Malaysia PM Najib rapped for taking 1MDB-linked stepson on China trip
Malaysia’s opposition politicians have lashed out at Prime Minister Najib Razak after pictures showed his stepson, who is implicated in a massive embezzlement scam, accompanied him on an official trip to China. Images posted on Twitter showed Riza Aziz leaving Najib’s official aeroplane after it arrived in Beijing. The US Justice Department said in lawsuits filed in July that more than US$200 million was funnelled to Riza from the 1MDB state investment fund that Najib founded.
WHAT NEXT? “Not only do we have to bear [the cost] of the expensive jet, but now [Najib] is bringing his stepson, whom the whole world is looking for in relation to 1MDB monies,” opposition lawmaker Rafizi Ramli was quoted as telling parliament. Members of the public were equally displeased. “FBI, hurry! Go capture him!” said one online posting. Another said: “Scandalous and outrageous. Aren’t the Najibs ashamed of themselves?”
‘Mission accomplished’, Philippine peace envoy Ramos steps down
Former Philippines president Fidel Ramos has quit his job as special envoy to China, his aides said. His specific task was to try to repair ties soured by a squabble with Beijing over disputed territory. “He has done his job,” a Ramos aide said. “President [Rodrigo] Duterte has visited Beijing and our fishermen are back in the disputed Scarborough Shoal [which China calls Huangyan Island]. He has accomplished his mission.” Ramos, an 88-year-old statesman widely respected in a country he led from 1992 to 1998, was quoted by GMA News Online as saying his China role had only been to “break the ice”.
WHAT NEXT? Ramos has been a supporter of Duterte but recently criticised the maverick leader. In a newspaper column, he described Duterte’s first 100 days in office as a “huge disappointment and let-down”, a view in contrast with popular opinion. As Duterte left for Beijing, Ramos was quoted as saying: “I still consider myself a part of the Duterte team whether they like it or not.” A Ramos aide said the resignation had nothing to do with his view on Duterte. “Please, do not put meaning into this, he remains a team Philippines player,” the aide said.
Thai government in big-money measures in support of rice farmers
Thailand’s military government has rolled out a series of rescue packages in a bid to help the country’s rice farmers. The junta has announced measures worth at least 59.28 billion baht (HK$13.1 billion) aimed at curbing market supply and stabilising falling rice prices. The measures are seen as efforts to ensure a smooth transition following the death of much-loved King Bhumibol Adulyadej and to maintain stability ahead of a 2017 general election.
WHAT NEXT? It didn’t take long for people to point out the aid is almost identical to the controversial subsidy scheme used by former prime ministers Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother Thaksin to – critics claim – ensure their victory in elections. Yingluck was even impeached for her role in the “cash for votes” arrangement. When Yingluck’s government ran out of money, angry rice farmers blocked roads across parts of the country. With the military government anxious to head off a confrontation with the farmers, it’s unlikely to fall behind on its payments.
Indian police shoot escaped prisoners, then admit they had been unarmed
Police shot dead eight suspected Islamists after they escaped from a high-security jail in the city of Bhopal, in India’s Madhya Pradesh state. The men had slit the throat of a prison guard and climbed over the walls using knotted bedsheets. They were members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India. They were eventually tracked down and cornered. “We asked them to surrender but they tried to break the police cordon,” Yogesh Choudhary, Bhopal’s inspector general of police, said. “They were unarmed but … we had to shoot them.”
WHAT NEXT? Police are under pressure to explain the killings after footage emerged that appeared to show one of the men being shot while incapacitated. Police later claimed the men had knives and makeshift pistols and fired on officers. Another video appeared to show the escapees with their hands up and asking to speak to the officers. Opposition parties have called for an investigation into the deaths of the men, who were awaiting trial on charges including explosives offences, plotting to kill public officials and robbery. “People … must know how terrorists with such a record were able to escape from such a high-security jail and within hours be caught and shot dead,” said Congress party member Kamal Nath.
New MH370 analysis suggests no one was at controls during crash
A technical report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which leads the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, seems to support the theory investigators have long favoured: that no one was at the controls of the Boeing 777 when it ran out of fuel and crashed in a remote patch of the Indian Ocean off the west of Australia on March 8, 2014. Most of the 239 people on board the aircraft that vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing were Chinese nationals.
WHAT NEXT? Critics have been pushing an alternative theory that someone was still controlling the plane at the end of its flight, tripling in size the possible area where it could have crashed and complicating the already hugely complex and expensive effort to find it. The new report shows that the latest analysis of satellite data is consistent with the original theory. It also said that an analysis of a wing flap that washed ashore in Tanzania indicates the flap was probably not deployed when it broke off. A pilot would typically extend the flaps during a controlled ditching.
Billionaire Wang bags Dick Clark Productions for US$1 Billion
Billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group has agreed to pay US$1 billion for Golden Globe Awards producer Dick Clark Productions, adding a US television industry asset to the Chinese tycoon’s expanding sports and entertainment empire. The purchase will be Wanda’s first entry into television production, Wang’s entertainment, real estate and finance conglomerate said. Wanda said it plans to keep all of the Santa Monica, California-based company’s management.
WHAT NEXT? The deal gives Wanda control of the company’s music and film awards programmes as well as well-known American TV shows such as American Bandstand and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. Wang has been snapping up Hollywood assets and making alliances, agreeing in September to collaborate on film projects with Sony’s film unit and Legendary Entertainment for US$3.5 billion early this year. “Obtaining top television production rights brings about complementary and coordinated development for Wanda’s current focuses on the film, tourism and sports industries,” Wanda said. However, the Dick Clark deal still requires regulatory approval in the US.
Compiled by Benjamin O’Rourke