Prime Minister Najib, his wife and UMNO leaders remain silent in the face of charges
Disaffected Malaysian businessman Deepak Jaikishan is continuing to rain accusations of bribery, political favoritism, murder cover-up and other scandals against Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, his wife, family and top UMNO figures despite apparent attempts to shut him up by arranging for a quasi-government agency to buy his company.
He has now written - apparently at lightning speed - a book called "Black Rose" which is billed as a tell-all about his relationship with Rosmah Mansor, Najib's wife, and deals with allegations of the cover-up of details of the murder of the 28-year-old Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006. The book was to be issued today but he told local media that the publisher couldn't get it to him in time, so he would issue an e-book which so far hasn't appeared.
Deepak, who once said he was close enough to Rosmah to call her his "big sister," has continued to cause embarrassment to the prime minister and his wife, who so far have maintained an awkward silence in the face of his charges.
He has vowed to detail - or re-detail, since he has already made the information public to a flock of internet sites over recent weeks - RM3 million in payments to a private investigator, Perumal Balasubramaniam, in 2008 in an effort to shut up the investigator. Balasubramaniam had made public sworn allegations that Najib himself had had an affair with the jet-setting beauty, who was killed by two of Najib's personal bodyguards. The two were later convicted of murder in a trial regarded by many as designed to keep secret the names of those who had paid them to carry out the crime.
Although the scandal has all the trappings of a B movie, there are questions whether it has percolated into the ethnic Malay heartland that provides the political support that keeps Najib and the United Malays National Organization in power. That could be changing. Political analysts in Malaysia tell Asia Sentinel that Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and his Parti Keadilan Rakyat have considerably polished their campaign tactics, making sophisticated videotapes and other materials that they are using effectively in ceramahs, or talks given in lieu of political rallies, which are largely banned in Malaysia.
Malaysians still get most of their news from the mainstream newspapers, the New Straits Times and The Star, which are owned by the major political parties, as are the main television broadcast stations. They haven't breathed a word of the scandal. However, internet penetration in Malaysia is one of the highest in the region, with more than 62 percent of the population having access.
There have been growing reports that former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin Yassin, the current deputy prime minister, are behind Deepak's revelations, although a lawyer close to the Mahathir wing of UMNO sarcastically denied it.
"The people within UMNO who are pushing this say that by getting Rosmah and Najib out of the way, the party will be able to boost its support among the Malays, both rural and urban who are simply disgusted with (the antics of Najib and his wife.) That perhaps may answer the strong air cover Deepak is getting with his rantings and also the coverage (former Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan) is getting for his attacks," a seasoned political source told Asia Sentinel.
"But the question is whether UMNO can afford a palace coup? Najib does have support within the party and his allies won't want him to throw in the towel without a fight. In any case, Najib's silence over the allegations has hurt him considerably and many in UMNO smell blood. Even if they let him lead the elections, he is probably finished after that."
Deepak's latest revelation was that he had paid RM13 million (US$4.28 million) for 19 pieces of custom-made jewelry from Hong Kong firms as part of alleged kickbacks to facilitate a land deal that later collapsed when a politically wired leader of the women's wing of UMNO refused to part with land steered to her from Malaysia's defense ministry. The woman, Rajah Ropiaah Rajah Abdullah, is well wired into the UMNO power structure. A six-year veteran of political ladder-climbing, she is an executive council member with the UMNO women's wing and the women's wing head in Selangor state.
In that regard, the scandal resembles far too many on the part of UMNO and makes a mockery of Najib's vow, at the start of his premiership in 2009 that corruption must stop and that "The perception of UMNO as a party to make a living from must be thrown far far away? must be discarded." In that regard, the land scandal calls up unpleasant associations with what has become known as Cattlegate, in which the family Shahrizat Aziz, the current national head of the women's wing, was charged with misspending millions of dollars for flats, cars, trips and other items from a RM250 million soft loan to develop a national cattle feeding scheme.
Deepak testified earlier in court that he had entered into a venture with Rajah Ropiaah's company, Awan Mega (M) Sdn. Bhd to build a National Defense Research Center in the country's administrative capital of Putrajaya. The ministry was to pay Rajah Ropiaah's company RM27 million (US8.9 million) to build the center. The center would occupy a portion of the land and Awan Mega would be ceded roughly 90 hectares worth RM72.5 million for free for development.
Awan Mega wasn't able to obtain a bond for the building's construction and asked Deepak for help, he testified. Thus, his Asta Canggih Sdn Bhd stood for a RM72.5 million land bond on behalf of Rajah Ropiaah's company, he alleged. He was to pay RM23 million in exchange for 89 ha. However, once the bond was put up, Deepak alleged, was ignored from that point forward.
After his barrage of charges, Boustead Holding Bhd., the investment vehicle of the military retirement fund, known as LTAT, stepped in, as what looked like an effort to shut him up, to buy Asta Canggih from him for RM30 million. That didn't help. Deepak said the sale of his company was forced on him and only covered the money he had spent on the land deal and that he had been cut out of the development project. He did abruptly withdraw his lawsuit against Rajah Ropiaah and her company over the land deal although he went on to charge that the latest deal meant the defense ministry, through Boustead, was buying back land from Rajah Ropiaah that they had given her.
"The losers are the Defense Ministry and army officers who get cheated by UMNO and cheated again by having to buy back the military land at double the price they gave it away for," he told the independent website Malaysiakini.