How Syed conned Mahathir and Muhyiddin


They should have stuck to an easier issue to use against Najib — like Dr Mahathir used the sodomy issue against Anwar. High financing is too complicated for the likes of Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin (who obtains his information by reading The Edge). The question is: is Syed their adviser ignorant as well?


Raja Petra Kamarudin

“What did Datuk Seri Najib do which can be compared to what I did?” said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. “He has a debt of RM42 billion. He set up his own company. He is the company’s adviser.”

“I did not do all that. How can people say we are alike? I don’t understand. I’m like his father, yes. His father prioritised Malay development. When I was prime minister, I built roads, I built schools. We built clinics. I did many things in the kampung.”

“What Najib has done is to incur high debts, and to hide the money in the bank. He had RM2.6 billion. I did not. I have some money in my account, but not the same.”

Sometimes when Dr Mahathir talks it gives an impression that either he is lying or he is trying to pull a fast one — maybe thinking that we will swallow everything he says hook, line and sinker. Or maybe, as Dr Mahathir is fond of saying, “Melayu mudah lupa”, and he himself has lupa many things that he did when he was Malaysia’s Prime Minister for 22 years.

Dr Mahathir talks about him building roads, schools and clinics when he was Prime Minister. And all Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has done is to incur debts of RM42 billion, said Dr Mahathir. Other than that Najib has done nothing else.

Actually, every prime minister since Tunku Abdul Rahman built roads, schools, hospitals, clinics and so on. In every country in the world prime ministers have been building roads, schools, hospitals, clinics, etc. So not only in Malaysia is this happening and this is not the exclusive monopoly of Dr Mahathir. In fact, even long before Merdeka since the 1800s the colonial masters had built roads, schools, hospitals, clinics, and much more all over Malaysia.

So it is not quite like we lived on trees before Dr Mahathir became Prime Minister in 1981. For that matter MARA was started by the British, which at that time was called RIDA. And it was the British who made Malaya rich through the development of the tin and rubber industry.

Malaya, in fact, contributed to 30% of the wealth of the British Empire. That was how rich Malaysia was over 100 years before the country got independence and more than 100 years before Dr Mahathir became Prime Minister. Malaya was the jewel in the British crown. And Dr Mahathir had nothing to do with that.

When Dr Mahathir was Prime Minister he also incurred debts. Bank Bumiputera Malaysia Berhad (BBMB) was in debt, more than once, and was forced to be bailed out by Petronas. BBMB was viable before Dr Mahathir became Prime Minister. Then it got ruined under Dr Mahathir’s watch.

Petronas also had to bail out his son’s company. He wanted RM2 billion but Anwar Ibrahim agreed to only RM1 billion and Dr Mahathir never forgave him for that. A year later Dr Mahathir threw Anwar into jail on allegations of sexual misconduct when actually it was for some other reason.  And that other reason was Anwar was trying to oust Dr Mahathir just like Muhyiddin Yassin was trying to oust Najib.

And then Dr Mahathir was forced to sell Malaysia’s national airline company, MAS, to cover the RM30 billion Forex losses (and then buy it back at a huge loss). RM30 billion at that time is worth RM50 billion today, more than the RM42 billion that Dr Mahathir is grumbling about. And the list goes on and on but I think you get my point by now. And my point is what Dr Mahathir is saying is not quite true. So either he has forgotten or he thinks we have.

Dr Mahathir keeps talking about the RM42 billion debts, meaning, of course, 1MDB’s debts. At least this is a departure from one year ago when he talked about RM42 billion ‘disappearing into thin air’. So now Dr Mahathir admits that it is RM42 billion debts and not RM42 billion disappearing into thin air.

The truth is, Dr Mahathir is saying the things he is saying because he does not really understand accounting. What he knows about 1MDB is what Syed Akbar Ali, a.k.a. OutSyed The Box, told him. And either Syed does not know accounting or corporate finance or he has been taking Dr Mahathir for a ride — a long ride to nowhere.

And Muhyiddin does not know any better either. Did he not admit that whatever he knows is based on what he read in The Edge? Yes, he attended the Cabinet meetings. Yes, he attended the Umno meetings. But at all these meetings he was totally lost and did not understand what was being discussed. So after these meetings he reads the newspapers to catch up with what is happening and seeks advice from Syed who gives him the song and dance routine, which confuses him even further.

Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin keep repeating the RM42 billion debts incurred by 1MDB. To them this is all they need to know. They cannot even read a Balance Sheet. If not then they would know that a Balance Sheet has two columns. On one side is the assets and the other side is the liabilities. And you minus one side from the other to come to the Net Tangible Asset or NTA to see whether it is positive or negative NTA.

The issue is not how much the debts are. It is what the NTA is and whether it is negative or positive. It does not matter whether the company has RM1 billion or RM100 billion in liabilities. It is how much its assets are and whether at the bottom line the NTA is negative or positive. This is what Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin do not understand.

Syed told Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin that 1MDB is in trouble. And it is in trouble because it borrowed RM42 billion. What Syed did not tell Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin, maybe because he himself does not know, is that these RM42 billion liabilities is backed by RM51 billion worth of assets. That means the NTA of 1MBD is positive and not negative, which is what counts in business.

They keep calling 1MDB a debt-laden company. 1MDB may have debts but it is not debt-laden because its assets exceed its liabilities. Dr Mahathir’s son’s company was debt-laden. That was why they needed Petronas to bail it out or else the company would have gone bankrupt. 1MDB Is not on the verge of bankruptcy when its assets exceed its liabilities.

Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin have been ill-advised. Either Syed does not know any better or he fooled Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin into believing that they have a ‘gold mine’ in which to use against Najib to bring about his downfall. This peluang emas was supposed to be milked until its tits run dry and by six months from a year ago Najib was supposed to be history.

But Najib knew that it was a non-starter issue. It was an issue that was designed to fail from day one. And it was going to fail because they were trying to create an issue from a non-issue. It was plucking nothing from the air and pretending that that nothing is something.

And that was why Najib did not respond but just kept quiet, much to Dr Mahathir’s chagrin and those who were going to town with the issue. They accused Najib of being scared, or being a coward, of having no balls, and so on. But Najib knew that he did not need to respond. He did not need to do anything because in time this farce would be proven as a farce.

Then they raised the issue regarding 1MDB’s money in the Cayman Islands. They try to make it seem like putting money in the Cayman Islands is a crime. What is wrong with putting money in the Cayman Islands? Since 1MDB borrowed in US$ then they should save the money also in US$ to avoid the risk of exchange fluctuations. Dr Mahathir borrowed in US$ and brought the money back to Malaysia and when the Ringgit depreciated Malaysia had for suffer huge currency exchange losses. At least 1MDB is cleverer. They insulated themselves from exchange losses. Maybe Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin do not understand how it works, or Syed was not able to advise them because he, too, does not know.

They should have stuck to an easier issue to use against Najib — like Dr Mahathir used the sodomy issue against Anwar. High financing is too complicated for the likes of Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin (who obtains his information by reading The Edge). The question is: is Syed their adviser ignorant as well?

Syed is fond of calling Najib a moron. In the end Najib is proving more savvy at this game than they are. So who is the moron now? I wonder what Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin are calling Syed — an imbecile, maybe?

Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin built their entire strategy to bring down Najib based on the 1MDB issue. And that issue has proven to be a non-issue. And because of that Muhyiddin and Shafie Apdal had to pay dearly. And Dr Mahathir now has to withdraw into a corner and lick his wounds and watch Najib celebrate Christmas as Prime Minister when the original plan was he was supposed to have been ousted in July this year. So the ‘moron’ has beaten the imbeciles at their own game.

As they say, the silence can be deafening. And Najib remained silent while they whacked him to kingdom come. They interpreted Najib’s silence as defeat. But Najib remained silent because he knew they were way off the track so he need not engage them. All he needed to do, as the Malays say, is to ulur tali. Then they would strangle themselves with this tali.

When Dr Mahathir, Muhyiddin and Shafie sit through three days of agony during the Umno general assembly next week they are probably going to fume and blame Syed for leading them up the garden path. They played what they thought was an ace card and ended up with the joker card instead. And all Najib needs to do over those three days is to play the cards they have dealt him and slam his cards on the table and walk away with the jackpot.

What a comedy of errors, as Shakespeare would say. And the one who laughs last laughs the best. And Najib is the one who is getting the last laugh. Syed must be kicking himself silly, that is if Dr Mahathir, Muhyiddin and Shafie are not already kicking him.