An influential Malaysian blogger alleges that Najib’s wife was present when the Mongolian translator was murdered in 2006
One of Malaysia’s most prominent bloggers, in an explosive statutory declaration to a Malaysia court, has alleged that the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak as well as a Malaysian Army officer and the officer’s wife were directly involved in the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu on October 19, 2006, and that people at the very top of the Malaysian government are aware of the fact.
The declaration, by Raja Petra Kamarudin, who edits the web publication Malaysia Today, has been ignored by Malaysia’s government-linked mainstream media. However, it threatens to finally break open the case. Even if it doesn’t, it adds considerable chaos to the country’s political mix. The Barisan Nasional, the national ruling coalition, is reeling from the loss of its two-thirds majority in March elections.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, taking the brunt of criticism over the loss, has already promised to step down at some future date to cede the premiership to Najib. District elections are due in July in the United Malays National Organisation and there are suspicions that the verdict in the Altantuya murder trial is being delayed until the elections are completed.
Raja Petra wrote that Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, and Acting Colonel Aziz Buyong and his wife, Norhayati, Rosmah’s aide-de-camp, were present at the scene of the murder and that Aziz Buyong was the individual who placed C4 plastic explosive on Altantuya’s body and blew it up. Both Najib and his wife have repeatedly denied any involvement in the case although top society in Kuala Lumpur has been buzzing for months with rumors of their complicity.
Shaariibuu was executed by two shots to the head and her body was blown up with military explosives in a patch of jungle near the suburban city of Shah Alam. One of Najib’s closest friends, Abdul Razak Baginda, once the influential head of a political think-tank, and two of Najib’s bodyguards, Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar of the elite Unit Tindak Khas or Special Police Action Unit, have been the subject of a marathon murder trial that got underway more than a year ago.
Neither Najib nor his chief of staff, Musa Safri, has been questioned nor summoned as a witness despite the fact that Baginda in a sworn statement in November 2006 said he had contacted Musa for help in dealing with Altantuya, his jilted lover. That has raised widespread suspicions that the court – prosecution, defense and judiciary – have all been struggling to keep the case under wraps. It has been subject to numerous delays for reasons that are unclear.
Raja Petra himself is due to go on trial in October on sedition charges that were filed against him for writing an article titled “Let’s Send The Altantuya’s Murderers to Hell” and accusing Najib, his wife and others of complicity in the murder. He amplified the statement considerably in his statutory declaration, made last Wednesday, in which he also said that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had been a full report by military intelligence on the involvement of his deputy premier’s family. Badawi gave the intelligence report to his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, for safekeeping, according to Raja Petra’s statement.
Raja Petra, a member of the Selangor royal family, also wrote that one of the country’s sultans had been given a full report on the matter. He didn’t identify the sultan, but that raises additional implications, presumably that there is at least one member of royalty who can back up his declaration, which was made under oath, if he is subjected to additional charges over the matter.
From the time Altantuya’s body was discovered, there has been widespread suspicion that not only figures at the top of the government were involved but that the 28-year-old translator and mother of two may have been involved in a much bigger controversy than a jilted relationship. She made several trips to Kuala Lumpur to attempt to confront Baginda, at one point standing in front of his house and screaming “Razak, bastard, come out.” The last time she was seen alive was again in front of his house, when she was bundled into a car and taken away.
She accompanied Baginda to France when he was involved in negotiating the purchase of two Scorpene submarines and a used Agosta submarine produced by the French government through a French-Spanish joint venture, Armaris, for the Malaysian defense ministry, which was headed by Najib as minister. The submarines were bought through a Kuala Lumpur-based company, Perimekar Sdn Bhd, which at the time was owned by yet another company called Ombak Laut, which was wholly owned by Abdul Razak Baginda.
The €1 billion (RM4.5 billion) contract to buy the submarines was non-competitive and netted Perimekar €114 million. Although Najib has sworn an oath to Allah that he had never met the woman, he was in France at the same time one of his best friends was there, dealing with matters over the submarine. A cousin of Altantuya’s testified at the trial that she had seen a picture of Najib together with the dead woman, but she was quickly hushed up by both defense and prosecution lawyers about the matter.
Altantuya, by her own admission in a letter discovered after her death, wrote that she had been blackmailing Abdul Razak, presumably to keep his family from finding out about their relationship. But in his cautioned statement to the police, Baginda said he had already informed his family of the relationship and said she was pressuring him for US$500,000. Her father, Setev Shaariibuu, a psychology professor in Ulan Bataar, has said she was killed because she “knew too much,” although he has never elaborated on that statement.
Given the close relationship between the two men, and that Najib was reported as presenting jackets made available by Perimekar to the submarine crews training in France, and that Altantuya was along with Baginda, it is difficult to believe they had not met.
It is also difficult to believe, given the wealth of published reports, plus the fact that Azilah Hadri, and Sirul Azhar Umar, were members of Najib’s own bodyguard unit, that neither Najib nor Musa has been questioned about how the bodyguards came to be involved in allegations of Altantuya’s murder.
There have been many other discrepancies as well. Prosecutorial setbacks over the course of the trial have endangered the case. Sirul’s purported confession has been thrown out. The prosecution has attempted to impeach one of its own star witnesses, Rohaniza Roslan, a 28-year-old policewoman and Azilah’s girlfriend. Rohaniza said she had seen the victim bundled into a red Proton car and taken away. Later, in court, she said she had been “tortured and coaxed” by police interrogators into signing that statement and offered a version of events that differed considerably from her statement.
“The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor cannot remain silent on the latest bombshell,” wrote Lim Kit Siang, leader of the opposition Democratic Action Party. “The credibility and legitimacy of the Abdullah premiership and government will suffer a mortal blow if Abdullah, Najib and Rosmah remain silent on Raja Petra’s bombshell allegations.”