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 not a local scandal but a global money laundering and corruption scandal spanning in many countries and continents.
It involves the sovereign fund from Malaysia headed by ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak. And got global corporations like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Deutsche Bank AG and Wells Fargo mired in the scandal.
In some jurisdictions, they call it the scandal of the century. It is, by all means, the biggest money laundering and corruption scandal of all time.
Barely a year after Najib took office as the new Prime Minister, the 1MDB scandal was already in the works.
The global money-laundering exercise was happening right under the nose of the Malaysians. Yet they had no clue until an entry on Sarawak Report got picked up by the Wall Street Journal.
That was in 2013 and this is how intertwined the decade was for Malaysia.
One can say the rockiest decade in the country’s history started with Najib Razak taking oath as PM 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
The 1MDB scandal tops all the events that took place in the last decade in Malaysia. It is the trigger that brought the Najib regime down, ending the Barisan’s 61 years rule over the country.
While Barisan can regain power, especially with the confusion with the Pakatan Harapan, the 1MDB scandal is here to stay.
The scandal destroyed the BN, helped Dr Mahathir regain power 15 after his resignation in 2003. It also got Anwar Ibrahim an unlikely royal pardon.
In 2012, Malaysia saw the largest-ever street demonstration demanding electoral reform. It was also a power play by the Pakatan Rakyat opposition ahead of the 2013 polls.
Pakatan Rakyat had Anwar as its leader and the elections ended with the opposition coalition winning the majority vote. But the BN and Najib winning 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. He coined 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 will be one of the determinant factors in Najib’s downfall in 2018. While Najib was taunting the Chinese, Dr Mahathir’s impatience grew and he began his attacks against the PM.
His criticism of the government and of the poor electoral performance did not sit down well with Najib. The PM 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.
2014: MH370 VANISHES
On March 8, 2014, the Malaysia Airlines MH370 took off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It was 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 Boeing 777 aeroplane vanished in thin air. After months of searches for the flight that disappeared no one knows where is the aircraft.
The only remaining evidence of the aircraft is the debris found on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The finds are among other parts rescued across the southern African continent braced by the Indian Ocean.
There are multiple theories on where is the plane or why it disappeared but none of them is conclusive. This remains the biggest airline mystery of all time.
It is still a very sad day for Malaysia and a difficult time for the families of the victims.
MH17 BLOWN OUT OF THE SKY
Another incident involving Malaysia Airlines shocked the country with the crash of the MH17 over Ukraine. It came like a massive blow on the Malaysians. They could not believe what was happening to their country and their beloved airline. July 17 will remain a traumatic experience for the families of the victims. The missile hitting the plane killed all 283 passengers and 15 crew.
The country will see a dismal end of the year on December 28. An AirAsia carrier crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 162 people on board.
The Airbus A320 was flying on the Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore route.
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.
The slump contributed to the woes faced by the Najib regime. After a near defeat in 2013 and the mishandling of the MH370 incident, the oil price crash in the fourth quarter of 2014 added to the troubles for the Najib Razak government.
But, that was only the beginning of the troubles for Najib and BN.