No chicken feed, as Mahathir and Najib duel over 1MDB's money

From the humble animal farm, the term "makan dedak" is now part of Malaysian politics

Followers former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad (right) have taken to labelling supporters of Prime Minister Najib Razak as people who are "makan dedak". PHOTOS: AFP PHOTOS: AFP

A term that is often used in a humble Malaysian animal farm has recently entered the country's high politics.

Makan dedak, or literally, eaters of animal feed.

Loyal followers of Prime Minister Najib Razak are being labelled as people who are "makan dedak" by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his supporters.

In simple language, the term infers that Datuk Seri Najib's supporters are being paid money stolen from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to prop him up.

The prime minister is facing pressure from his critics to step down due to the huge financial scandal involving 1MDB that he set up in 2009.

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) last week filed a civil suit to seize US$1 billion (S$1.34 billion) in assets that it believes were procured using money from 1MDB.

Swiss investigators have said US$4 billion may have been misappropriated from 1MDB.

That is not chicken feed.

The use of the derogatory term has riled Mr Najib and his supporters because, as was intended by the accusers, it tied their support of him to money stolen from the public.

Veteran Umno MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who disappointed the opposition when he turned away from their camp to become a strong supporter of Mr Najib, was asked in April whether he was fed with dedak.

Tengku Razaleigh pecked back at the reporters: "Some people said I have makan dedak. I don't know about that.

"I am not a duck."

In Malaysian villages, the word dedak refers to rice bran - the husk of the paddy left after the milling process.

Dedak is used to feed chickens and ducks as the cheapest form of animal feed.

And it is those same villages that flock to support Mr Najib and his party Umno, thus the term, makan dedak, is easily understood in these rural areas.

In the last general election in 2013, while support for Umno-led Barisan Nasional fell sharply among ethnic Chinese and urban Malays, rural Malays propped up the ruling coalition.

Mr Najib on Sunday (July 24) in Perak responded to the claims that the financial aid given to the poor, under the 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M) scheme, was akin to feeding farm animals.

"Some have referred to the policy of giving BR1M as a heinous act and a form of bribery, dedak. Giving BR1M cannot be equated to feeding animals," he was quoted as saying by Bernama news agency.

In the same vein, Mr Najib also spoke last month about dedak at a function in his hometown of Pekan in Pahang.

"We help the people to build schools, houses, construct roads not to give dedak. Dedak is for livestock, if we give assistance it means we are concerned about the needs of the people".

For Dr Mahathir, it was easy to understand why the president of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), Abdul Hadi Awang, supported Mr Najib, though the Islamic party is in the opposition.

Dr Mahathir crowed last month: "Hadi Awang is trying to woo Datuk Seri Najib, maybe he will get a lot of benefits, a lot of dedak."

In his response, Datuk Seri Hadi said the Umno chickens have come home to roost.

"Who started feeding people with dedak and corruption?" he said, citing past corruption cases where billions went missing from Perwaja Steel to the Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF) scandal to Maika Holdings.

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