Malaysia’s Najib tones down the bling ahead of 1MDB graft trial

12-Feb-2019 Intellasia | Aljazeera | 6:00 AM Print This Post

While he was prime minister, Najib Razak was often accused of being woefully out of touch with ordinary citizens’ lives.

But now, out of office and facing dozens of criminal charges in connection to an extraordinary multibillion-dollar scandal at Malaysia’s 1MDB state investment fund, the 65-year-old seems to be reinventing himself as a man of the people.

Gone are the Italian-cut suits with their carefully coordinated ties and pocket handkerchiefs. His wife, Rosmah Mansor, in her tailor-made traditional silk outfits accessorised with diamonds, is nowhere to be seen.

These days, Najib, rocking a hoodie and kicks, is hanging out with young bikers, riding pillion on the back of a moped.

Every moment is shared on his social media accounts and captioned with the slogan: Apa malu bossku? (What’s there to be ashamed about, boss?). There’s even a range of t-shirts.

Najib’s new look comes as the prosecution prepares to lay out its case against Najib in the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Tuesday, the first time a Malaysian leader will be in the dock on criminal allegations, including money laundering, bribery and abuse of power.

The US Department of Justice says that $4.5bn was syphoned from 1MDB to fund anything from luxury apartments to expensive jewelleryand even the Hollywood film, Wolf of Wall Street. Some of the money from the sovereign wealth fund, which Najib set up in 2009, is alleged to have ended up in the former prime minister’s personal bank account.

“It’s actually classic populism,” Meredith Weiss, an expert on politics in Southeast Asia at the University of Albany in New York who travels regularly to Malaysia, said of Najib’s public persona in the lead-up to the trial.

“It’s such a contrast from before the election. It’s an effort to make himself look cool. Before, it was really the images of grandeur; playing up the wealth.”


Category: Malaysia

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