Monday, September 18, 2017

Did Dato’ Seri Najib Razak make empty and meaningless promises to the President of the United States just to curry favour and show off?

In the viral 6-minute meeting between Dato’ Seri Najib Razak and President Trump, accompanied by their respective delegations, the Malaysian Prime Minister pulled out all stops to impress the American President.

Dato’ Seri Najib did not waste time with pleasantries and started his speech with how much Malaysian firms and funds will purchase from, and invest with US companies.  He said “Number one, we want to help you in terms of strengthening the US economy.”

Among the most controversial promise by Dato’ Seri Najib was for the Malaysian Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to investment an additional “three to four billion dollars” to “support... infrastructure redevelopment in the United States.”

Ordinary Malaysians, and in particular, contributors to the EPF are up in arms over the Prime Minister’s callous promise to the American president. How is it that we are now spending billions of our saving to support “infrastructure redevelopment in the United States” when we are in desperate need for the same in Malaysia?

The irony cannot be greater when only recently Dato’ Seri Najib Razak secured a RM55 billion loan from China’s Export-Import Bank in order to award a contract to China Communications and Construction Company (CCCC) to build the controversially priced East Coast Rail Link.  We don’t have money to build our own infrastructure and our Prime Minister wants to help make America great again?

However, perhaps after realising the political damage which his ‘promises’ to President Trump have caused, the Prime Minister is now telling Malaysians something different.

In his Malaysia Day speech given in Kota Kinabalu, he said “when I said that the EPF wanted to invest in the US, they (opposition) said it was no use and it was better to invest in our own country.”

The prime minister explained that the EPF had funds totalling RM760 billion which could be invested not only in the US, but in 39 other countries.  “The decision was not made by politicians, it was made by its investment committee,” he added.

Dato’ Seri Najib Razak even taunted the critics as “shallow, not that smart”.

The Prime Minister is obviously trying to be disingenuous here, promising President Trump one thing, but justifying something completely different to Malaysians.

Since Dato’ Seri Najib claimed that “the decision was not made by politicians”, we would like to ask him if the EPF investment committee has already made the decision to invest “three to four billion dollars” to “support infrastructure redevelopment in the United States”?

We are not questioning the right for EPF to invest overseas.  It is EPF’s prerogative to invest a certain amount of funds overseas after the necessary analysis and due diligence have been carried out by the investment committee.  However, as far as Malaysians are aware, there has been no such definitive resolution or commitment by the EPF to make the “three to four billion dollars” to “support infrastructure redevelopment in the United States”.

Hence, if indeed investment decisions at the EPF are “not made by politicians” as justified by Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, and that EPF has also not made any decision to invest “three to four billion dollars” to “support infrastructure redevelopment in the United States”, then we can only conclude that our Prime Minister boasted empty promises to the American President.

The question then is, why did Dato’ Seri Najib Razak have to go out of his way to impress the Trump administration?  The answer appears to be obvious, from his stay the the Trump Hotel to his boasts at the White House, the Prime Minister pulled out all stops to curry favour the American President in order to hope that the United States government will go easy on the single largest anti-kleptocracy money laundering seizure in the country.

We call upon the EPF and Khazanah Nasional to maintain independent financial discipline, free from political pressures and interference, in carrying out their investment mandates.  This is to ensure that the life-savings of Malaysian workers and the assets of the Malaysian people will remain safe and secure, protected for generations to come.
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