The country, already battling inflation that is expected to jump from around 2 percent to 5 percent this month, a new 10-year high, and judicial corruption, now faces a succession crisis. Many analysts believe Najib is far from an ideal or even practical choice. Besides allegations of corruption, he is tainted by the gruesome murder of a 28-year-old female Mongolian translator, Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was shot before being blown up with military grade explosives in a jungle just outside Kuala Lumpur. One of his closest friends and his advisor, Abdul Razak Baginda, 48, has been charged with abetting the murder along with two Special Action Force officers, who are also Najib’s bodyguards, who have been charged for the murder. All three face the death penalty if convicted.
The trial, which opened a full year ago, seemed at the start to be a relatively open-and-shut case. But it has droned on month after month, seemingly with no conclusion in sight, raising suspicions that it is deliberately being delayed to allow public indignation to die down in preparation for a verdict that would let the three off the hook. The case is tinged with overtones of the possible involvement of political figures at the very top of the national power structure. Altantuya had flown to Malaysia to confront Abdul Razak Baginda, the of a local political think tank, to demand as much as US$500,000 from him after he had jilted her following a whirlwind romance in Hong Kong, Paris and other cities, during which he acknowledged that he had already given her tens of thousands of US dollars.
In an affidavit submitted last December just before the start of the trial, Baginda said he contacted Musa Safri, Najib’s aide de camp, to deal with Altantuya. Musa subsequently introduced Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, 30, one of the accused, to Baginda. But despite Baginda’s assertions, Musa has been neither questioned nor called as a witness, nor has Najib been questioned. The trial seemingly has been designed by both prosecution and defense to exclude every mention of the two despite multiple questions over their possible involvement.