(May 25): As Putrajaya plans to restructure Finance Ministry-owned firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) – which has racked up RM42 billion in debts to date – several Umno leaders have urged drastic action against those responsible for its woes.
Although the ministry is currently “compiling a report” on the restructuring and will submit it to the Cabinet this week, they said the responsible parties, including the board of directors, ought to be given an ultimatum.
It was unclear, however, if this included Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who currently sits on 1MDB's advisory board.
"Looking at the current development of the issue, I believe drastic action should be taken before we talk about restructuring and investigations," said Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Moktar Radin.
He said that if no action was taken, there would be no closure to the issue and Putrajaya would have to continue answering to the public.
"If not dealt with, the 1MDB issue will continue to be played up by the public again and again. Drastic action is the most appropriate step," Bung said.
Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Mohamad Hanadzlah last Thursday said that he was confident that 1MDB could be restructured.
“The restructuring of 1MDB… I believe we can. I am completing the report, then I will table it to Cabinet next week. Maybe after that we can announce the next step,” Husni told reporters at the Parliament lobby.
He said the restructuring exercise would involve energy and property assets, adding that he would only elaborate on the details after tabling the report to Cabinet.
Husni added that he did not want 1MDB to default on its loans as it would have a “systemic effect” on the country.
He also told the public not to worry as the company was only facing a “short-term cash-flow problem” and that the government would settle it.
Pressure on 1MDB has been mounting, especially after the release of a video where Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin called on the sacking of the 1MDB board members.
Bung's view echoed that of Umno Supreme Council member, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, who wanted the entire 1MDB board dismissed.
“Change the board members. End the tenure of those in 1MDB who are not helping.
"The 1MDB issue has now become a national issue.”
Kulim-Bandar Baru Umno chief Datuk Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir questioned the need for restructuring when all of the Umno Supreme Council had expressed their views on the matter.
"As I was told, the entire Supreme Council has asked the president to take act against the 1MDB board of directors.
“I hope the president (Najib) takes heed because the voices (of the grassroots) requested him to either suspend of sack the board members. I really hope he will act.”
DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang had also urged Putrajaya to punish those responsible for the firm’s debts, including Najib.
The prime minister has been under pressure over his handling of the issue, with his former boss Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad demanding his resignation.
Jerlun Umno deputy chief Datuk Othman Aziz disagreed with the sacking idea, saying the problem would not be solved if all the board members were fired.
"Who will answer the questions if all of them were fired?
“The best solution to me is to restructure and wait for the report from the PAC (Public Accounts Committee)," said Othman.
Political observers and former Wangsa Maju Umno Youth chief Shahbudin Husin said the renewed support received by Najib of late from his meetings with Umno grassroots leaders was temporary.
"Support for Najib is only temporary.
"The attacks on 1MDB and Najib will continue," said Shahbudin.
Following the recent video featuring Muhyiddin, he said it was a signal that the spat between Najib and his deputy had entered a new phase.
"This is also a signal that Najib is not safe any more. A new phase has begun.”
Despite criticism, Najib had on many occasions dispelled rumours of a rift and leadership crisis within Umno.
This followed attacks by Dr Mahathir since last year which were said to have divided ordinary Umno grassroots members despite shows of solidarity.
Najib had ordered the auditor-general to look into 1MDB’s books, saying the report would be passed for transparency inspection to the PAC, which is fully bipartisan and reflects Parliament’s composition.
He said he acknowledged the Supreme Council's push for firm action to be taken against anyone who had flouted the law, but added that this depended on the A-G’s report. – The Malaysian Insider