By: Our Correspondent


Long career

Zeti has been with the bank for 36 years, becoming governor in 2000.  She was named one of the world’s best central bank chiefs by Global Finance Magazine in 2009 and several times since, and a Bloomberg columnist picked her as one of his favorites to head the International Monetary Fund after Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested on sexual assault charges in 2011.

According to one political analyst, Rosmah is believed to have been behind the dramatic ouster of cabinet members earlier this week, including attorney general Gani Patail and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, replacing him with uber-loyalist Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the home minister. To replace fired cabinet members, who were involved in an investigation of 1MDB, Najib appointed members of a parliamentary committee probing 1MDB. Critics say that committee was designed to nullify the cabinet-level investigation, which is now presumably neutralized.

Rosmah is also supposedly furious over the role former premier Mahathir Mohamad has played in undermining Najib. “She thinks Mahathir and gang are behind the campaign to pull down 1MDB and the Sarawak Report,” said a well-informed academic.

More evidence?

If the gossip mills in Kuala Lumpur are right, and Rosmah is indeed trying get Zeti sacked, the most likely reason – beyond personal pique – is  that the Bank Negara governor is in possession of a report forwarded to her on March 13 by the Monetary Authority of Singapore that is said to contain damaging information about accounts related to 1MDB. So far Zeti has refused to talk about the contents of the report, although she said it would be forwarded to other enforcement agencies looking into the scandal. According to Sarawak Report, the account contains merely paper assets whose true value can’t be determined.

Zeti is feeling her way cautiously through the politically fraught scandal, which involves questions over not just massive debts of RM42 billion [US$11.8 billion] but that as much as US$680 billion allegedly was diverted from companies linked to 1MDB into Najib’s personal account, supposedly to be used illegally to fund the ruling national coalition’s successful 2013 general election campaign. 

“Disclosures will stop all investigations if we talk about it,” Zeti told local media. Although she has been criticized by opposition figures and Mahathir for the central bank’s tardiness in moving ahead on the investigation, Zeti is generally regarded as having played a neutral role.

Over recent weeks, Najib has suspended the publishing license for three months of The Edge Financial Daily and its sister publications, which played a major role in exposing 1MDB irregularities. He has also blocked access to the UK-based site Sarawak Report, written by persistent critic Clare Rewcastle Brown. He has blocked several opposition members and activists from leaving the country and the Inspector General of Police has threatened charges against organizers of a planned rally this weekend. 

That led the Malaysian branch of Transparency International to charge that there is deep concern over whether the 1MDB investigation can ever be completed. Gani Patail, the ousted attorney general, was said by insiders to be about to charge the prime minister with corruption when he was booted out.