When slaying the behemoth is the easy part…

By SHAMSUL AKMAR / Pic By BERNAMA

The Goldman Sachs Group Inc CEO David Solomon has apologised to Malaysians for the role of one of his former bankers in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal.

CNBC quoted Solomon as saying: “It is very clear that the people of Malaysia were defrauded by many individuals, including the highest members of the prior government.”

In what seems to be an admission of Goldman Sach’s culpability, Solomon was further quoted as saying: “Tim Leissner, who was a partner at our firms, by his own admission was one of those people,” adding, “For Leissner’s role, we apologise to the Malaysian people.”

One of the highest member of the “prior government” Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak, who is facing some 30 charges over the 1MDB scandal, has reportedly placed the blame squarely on Goldman Sachs, saying that the investment bank’s role was to preserve the country’s sovereign wealth interest. Najib was further quoted as saying that “consequently, Goldman Sachs would have to take responsibi- lity over its dereliction”.

It must be quite frustrating for Najib’s supporters, who seem to have enjoyed quite a good run in the past couple of months, almost able to convince some segments of the Malay community that Najib is a victim of slander in the 1MDB scandal. Suddenly, the likes of Solomon comes along to cast doubt on their narrative.

There’s not much that Pakatan Harapan leaders can do in dealing with the attempt to whitewash Najib’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal as the matter is in the courts and the long wait for the trial to start had been spun to support the narrative of Najib being slandered.

To make matters worse are the high cost of living, some clueless members of the Cabinet and — perceived or otherwise — ineffective policies, lack of investment, non-business friendly stance and unemployment.

Then, there is a growing sense of divide with hardline Malay Muslim groups growing bolder in their pronouncements and, intentionally or otherwise, baiting chauvinists on the other end of the spectrum to react.

Indeed, the goodwill for the new government is thinning fast and the only good thing going for Pakatan Harapan is that the Opposition is amenable to Najib.

Such is the space given to Najib by the Opposition that some of his supporters are looking at him making a return as the prime minister.

The charges and the 1MDB scandal, no matter how big the expose and damaging, do not seem to perturb them and Najib so much so that his detractors have even wondered if there is no sense of shame or dignity left.

Then again, shame and dignity have proven to be commodities.

With that, the nation continues to live from one end of the stick to another — wondering when it will be able to get out of the economic uncertainties and, at the same time, facing a political entity they thought they had trapped and caged only to discover it has returned and on the prowl, albeit clumsily.

Of course, once the trials start, hopes are high that all the plunderers will be further exposed and pay for their crimes, unless the courts decide otherwise.

That adds to the uncertainties and, compounded by the current unsavoury economic conditions, the sense of desperation and helplessness makes haste into the midst.

On the sidelines, the Cameron Highlands by-election is fast being turned into a yardstick of national sentiment.

With Umno taking over the seat from MIC and PAS not participating, but instead is supporting Umno, the political divide is further defined with a simplistic narrative — Umno and PAS for the Malays and Muslims and Pakatan Harapan is only good for the non-Malays and the liberals, whatever that means.

Whatever semblance of national camaraderie shared during the May 9 polls, which brought an end to the Barisan Nasional behemoth, is now threatened to be shredded and replaced with an amalgamation of hardline racial politics.

Even though in truth Cameron Highlands does not represent the national political landscape or demographics, a victory for the Opposition will revitalise the plan to have a union of sorts between Umno and PAS and, this time, more publicly.

It was attempted during the last general election but the lukewarm response, if not outright opposition, from the PAS grassroots led to the idea being placed in the backburner.

Pundits mostly agreed that Umno’s decision to place an Orang Asli/Malay candidate may very well be the winning factor; PAS support is likely to seal the victory and leaders of Pakatan Harapan have accepted that the battle for Cameron Highlands is an uphill task.

For the first time since May 9, Pakatan Harapan has its back to the wall and a defeat, though it may not unravel all that the ruling coalition has achieved since then, it is going to burst its bubble.

Pakatan Harapan and level-headed Malaysians may not like the idea that not winning Cameron Highlands (note: it was won by Barisan Nasional in the last election) will embolden hardline racial politics.

Slaying the behemoth on May 9 was only the beginning. And yes, winning the polls was the easy part.

  • Shamsul Akmar is the editor at The Malaysian Reserve.