The decade that just whizzed past us was a tumultuous and a difficult one for Malaysia. There were great moments of terror and grief but there were also moments of glory and joy for Malaysians.
I believe the biggest story of the decade in Malaysia is the unravelling of the 1MDB scandal. It is a global money laundering and corruption scandal spanning many countries and continents.
Involving the sovereign fund of Malaysia headed by ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak, many countries call it the scandal of the century.
Global institutions like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Deutsche Bank AG and Wells Fargo were all hit by the scandal.
The U.S. Department of Justice is still pursuing the culprits and sealing deals with them to recover the stolen funds.
Barely a year after Najib Razak took office as the new Prime Minister of Malaysia, the 1MDB scandal was already in the works.
The global money-laundering exercise was happening right under the nose of Malaysians, but they had no clue until an entry on a blog got picked up by the Wall Street Journal.
That was in 2013 and the Sarawak Report’s story on 1MDB kick-started Najib’s downfall.
One can say the rockiest decade in the country’s history started with Najib Razak taking oath as Prime Minister in 2009.
From then on, Malaysia’s destiny took several wrong turns and entered unchartered territories bringing down the Barisan Nasional regime.
The 1MDB scandal tops all the events that took place in the last decade in Malaysia. It is the trigger that ended Barisan’s 61 years of rule over the country.
While Barisan can regain power, the 1MDB scandal lives on and is probably the biggest shock Malaysia has ever had.
The scandal destroyed the BN, helped Dr Mahathir regain power 15 after his resignation in 2003 and got Anwar Ibrahim an unlikely royal pardon.
In 2012, Malaysia saw the largest-ever street demonstration demanding electoral reform. In reality, it was also a power play by the Pakatan Rakyat opposition ahead of the 2013 polls.
Pakatan Rakyat had Anwar, the pm-in-waiting, as its leader and the elections ended with the opposition coalition winning the majority vote. But the BN and Najib won with a reduced parliamentary majority.
2013: APA CINA MAHU LAGI
With the weak results, the worst ever for the BN in decades, Najib launched an open attack against the Chinese community, saying perhaps the most famous phrase of the year.
Utusan Melayu, the now-defunct pro-BN Malay-language daily, had a screamer for its headline after the elections.
“Apa Cina Mahu Lagi,” asked Najib after the announcement of the election results. Najib was banking on a shift in Chinese votes away from the Pakatan Rakyat. But that did not happen. This phrase from Najib explains the frustrations the Umno had with the Chinese community.
The massive Chinese support for the Pakatan was one of the determining factors in Najib’s downfall in 2018. While Najib was taunting the Chinese, Dr Mahathir started to show his impatience and began his own attacks against the PM.
His criticism of the government and of the poor electoral performance did not sit well with Najib, who was strengthening his grip on power and in the Umno.
The year 2014 will remain one of the catalyst years in Malaysia’s modern history. Here is a brief recall of the events that rocked Malaysia in that extraordinary year.
On March 8, 2014, A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 took off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, heading for Beijing at 12.41 am local time. It had 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board.
In March, it will be six years since the aeroplane vanished into thin air. After months of searching the flight’s disappearance remains a mystery.
The only remaining evidence of the aircraft is the debris found on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, among other parts found across the southern African continent braced by the Indian Ocean.
There are multiple theories on where the plane is and why it disappeared but none of them are conclusive. This remains the biggest airline mystery of all time.
MH17 AND FLIGHT 8501
Another incident involving Malaysia Airlines which shocked the country was the crashing of MH17 over Ukraine. July 17 will remain a traumatic experience for the families of the victims. The missile which hit the plane killed all 283 passengers and 15 crew. AirAsia had its first crash, ending 2014 on a sombre note for Malaysia. Flight 8501 flying from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore route crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 162 people on board.
THE OIL SLUMP
That was not all for the year tumultuous year in Malaysia. Oil prices started to fall dramatically in days reminiscent of the ringgit crash in 1998. Many factors contributed to the 2014 drop in oil prices, but the Malaysian economy is still reeling from its impact.
But that was only the beginning of the troubles for Najib and BN.
1MDB HAUNTS NAJIB
On July 2, 2015, Sarawak Report and Wall Street Journal published damaging reports, accusing Najib of siphoning 1MDB money. They published allegations of Najib wiring the stash to his own private banking account in Malaysia.
Malaysia fired its Attorney General under cover of a supposed illness, a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief went missing and was found dead. It was murder.
In the same year, Mahathir made a surprise appearance at the Bersih rally demanding Najib’s resignation as PM over a multi-million-dollar payment into his personal account at the AmBank.
MAHATHIR SETS THE STAGE
In early 2016, former PM Mahathir resigned from Umno. In that year, the nonagenarian shocked Malaysians when he met Anwar Ibrahim in court on September 5. The two buried the hatchet after almost 20 years of a tussle that brought Anwar down in 1998.
2018: NAJIB AND BN DEFEATED
The May 2018 elections became a landmark event in Malaysia with the shock defeat of the Barisan Nasional headed by Najib Razak. Mahathir had done it, he brought down his former protege and regained the post of PM in a historic victory.
The joy spread throughout Malaysia with the internet exploding in the face of Najib, the defeated leader of a regime that ran the country for 61 years.
For weeks, people rallied behind Dr Mahathir, hailing his comeback a historic moment in the country.
2019: BOSSKU TAKES THE STAND
Never seen before in Malaysia, a former PM takes the stand to defend his role in the 1MDB-SRC scandal. In 2019, the prosecution team opened the 1MDB case after it proceeded with the SRC International case in august 2019.