Clare Rewcastle Brown: No changes without brave individuals

PETALING JAYA: British journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown has lauded the bravery of the many people who risked their safety to expose corruption in Malaysia.

She was speaking to The Star in an exclusive interview shortly after arriving in Malaysia, following the lifting of an arrest warrant against her, and the unblocking of her investigative website Sarawak Report.

Acknowledging the role that people such as herself played in uncovering stories that the mainstream media were not able to pursue, Rewcastle Brown said that she felt driven to follow the stories partly because of the integrity of those involved.

"There was a lot of suspicion articulated about the 1MDB fund by opposition parties, for a start," said Rewcastle Brown.

"(Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim and Tony Pua were great articulators of the strange ways the fund was being managed. I then caught on to what was clearly the link between 1MDB and the family of (Datuk Seri) Najib Tun Razak when I realised that (entrepreneur) Jho Low was accompanying Riza Aziz in Hollywood, and Riza launched an expensive and highly inappropriate movie called Wolf of Wall Street."

The Wolf Of Wall Street was an Oscar award-winning 2013 black comedy drama starring Leonardo Di Caprio.

"I started asking questions that were not satisfactory answered and all I got were legal letters so I kept pursuing it. It took me over a year before I made my first big break on 1MDB which was the PetroSaudi deal."

Officials from Saudi energy group PetroSaudi International were investigated as part of a wider inquiry into the suspected theft of assets from Malaysia's 1MDB state fund.

One of the officials was Xavier Justo. Rewcastle Brown did a notable interview with his wife Laura in July 2016.

"Her hubby had spent 18 months in jail and shortly after he was arrested she got in touch with me. I went to see her. She was a distressed young lady trying to work out what to do."

"My instinct was that we have to go screaming in front of telly cameras that her hubby was being jailed. She was ready to do that and I thought it was important to bring out a rebuttal of some of the awful things that was being written about Xavier after he was jailed."

The destruction of character credibility is something cited by Rewcastle Brown on more than one occasion. "I could tell what happened that they were threatening this couple, and she went silent on me for a while."

Rewcastle Brown also cited her colleagues at the Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak. "I have worked with many brave people. Those who worked on the radio were heroes. My DJ Peter John Jaban has gone back and he is jolly well standing up for what's right and that is brave."

"Every one who does that knows something will happen to them, and that has got to stop. When you see people like Bill Kayong (murdered PKR activist) and the pastor (Raymond Koh) who was abducted, these are shocking cases."

"It immediately strikes fear in the entire population.

Rewcastle Brown also recalled American Ross Boyert, former CEO of Sakti International Corporation, a property company linked to then Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Boyert committed suicide in Oct 2010.

"Journos these days tend to forget that you are only as good as your sources. Ross gave me info he was privy to. That was a brave thing for him to do. He was being heavily bullied by private detectives who were following him. He and his wife were suffering a lot of that and still he gave a lot of documentation that helped pulled together a info on corruption issues in Sarawak."


> For the full exclusive interview with Rewcastle Brown, get a copy of Monday's The Star newspaper.