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Date [ 2015-10-20, 07:42 ]

Will he heed the calls to step down and do so?

A PM under seige.(Cr)Wikicommon

(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress) Ramani  = Of late, the call for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to resign has grown more strident. This would set the stage for a number of controversies to attain closure. Chief among these would be 1MDB. Linked to it would be the money laundering of the RM2.6 billion political donation from a Middle East source. 

There is also the issue of the Tun Razak Exchange land deal and getting investors to come in for 1MDB’s land in Bandar Malaysia (the airport land in Sungei Besi). Money obtained from these will not be enough to settle the debts totaling around RM42 billion. One solution will be to restructure the debts which could very well raise the question s to who is to settle them.

Just as one thinks there is nothing more coming up about the controversies, something does. We have had the Swiss, Singaporean governments freezing bank accounts. France too got on to the bandwagon. Now it is the FBI with the result of effectively drawing the attention of the whole world on Malaysia.

Investors who may have thought of coming in will shy away now.  Analyst Shahbudin Husin said,” As long as this continues to happen, it would not be easy to revive the confidence of the investors in the country. The whole world has reported the news on the FBI opening files and beginning investigations on the two controversies and this can only continue to affect the image of the nation.”

Bank Negara Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz has called for an explanation on 1MDB. She felt the people had a right to know and felt the depreciation of the ringgit, associated problems with transparency and governance were all tied up with the current controversies. 

Bank Negara did not say in so many words but reading in between the lines it was obvious that money laundering was in the centre of the 1MDB controversy. Malaysia does not want to give the international community that it is lax in the enforcement of money laundering crimes. She was quoted in the media as saying,”… and in the world of today, there’s no place for wrongdoers to run and hide forever from the law.” This soft approach took on a more slightly hard tone when she announced that Bank Negara had submitted its findings to the Attorney General’s office and now it was up to them to take action. So far there has been none.

The latest report  has Bank Negara announcing that its report to the Attorney General’s Chambers had indicated that 1MDB had breached the Exchange Control Act 1953(BCA). The national bank has recommended that criminal prosecution  be initiated against 1MDB. This does not harbour well for Najib as he chairs the advisory board of 1MDB.

However President and Group Executive Director, Arul Kanda has announced that the minutes that appeared in the Sarawak Report was authentic and was actually a  misunderstanding, he has since clarified it with the Ministry of Finance. The twists and turns continue.
Meanwhile there have been calls for the PM to resign. Former PM, Dr.Tun Mahathir is in the forefront. Others like Petaling Jaya MP Tony Pua not only has been calling Najib’s resignation but has constantly asked questions on 1MDB and demanded explanations. It was alleged that RM2.6 billion was received by Najib from 1MDB. Now the latest is !MDB is asking Pua  to provide evidence  of the company’s wrongdoings or stop making false allegations.

Parliament reconvenes in the third week of October and the Prime Minster may yet face his toughest challenge. So far his tight grip on UMNO has kept him in place. But that grip seems to be sliding down and his position could be shaky if he loses some crucial upcoming votes in Parliament.

To note, some senior leaders from UMNO, including former deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Semporna MP Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, the Federal Minister of Rural and Regional Development,  joined forces with  Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad  to criticise Najib and call on party members to protest against wrongdoings. This outburst may aid the opposition to push through its no-confidence vote come October 23rd when parliament reconvenes.

Already Petaling Jaya Selatan MP Hee Loy Sian has submitted to the Dewan Rakyat several reasons for initiating the motion, the main being the RM2.6 billion Najib had received in his personal bank accounts.

The motion which appears on the Parliament website reads as "That this House puts forward a vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on the account that the RM2.6 billion 'donation' which he initially denied, then threatened to sue The Wall Street Journal and in the end admitted that the money was acquired from an individual from the Middle East. So the people of Malaysia no longer trust the prime minister and with this, the House has to make a decision to table a vote of no confidence in the prime minister."

Najib has claimed the money was used as party funds for the   2013 elections and not for his personal gains.  Not long after this the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) declared their investigation revealed that the money deposited directly into Najib’s account did not come from investment arm 1MDB but from a Middle Eastern donor...

Datuk Ambiga Sreenavasan described it as brazen that foreign funds were given as donations to help BN stay in power. The former Bar Council president and renowned lawyer Twitted, “Admission of receiving donation from a foreign country to keep BN in power violates so many laws that it’s mind boggling.  The fact that our leaders can brazenly admit to money from another country shows either they don’t know the law or they don’t respect it.

Political candidates in their campaigns are bound by Section 19 of the Election Offences Act 1954, where candidates are permitted to spend no more than RM200, 000 when contesting a federal seat and RM100, 000 for state constituencies. In the light of this revelation, several PKR leaders filed a lawsuit against Najib, accusing him and several others of violating election laws on campaign expenses.

It is common knowledge that not only will voting taking place on the motion, let alone that it will be heard. In the first instance, out of 28 motions listed for Monday 18 th. October, 2015, it has been listed at No.25. Wong Chen, a lawmaker from the People’s Justice Party, feels this makes it clearly designed to fail. The motion will have to override priority usually given to government matters in parliamentary motions.

But the Prime Minister may not have it all his way. He may have to prepare his defences. Otherwise why a Barisan National (BN) pre-council meeting on the eve of Parliament re-opening?  An UMNO MP on condition of anonymity said all BN federal lawmakers and senators were told to meet Najib at his residence in Putrajaya at 8 pm.

The meeting was important as there was an assumption that there could be some BN lawmakers willing to support the no-confidence vote brought by the opposition. It was also expected a few veteran MPs most probably would not attend the pre-council meeting. This would possibly be Pagoh MP Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Semporna MP Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal and Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. The first two had been victims of the cabinet reshuffle that happened this July 28. Then with Tengku Razaleigh, at a press conference among other things, they touched on a no-confidence vote against the PM.

The move by Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) too should not be forgotten. One announcement by its President, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, informs time is needed to take a final decision on the motion. But Secretary-general Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan has announced at a PAS Himpunan Fastaqim-H60K, “We will wait for this matter when it is tabled in Parliament. We will rely on our Opposition Leader Dr Wan Azizah for us to make our decision.” It can be assumed if this is the case then PAS will certainly be asked to vote for the no-confidence motion.

Later In a rare move, the Conference of Rulers gave a joint statement that called for a quick end to the 1MDB controversy. The announcement came as a surprise to many and calls were made to Najib to heed it.

But in a sudden surprising turn, news has emerged of a ‘spilt’ in PKR. One group in PKR wants Najib removed immediately, while the other group wants him to serve out his term. The first team believes the longer Najib stays in power the worst it will be for the country. The other feels by staying in, Najib will make more mistakes and so come the 14th general Election it will be that easier to overcome Najib’s government.

PKR vice-president N. Surendran has played down the split and is banking on BN’s lawmakers joining the opposition in voting against Najib in the Dewan Rakyat.

"We believe it can be done and that BN parliamentarians will put the country's interests first. That's the issue. We are not concerned about the number of opposition lawmakers," the Padang Serai MP told The Malaysian Insider. Still 25 BN MPs will be needed to get the motion through. So numbers so count.

Najib’s advantage is that he retains the support of many divisional heads in his ruling party. Add to that the rural electorate, (for better or worse, the Red Shirts managed to galvanise support indirectly for Najib) and he has quite a strong base. He will be reading out Budget 2016 and it is expected to increase handouts to the poor. This can be read as the many rural Malays who are his core support base.

He will also have the support of Speaker of Parliament, Pandikar Amin, who has openly declared,” "There is no law for such motion to be tabled; how can you table a motion?"  His stand is that there is no specific provision under the standing order.

However the opposition MPs will then probably try to defeat any bill that comes up for a vote during this parliamentary session to show that Najib's government is on its way to being dismantled.

And first up is the national budget for 2016, which the government has called the Opposition to dare oppose it. But already Bingkor asssemblyman, Datuk Dr.Jeffrey Kitingan has  said,” Budget 2016 will seriously test the prime minister’s sincerity towards his many promises to expedite development for Sabah and Sarawak as well as his 11th Malaysia Plan proposal to make Kuching and Kota Kinabalu as development hubs

Kitingan also hinted that the budget may also jeopardise the support from Sabah and Sarawak whose votes are seen as keeping his position as prime minister intact. . “Any allocation for development of less than 50% for the Borneo states will be seen as a failure of Najib and making a mockery of his promises," the assemblyman added.

Monday 19, 2015 will be a red letter day for more than one person.

PM Najib_Razak_(Cr)Wiki Commons)

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