The 1MDB story has morphed into a complex tableau involving top opposition party figures, media tycoons, the London-based Sarawak Report and, of course, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad was a no-show at the Prime Minister’s open house on Friday. But it did not dampen Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s mood.
Moreover, Najib had the company of another former Prime Minister, namely, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Pak Lah has shown up a few times at Najib’s open house but he would leave before Dr Mahathir arrived. This time around, Pak Lah stayed on to enjoy the occasion.
There is no love lost between the two elder men and the same can now be said for Najib and Dr Mahathir.
Dr Mahathir’s quest to unseat Najib has found him on the same page as the very opposition politicians who had tried to topple him during his 22 years at the top.
Politics is full of ironies and for Dr Mahathir, it has been a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
To complicate things, some of those closely associated with the former premier have been implicated in the alleged conspiracy against Najib.
Everyday, there is something in the Bangkok newspapers about it.
Former PetroSaudi executive and alleged blackmailer Xavier Andre Justo, now under arrest in Thailand, has been singing like a canary.
The Thai media has been going to town with Justo’s accounts of meeting up with a total of 10 Malaysian politicians and media bigwigs who may or may not be part of the conspiracy.
The 1MDB story has mutated into a complicated tableau involving the London-based website known as Sarawak Report, top opposition party figures and media tycoons.
According to Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Rahman Dahlan, all these people have a common agenda and that is to discredit Najib and to bring down his government.
Rahman has been at the head of a campaign to expose the modus operandi and motives of Sarawak Report. What he did was an eye-opener for many people but for the media fraternity in Sarawak, it was hardly new.
The Sarawak media was first introduced to Sarawak Report in the run-up to the 2011 Sarawak election. Sarawak Report’s target then was Tun Taib Mahmud, his family and their wealth empire.
The articles published by Sarawak Report caused a sensation but its reports were basically about writing an exaggerated story out of known facts. The end result is not wrong but it is not right either.
In fact, some of the Sarawak Report stories were sheer fabrication, such as the one claiming that the Swiss President had ordered an investigation into Taib’s assets in Switzerland. It caused a stir but it disappeared the moment the general election was over.
After its success with Taib, Sarawak Report went after Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, alleging that Hong Kong’s anti-corruption body was investigating him. This story began shortly before the last general election and disappeared into thin air once the polls were over.
The group eased off on Sarawak after Taib retired. Anyway, it has bigger fish to fry now.
Rahman’s campaign the last few days has provided a glimpse into the agenda andmodus operandi of Sarawak Report as a foreign NGO whose agenda is closely tied up with that of the Malaysian opposition which is out to topple Najib.
A Kuching-based journalist with an established newspaper said that Sarawak Report founder Clare Rewcastle-Brown had tried to recruit him and his colleague back in 2012.
“We know many of those people who are working for Sarawak Report. It is ideal for those who have an axe to grind with the government,” said the journalist.
The journalist recalled how Sarawak Report began as a sensational website, carrying gossipy stuff about Taib, his family and even his nieces and their partying lifestyle. It was not taken seriously until it went mainstream with more serious stories of corruption and abuse of power.
Taib was easy to smear because he had overstayed, his family was too deep into business and financial dealings and, well, they were too rich and powerful.
Umno politicians and supporters see it as a group with an “evil agenda” and which systematically “distorts the truth”. They are also appalled that a “Mat Salleh group” from outside is trying to determine the politics of the country.
But Sarawak Report, which seems to have a bottomless pit of funds, basically sees itself as some sort of self-appointed agent of change. It wants to be the catalyst to an Arab Spring uprising in Malaysia.
It is also like a second generation Malaysia Today, the website that belongs to Raja Petra Kamaruddin. Both are experts at taking the facts and turning it into a story that is a skilful blend of fact and fiction. Whereas Raja Petra’s style is like telling grandmother stories, Sarawak Report takes a more businesslike approach.
The other thing both have in common is that they do not let the facts get in the way. The more sensational and outrageous, the better because that is what sells. For them, the ends justify the means.
The 1MDB’s complexity means that it is very much an urban west coast type of issue and Sarawak Report’s credibility has been punctured by events of the last few months. But that does not make the issue any less serious.
“The lesson here is that we have to be serious about issues of good governance, corruption and transparency if we don’t want to be the victim of smear campaigns and if we want the rakyat to support us,” said Terengganu Umno veterans deputy chairman Datuk Wan Albakri Mohd Noor.
According to a Penang lawyer, this high-stakes perception war will escalate.
“The Chinese call it poisoning the wells. Both sides want to dominate the public opinion space ahead of the general election. It will ultimately be resolved at the ballot box,” said the lawyer. Jocelin Tan The STAR Home News Columnist July 19 , 2015