The Asian Voice

1MDB asset recovery: Think big, small steps, move quickly: Sin Chew Daily contributor

Boxes of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) documents arrive at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 28, 2019.
Boxes of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) documents arrive at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 28, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - "Think Big, Small Steps, Move Quickly" were the summary findings of the Industry 4.0 Roundtable arranged by A. T. Kearney, Ekuinas and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

It struck me that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government would be well-served to take up this mantra, for both its political and economic initiatives.

For instance, how can we apply this to the comic tragedy of Jho Low, which has hardly gone to script from the soapbox days of promises on the GE14 campaign trail?

Where's the rapid-fire justice, the public reckoning and the return of the pilfered billions promised to the Rakyat?

Instead, what we have broadcast to the local and foreign public is that we Malaysians cannot accomplish this objective without the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) or some other such external assistance.

Lesson 1: The opportunity we have is enormous: We have aggrandised Jho Low to the point of near invincibility.

But what's his reality? Scurrying around backwaters like a rat with third-rate country passports.

The truth is that Malaysia can flush him out easily if we simply put the finger on the nerve that rattles him, namely, his money.

Remember what happened when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed seized Equanimity from her berth in Indonesia?


Jho immediately cried foul through his lawyers and PR mouthpieces. Or when his family assets in Penang were frozen? Again he squealed out loud that he was being "politically persecuted".

Lesson 2. Think global once in a while: Good old Jho would have gladly given up Najib, Rosmah, Riza, the Arabs and the Chinese on a sizzling hot plate if we had just kept the pressure up.

We should have gone after the Park Lane Hotel in New York, or his Basquiat art collection at Geneva Freeport.

More than anything else he hates losing his toys! He comes running to the megaphone every time anyone presses one of those buttons.

Lesson 3: Take small steps towards big goals: When the DOJ cut their deal with him a few days back, Jho triumphantly touted that he had resolved the matter amicably and with no admission of guilt. He can't help himself.

It's a tell, like Trump's "People are saying..." catchphrase every time he delivers another whopper.

Lesson 4: Keep learning from the process: So far we have made ourselves look like an inconsequential and powerless vassal who can only get their way if the Americans let us.

If you look at how we have handled the 1MDB recovery it's a clear pattern. We talk big at home, and do nothing outside.

Tactically we have shown ourselves to be rank amateurs. Instead of fighting Goldmans in New York, where it would hurt them, we filed criminal charges against top Goldman Sachs executives in Malaysian courts.

They didn't even bother deigning that with a reaction. All we ended up doing was closing off our capital markets to the big foreign banks.

Lesson 5: Co-create the desired result: In short, what the Jho Low saga shows is Malaysia's insecurity to assert itself on a global stage, and its lack of sophistication in fighting fire with fire.


We pitted our civil servants against the world's top lawyers, bankers and press executives. Jho hired Chris Christie to cut his DOJ deal, and America's top litigator David Boies was retained by him.

In turn we desperately need an international team with the relevant international expertise. What we have to understand is that taking legal actions in Malaysia won't work since the stolen assets are not here but overseas.

Some might think it's the job of foreign governments to get back Malaysia's money, but it is not.

Malaysia needs to vigorously pursue its rights itself in foreign courts. There's no shame in using the best minds on the planet to realise our goals when we need it.

Lesson 6: Let's stop underestimating ourselves: Jho Low is simply an illustration of the larger problem. Malaysia has been showing the same insecurity - against prosecuting previous administration officials, the economy, foreign investment, political reforms, etc. - for far too long.

It's high time for change. PH has been given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to transform itself from the opposition banging on the table, to the grown-ups wearing the big-boy pants.

I think this is the main reason the average voter is upset. Jho - still at-large and travelling around freely with multiple passports - is a perfect symptom of a bigger underlying problem which needs to be addressed at its core.

The good news is that about three and a half years is still enough time to turn the ship around.

Our Captain has achieved the almost impossible by sailing us through the storm of the previous kleptocratic government and for that the Nation will always be grateful.

Now we must move quickly to recognise that there are First Mates, engineers and deckhands ready to help reach the destination as soon as possible for the benefit of all Malaysians in the New Malaysia.

Datuk Wira Dr Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff is the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia's Supreme Council Member. Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media entities.