The Prince, The Doctor, Tin, Money and Murder

ku li

Gopal Raj Kumar


In as much as he is considered to be an economic genius, pragmatic, urbane and educated, Tengku Razaleigh has a history of risk taking, feathering his own nest and ‘playing Chinese’ in business. The man is driven by a number of forces and factors.  He is in many ways isolated from the grassroots Malays of his constituency although they revere him for his royal pedigree. Tengku Razaleigh is more at home with the Chinese and Englishmen than he is with his Malay countrymen.

Tengku Razaleigh has always been in the pockets and in the company of the Chinese and outsiders like the Marc Richs and Philip Brothers types of this world. People who cultivated the man  did so for much the same reasons the British industrialists and establishment cultivated the Tengku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first prime minister another princeling. It was to further their own interests.


In the late 1970’s a small private Chinese owned bank in Sarawak, Bian Chiang was acquired by UMNO. Tengku Razaleigh initially acquired 80% of the bank’s issued capital for just under RM 5,000,000 ‘to help a friend’ the late Wee Hood Teck settle a gambling debt as the story goes. A great virtue for a member of a Malay royal household and a prime ministerial aspirant to support a Chinese gambler one might say.

The late Tun Razak understandably concerned by the potential conflict of interest situation (Razaleigh was then in charge of Bank Bumiputera) ‘gave Razaleigh the opportunity’ to sell his shares in Bian Chiang to UMNO for a handsome profit and remain at Bank Bumiputera.  Bian Chiang was later renamed Bank of Commerce then later Bumiputera Commerce Holdings Bhd.

There were other Razaleigh driven acquisitions using UMNO money during Razaleigh’s stewardship of Fleet Holdings. These included the Straits Times and joint venture with American insurer AFIA Worldwide Insurance.

There were many more Razaleigh inspired acquisitions, transactions and failures. And the state and level of accountability involving these transactions were very closely guarded then, opaque and murky.

Both the Tengkus, Abdul Rahman and Razaleigh had many things in common.  A love of money, Chinese women in particular and the good things in life courtesy of their privileged status.

Both had a contemptuous disregard for their own kind. They were careful however to conceal their contempt with acts of random kindness and charity ensuring these acts were widely reported to reach their Malay grassroots constituents.

KuLi as Tengku Razaleigh is affectionately known to those close to him, is a man ready to punch above his weight. Sadly though he has been unable to achieve anything spectacular or noteworthy independently. Worse still he lacks the skills to achieve much by himself.

Apparently his drawbacks stem from his privileged upbringing. It is the kind of upbringing and attitude that the Tun Dr. Mahathir loathed about these ‘silver tailed’ hereditary rulers who saw it as their divine right to rule. Mahathir changed the rules and the players when he took control of UMNO and government.


Tengku Razaleigh contrary to his denials and his silence was in the thick of the Carrian affair dealing both with Bentley Ho and George Tan directly and through a third channel it is said. He was also at the time being groomed for a takeover of Dr. Mahathir’s job when disaster struck with the Carrian affair. At least that is what he and his backers believed then.

KuLi made fast, enduring and lifelong friends amongst the wealthy Chinese of Perak from his early life at Anderson High School in Ipoh. These friends would ride on his coat tails later in life milking favours out of the man as had become a tradition amongst UMNO’s elite ranks and the Chinese from the time of the Tengku Abdul Rahman.

Tengku Razaleigh’s fondness for Chinese women came a close second to his love of business, wheeling and dealing. These women served as a go between and a conduit between Razaleigh and the various connections within Chinese communities as Tengku’s mistresses once did with him.

During the time of the Carrian Affair and the tin debacle in Malaysia, it is known that in and amongst Tun Dr. Mahathir’s inner circle was embedded two plants (informants).Both these men who although close to the Tun at the time, had loyalties that lay outside that circle and the Tun. But the Tun, like Razaleigh, had a disdain for the Indians, a contempt for the Malays and a preference for the Chinese and a group of trusted elite Oxbridge educated Malays instead.

One of these plants a Chinese lawyer was a feeder to both, the sources in Singapore and through his connections traders in London. The Tun trusted the man and probably still does to this day.

The fact of David Zaidner’s ability to get so close to the inner sanctum of Tun Dr. Mahathir and his decision making team was no accident or skill on the part of Zaidner. There were other forces at work that helped David Zaidner to get to where he landed in Malaysia.

Ziadner’s boss the late mercurial and very powerful Marc Rich did not accept  failure as an acceptable outcome from any of his employees or his traders. They worked everyone they targeted. Malayia Kini had a conveniently ill informed take on Zaidner’s role in the tin debacle.

The Malaysian government had received a recommendation to accept Zaidner’s plan. The recommendation came straight out of Singapore. The introduction and recommendation on Zaidner came to the Tun courtesy of tin magnates from Ipoh and the plant in Tun’s inner circle. Neither cared a hoot what Maminco, the tin council or the shorting of the tin market did to the Malaysian economy as such.

Every one of the players near the Tun knew that this was a shorting exercise and there were hundreds of millions of dollars to be made in not only trading in the physical market which many of the players controlled. It also offered them the opportunity  to manipulate the derivatives markets that the physical product (tin) they controlled which underwrote the exercise. Tengku Razaleigh was one of these in the know.