Sultans call for quick end to 1MDB probe

A billboard with the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad logo at the funds flagship Tun Razak Exchange construction site in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 22, 2015.
A billboard with the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad logo at the funds flagship Tun Razak Exchange construction site in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 22, 2015. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's nine royal rulers yesterday issued a joint statement asking the government to quickly conclude investigations into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) affair and to take "the appropriate stern action" against those implicated, Bernama news agency reported.

The statement, issued a day before the start of the two-day annual Conference of Rulers today, was a rare joint intervention by the sultans in Malaysia's political arena.

It was also the first time that the sultans of the nine royal houses have commented on the 1MDB issue that has dragged on for more than a year.

According to Bernama, they said: "The failure to give convincing clarifications and answers is feared to have resulted in a crisis of confidence.

"As a consequence, the people believe, whether basing on reality or perception, that this is among the causes for the plunge in the value of the ringgit, impacting the country's financial market and economic climate negatively and, at the same time, adversely affecting the world's view of Malaysia."

The Malay rulers were worried that if the issue was not wisely handled and dragged on, it could jeopardise the economy and livelihoods of the people, the news agency quoted the statement as saying.

The scandal involving 1MDB, a state investment firm whose board of advisers is led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, has led to the ouster of senior government officials including deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin and attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail.

1MDB has amassed debts of RM42 billion (S$13.6 billion) in its first five years, and has been struggling to reduce its debts.

The joint statement was issued by the Keeper of the Rulers' Seal, Datuk Seri Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, after the pre-council meeting ahead of the Conference of Rulers gathering.

While several sultans, on their own, had sometimes commented on political issues deemed critical of the government, such as comments made by the sultans of Johor and Selangor, the Conference of Rulers as a group had not in recent memory waded into making political comments.

This is due to their official roles as apolitical hereditary rulers. One of the nine rulers takes his turn every five years to become the Agong, Malaysia's titular head of state.

The statement called on those involved to extend "real and sincere" cooperation for the investigation to achieve its objectives.

"The findings of the investigation must be reported comprehensively and in a transparent manner so that the people will be convinced of the sincerity of the government which shall not at all conceal facts and the truth," it said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2015, with the headline 'Sultans call for quick end to 1MDB probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe