PETALING JAYA – Prime Minister Najib Razak’s visit to the White House later this month will not affect the United States’ Department of Justice’s criminal investigation into money allegedly stolen from 1MDB, says an international relations expert.
Speaking to FMT, Roy Anthony Rogers, the head of Universiti Malaya’s Department of Strategic and International Studies, said the separation of powers in the US meant the DoJ’s investigation will not be disrupted.
Reports that Najib would visit US President Donald Trump on Sept 12 have sparked speculation over the fate of the DoJ’s investigations.
The visit has also drawn flak from DAP’s parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang who said the visit would bring shame to the country as he claimed Najib hadn’t cleared himself of allegations of corruption in the DoJ suit.
But Roy said the visit, which comes at a time of close Sino-Malaysian relations, was good for the country.
“I sincerely believe it is good because we need to diversify our relations and not rely too much on China.
“This is part of the strategy, having close ties with Saudi Arabia, India, China and now continuing the strategic partnership with the US which began under the Obama administration.”
Roy added that the meeting isn’t surprising considering the close ties enjoyed by both countries over the years and the fact that the US has interests all over the world.
“It’s common for the US president to meet or invite the PM of Malaysia to the White House, right from the time of Tunku Abdul Rahman and even Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was critical of the US.”
He also noted that Malaysia and the US have enjoyed better diplomatic ties since Barack Obama became president and that 2017 marks 60 years’ of relations between the two countries.
“Besides, I also believe the US is trying to further strengthen its relations in Southeast Asia in facing the growing influence of China through its initiatives like the One Belt One Road (Obor).”
The Obor initiative has seen Beijing sign some US$926 billion (RM3.9 trillion) worth of projects along strategic land and sea routes, spanning over 15,000km.
These projects include railway networks, highways and ports in countries such as Laos, Malaysia, Pakistan and Vietnam.
“The US wants to retain cordial relations with Malaysia, especially after losing the Philippines, which was its strong supporter in Southeast Asia,” added Roy.
In recent times, ties between the US and the Philippines, once its closest ally in the region, have soured, especially after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte came to power.
The unapologetic and controversial Duterte has voiced his intention to develop closer ties with Russia and China.
LITTLE TO GAIN
Meanwhile, a former ambassador, who declined to be named, told FMT there was little to gain for both Najib and Trump through this visit.
“At most, Najib can show Malaysian voters that he is accepted by Washington, despite what’s going on back home. For Trump, he’ll be sending a signal to China that the US still has influence in the region.
“As for the DoJ investigation, I believe it will remain status quo. I don’t see it going away or escalating.
“I believe the initiation of the DoJ suit under the Obama administration, and the ‘so called’ escalation into a criminal investigation under the Trump administration, is merely a warning.”
The former ambassador said the DoJ’s action was the US’ way of hanging a “sword of Damocles” over Najib as a reminder against getting too close to China.