Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dr Mahathir’s innuendos against Najib


While I agree that the Prime Minister, any Prime Minister for that matter, must be accountable to the people and must demonstrate transparency, plus must be open to criticism, there is a vast difference between criticism and innuendoes.

For example, in his Blog yesterday, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad questioned where Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, obtained his money from to finance the production of the movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

As Dr Mahathir said, he is not accusing Najib of a crime or of any wrongdoing. He is just asking Najib to explain what is going on.

While that is not an outright allegation of misconduct, it is certainly what we would call an innuendo, also called an insinuation or allusion. It is a suggestion that something may not be quite right.

That, in fact, is a very effective method to raise doubts regarding someone’s integrity and honesty. Innuendos are not downright allegations but suggest that there is something wrong.

In 1998-1999, Dr Mahathir himself was the subject of innuendos when the opposition raised the issue of Petronas buying over his son’s shipping company. Dr Mahathir was clearly upset because he replied that Anwar Ibrahim, the then Finance Minister, refused to consider the RM2 billion that he (the son) wanted and instead asked Petronas to do a valuation of the company’s net worth.

Petronas then came up with a valuation of only RM1 billion. So his son had to take a ‘loss’ of RM1 billion, complained Dr Mahathir. But Petronas made a profit when it later sold the company for more than RM1 billion, Dr Mahathir argued. So it was a good deal for Petronas.

Dr Mahathir did not respond to the opposition question of where his son got the money from, whether RM1 billion or RM2 billion, to buy the company. Of course one can always raise funds through loans and investors.

The fact that Dr Mahathir was the Prime Minister and Petronas comes directly under the Prime Minister and, according to the Petroleum Development Act, Petronas reports directly to the Prime Minister and not to Parliament, makes this matter a serious conflict of interest.

But the matter was decided by the Finance Minister and not by the Prime Minister, explained Dr Mahathir. Hence Dr Mahathir cannot be accused of any wrongdoing or conflict of interest since Anwar made the decision. Anwar, however, said that he was forced to make the decision because of the gun at his head.

So you see how one’s integrity and honesty can be easily put to doubt by innuendos. And Dr Mahathir who suffered this should be the one person who should know this.

Anyway, in the US, the movie industry is financed by what we call ‘other peoples’ money’. They never use their own money but attract investors and venture capitalists. Venture capitalists fund high-risk projects that banks may not want to touch. Hence it is not difficult to raise funds if you have a good project.

And, with a star like Leonardo DiCaprio, financiers would be fighting over each other to fund the movie. The budget for the movie was US$100 million and within less than a year it grossed more than US$300 million. Hence it is a financial success plus a good movie.

We should be proud that a Bumiputera has broken into a business that even non-Bumiputera Malaysians would never dare venture into. Instead of being proud, we are suggesting that Najib should be ashamed of it.

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