It’s a whale of a story, says Rafidah

Former minister Rafidah Aziz at a greet and meet session with ‘Billion Dollar Whale’ author Tom Wright at Kinokuniya book store today. (Facebook pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Former international trade and industry minister Rafidah Aziz today praised the “Billion Dollar Whale” book written by Wall Street Journal (WSJ) journalists Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, which accuses Jho Low of masterminding the 1MDB scandal.

Rafidah said while she has not read the entire book, as she did not manage to buy it, the parts she read had left her dumbfounded.

“I congratulate you and Hope. It has been painstaking for you in collecting the data from bits and pieces.

“It is refreshing it was gelled into a book. It is really a whale of a story.

“I’m sure for us Malaysians, this story will be talked about for generations to come. This (scandal) has never happened. It is too good to be true. Too atrocious to be true,” she said in her opening remarks at a meet and greet session with Wright at the Kinokuniya book store in KLCC here this evening.

The veteran politician said the book had many lessons to offer, including not allowing greed to take over one’s lives, and to honour the people’s trust.

“Of course when people don’t do that, the whole country voted in a new government, Pakatan Harapan. This is teaching us that you must govern well. Don’t allow the compass of governance to go astray.

“The book teaches us that it is not about leaders. It is about leadership.

“It is the hardest thing to get in the world today. Anywhere in the world. There are plenty of leaders jostling to get posts, but they can hardly show what leadership is, as wanted by the citizens who voted them in,” she said.

Rafidah said the story had not yet ended, and expressed hope that the story would reach “its rightful ending, and that justice will prevail”.

“I am happy that something has come out of this messy, messy, messy scandal. We are now known for all the wrong reasons, and it did not take much for that to happen,” she remarked.

Speaking to reporters later, Rafidah said she had started speaking up on the issue as early as in 2015, in a column in Utusan Malaysia, where she questioned why the country was getting RM2.6 billion and who was giving the money.

“I wrote in my weekly column. When I submitted it, I got feedback that the prime minister’s office had vetoed the article and not allowed it to be published.

“I asked why. I was asking a question. RM2.6 billion is not a small amount. (But it became apparent that) asking the questions were not allowed.

“Utusan came back to me and said it would not go to print. I was so upset. This is why I started writing on my Facebook. If I cannot do it in the papers, I will do it on Facebook. I started questioning,” she said.

Back then, Rafidah said, the seeds of doubt were planted in her, and she questioned why the Prime Minister’s Office should stop her from asking questions.

“Everybody was asking the question anyway. I wrote it in my column.

“It goes to show that very early on, there were efforts to shut everyone up. That was a no go for me,” she added.

1MDB is under investigation in at least six countries including the US where it has become the biggest case pursued by the US Department of Justice under its anti-kleptocracy programme.

The DoJ alleged in lawsuits that more than US$4.5 billion from 1MDB was laundered through a complex web of transactions and shell companies, of which US$681 million ended up in Najib’s bank account.