KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysia appears almost in a state of suspended animation – on the surface – over allegations on July 3 by the Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report that the state-backed investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd had directed nearly US$700 million into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal accounts prior to the 2013 election.
“We have never had a disclosure like this before,” said Ambiga Sreenavasan, the former head of the Malaysia Bar Council, who is an increasingly influential figure in the opposition. “We would expect some response, that there would be a complete statement. Everybody is waiting to see what is going to happen.”
One well-placed Kuala Lumpur lawyer said bringing down the prime minister is a long shot. Najib, he said, has survived a decade of scandals as defense minister and prime minister. “Malaysia has a huge carpet and there are a lot of bumps under it. This is going to be a bigger bump than before. But it’s still a bump under the carpet,” he said.
Others disagree. The slow drip of support away from Najib within his United Malays National Organization, while not public, is increasing as party leaders fear that the massive corruption implied by the revelations will destroy the party’s 60-year hold on power. But despite anger throughout the country, internal dissent means that there is no unified opposition that could bring the government down.
Muhyiddin Yassin, the 68-year-old UMNO Deputy President and Deputy Prime Minister who has been waging a behind-the-scenes campaign against Najib in league with former Premier Mahathir Mohamad, is said by friends to be increasingly confident that “the Teflon prime minister,” as one source said, will be forced to stand down.
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