNMO came close to losing in 2013, the opposition coalition all but dissolved last month. One member party, the pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, alienated the others by pushing the introduction of a form of Sharia law in a northern state it controls. The opposition's leader Anwar Ibrahim is in prison on what many believe to be trumped up sodomy charges. His conviction stems from allegations brought by then Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammed, who had groomed him as his successor, but fired him as deputy prime minister in 1998, saying “I cannot accept a man who is a sodomist to become the leader of this country”.