Najib owes it to Malaysians to disclose unequivocal truth about 1MDB

Najib owes it to Malaysians to disclose unequivocal truth about 1MDB

Malaysia's besieged Prime Minister Najib Razak - who is facing the biggest test in his seven-year premiership both politically and personally - is very much in need of a strategic volte-face.

He needs to tell the Malaysian people (yes, those who democratically elected him) the truth - unequivocally and with clarity.

Abdicating that responsibility to a special task force (more so as he seems determined to continue in his prime ministerial post) may simply not be good enough.

More than any other high office in the country, it is the top executive who owes his duty and loyalty - and the truth - to the Malaysian people.

Unlike troubled 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and the characters at the centre of the controversy who are not answerable to the people and whose fate lies squarely on the outcome of an ongoing probe, Mr Najib should be held to a higher standard.

It has been five days since the publication of The Wall Street Journal's (WSJ) damning report, alleging that US$700 million was moved into Mr Najib's personal bank accounts through entities linked to scandal-torn 1MDB.

Son of the country's much respected second premier, Mr Najib began his tenure with great promise, armed with a formidable agenda. He has repeated his defence that he has "never used 1MDB funds for personal gains". To the exasperation of decent folk, that does not adequately clear the air on the allegations in WSJ's report.

While there is pressure on Bank Negara Malaysia governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz to step up and speak (as the matter is well within the knowledge of the central bank's jurisdiction), the answers ought to come from Mr Najib himself.

The leader has shot back that the "unsubstantiated" and "outrageous" allegations are part of a ploy led by former premier Mahathir Mohamad to topple his leadership.

His response may not be misplaced but, for Malaysians, it remains secondary as it does not detract from the allegations against him.

The Malaysian Cabinet, we are told, is united in its stand that the law should run its course and it will not pressure Mr Najib to step down.

By doing so, it may be gravely underestimating the crisis at hand.

That all-for-one and one-for-all kinship merely plays into the perceived narrative that when push comes to shove, the interest of the ruling party outweighs that of over 30 million citizens.

The last few months have not been kind to Malaysians: a battered currency, burden of higher living cost, and signs of rising religious conservatism and intense politicking have turned the air thick with obloquy.

The long-running 1MDB controversy has added to the fatigue and hurt business sentiment, and the scandal has now culminated in allegations of impropriety at the highest level.

It's no doubt a vulnerable season for Malaysia. Mr Najib may very well survive this crisis, proving political pundits wrong.

But if the country is ever to heal from this debacle, his name must be cleared without the shadow of a doubt. Otherwise, come the 2018 elections, it could reignite and sting the long-ruling Barisan Nasional.


This article was first published on July 10, 2015.
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