Clare Rewcastle-Brown was not really prepared to become a media darling after the Malaysian 14th General Elections, for she was once a name one could not say aloud in Malaysia. She was banned from entering Malaysia by the previous Barisan Nasional government and her blog was blocked by the authorities.
Today, the ban into the Peninsula has been lifted, but she is still barred from entering Sarawak for her exposes.
The only medium that carried her reports was the internet with her Sarawak Report blog when she constantly exposed the abuse of power and corruption by the previous Barisan Nasional government.
Her big break was on the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal which investigations now span countries - from the US to Malaysia to Indonesia.
However, Rewcastle-Brown thinks that despite being such a massive financial scam, it may just be the tip of the iceberg of all the corruptions that happened during the tenure of the previous government.
I have always felt that 1MDB was the tip of an iceberg.
She said this based on the logic that 1MDB was just one of the many funds set up during the previous Barisan Nasional government and many of these may also have been used by corrupt politicians to fund their lavish lifestyles.
Rewcastle-Brown says that 1MDB is the only one that has been scrutinised so far, and thus, this scandal may just be a fraction of the abuse of power and corruption that allegedly occurred during the previous government's tenure.
The former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his cronies are currently being investigated for the more than RM42 billion dollar scam using 1MDB funds.
1MDB was initially set up as a Terengganu state development fund but was exposed as an intricate network of cheatings and lies to fund the luxurious lifestyles of Najib and his cronies.
"I think it’s highly possible. But I have always felt that 1MDB was the tip of an iceberg. If you have got a government and you have people at the top of government who are willing to do that, what else are they not willing to do?
"And it won’t just be every pinnacle of the government because once you have a government that allows that sort of thing to happen, then you know all the other little rats, they are going to run around. They may be doing really big thieving. So, I’m afraid it could be rather shocking. That’s my worst fear. I am not making any direct accusations, but I think it’s logical to worry," said Rewcastle-Brown.
Rewcastle-Brown's hunches may be correct, if one was to judge on how she had sniffed out how big the 1MDB fiasco was when nobody did. In 2010, she then leaked the exposes in her one-woman show of Sarawak Report.
A former broadcast journalist with BBC and Sky News, Rewcastle-Brown says that she was initially afraid that she may be seen as the "interfering Mat Salleh" when she started writing the Sarawak Report blog on Sarawak's issues of abuse of power, deforestation and corruption. However, as there were harassment and the death threats, she decided to put a face to the name so that people knew who she was. By then, she had much support from her readers in Malaysia.
Rewcastle-Brown said that the more she unravelled, the more she realised how big the scandal was.
"I did not get much help from the media here. I know they were constrained not to write about these things (corruption by politicians) and they were also rather constrained look into them. So, it must have been very frustrating. The people who were giving me the information were brave individuals within many organisations in Malaysia," said Rewcastle-Brown.
On whether she had been fed information on 1MDB by civil servants, Rewcastle-Brown is only willing to say "a very broad number of people gave her the needed information.
"I am not going to narrow them down," said Rewcastle-Brown.
She also said that the authorities would claim that it is all untrue, only to make police reports against her for having published classified information 24 hours later. That action alone, according to Rewcastle-Brown, made her realise she was actually on the truth.
Rewcastle-Brown said that despite writing it in English, her main task was then to break it down into the layman's language so that it gets across to all levels of Malaysians.
For everything she wrote, she had them translated into Iban and Malay. Her supporters also printed copies of Sarawak Report from the internet and passed it around to the rural folks.
"I never really bought this idea that dumb rural folk were not going to understand large sums or they wouldn’t realise that they have been stolen from. Just because someone is rural, I’m not really prepared to believe that they are unintelligent. And everyone can understand what a thief and a theft is.
"So, I was pretty confident that once the basics of this scandal reached the ears of ordinary folk, they would feel pretty sore about it. And I’m happy I have been vindicated in that. It’s a big theft.
"I suppose I find it hard to explain what a billion dollar is. If you break it down and say well, that’s about a hundred hospitals that you could have paid for, then it becomes very understandable," said Rewcastle-Brown.
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