Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak is under mounting scrutiny for cracking down on opponents, troubles in a strategic development fund and questions over his family assets, with even ruling party conservatives questioning his leadership.
“People are beginning to doubt whether he is the sort of leader who can address Malaysia’s problems,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, head of Malaysian think-tank IDEAS.
Malaysia also drew international criticism after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed for five years last week on a sodomy conviction widely considered politically motivated, the latest in a crackdown on Najib’s opponents.
1MDB, meanwhile, has missed repeated deadlines to pay down billions of dollars in debts, according to Malaysian media reports, with questions swirling around the whereabouts of huge sums.
Also last week, a New York Times investigative report detailed multi-million-dollar purchases of luxury US real estate by a close Najib family associate, financier Low Taek Jho, whom various reports have linked to 1MDB.
It also said documents showed millions of dollars in jewellery purchases for Rosmah Mansor, Najib’s wife, who is widely ridiculed in Malaysia for her luxurious tastes.
In a statement to AFP, Najib’s office said the report raised “false allegations”.
A British-educated Anglophile known for his impeccable, high-priced suits, Najib has proven his ability to survive scandal, with the help of Umno’s firm grip after 58 years in power.
These include widely alleged multi-million-dollar kickbacks to Malaysian officials in the 2002 purchase of French-made submarines when Najib was defence minister.
The government has long resisted a full inquiry into the affair.
But Umno is increasingly being rejected by voters, who are fed up with corruption and authoritarianism.
Najib’s government has responded by hurling sedition and other charges at dozens of critics, mainly opposition politicians.
source: Straits Times