Clare Rewcastle Brown, author of “The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose” dropped by Ipoh on Saturday, September 22. She was on a whirlwind book-launch tour of Peninsular Malaysia and had done so in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. The momentous event was held at Tower Regency Hotel, Ipoh and was attended by almost 300 Ipohites who were diehard fans of her.
The fifty-something British investigative journalist was born and brought up, for a short spell, in Sarawak. The Sarawak Report unravelled the stranger-than-fiction story of how the Brit uncovered the world’s biggest “heist” which, on May 9, resulted in the downfall of a renowned kleptocrat, Najib Razak and ended 61 years of an uninterrupted one-party rule of Barisan Nasional.
Investigating the deforestation of Sarawak and the dispossession of its people, Clare followed a trail of corruption that led her to the heart of Malaysian politics and to former Prime Minister Najib Razak himself. To acquire absolute proofs, Clare Brown crisscrossed the globe defying dangers and physical risks to piece together the evidence relating to the 1MDB scandal – the misappropriation of billions of ringgit from a amateurishly conceived sovereign wealth fund.
“I was not even allowed into Malaysia very soon after I spouted my word and so I relied on people contacting me, which they did. Some people right inside the government who felt greater conscience towards their country than their bosses did. They contacted me and, in some cases, there were some terrible consequences to some of those brave individuals. So every time you thank me, I want to thank you all and in the end for having that determination and courage despite the fact that so few of you thought you could win this election,” said Clare during her talk.
“Why I started writing about this? It was because I could see the effect of corruption on people’s lives and on our environment. The reality of corruption is the difference between people having health, schools, progress, decent roofs over their heads, enough to eat, than being desperately poor, dying unnecessarily at childbirth and their children not being educated like it is in so much of Sarawak and other places,” she pointed out.
“The various threats against me were nothing compared to the real dangers that people faced showing opposition here, for instance, the many brave Malaysians who had campaigned over the years to show up corruption in the government,” she added during the question-and-answer session.
The Sarawak Report provides a jaw-dropping behind-the-scenes narrative of Malaysia’s recent turbulent political struggles, revealing as never before how government-funded cyber-warfare and fake news operate and, in an era of threadbare mainstream media demonstrating that epoch-changing investigative journalism is still possible.
Her books were sold out even before the event started. Fortunate attendees with copies of the bestselling book got it signed by Clare.
When asked for her advice for aspiring investigative journalists, the amiable Clare told Ipoh Echo, “Get out there, we need you, you’re needed. Stick with your integrity, always double check. Don’t be differential to authority. Never call anyone Datuk/Dato’ because we’re all the same in the eyes of the investigator.”
Present at the launch was Leong Cheok Keng, the assemblyman for Malim Nawar who represented Tan Kar Hing, Executive Councillor for Tourism, Arts and Culture.
Priced at RM80, The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose (528-page paperback) is available at MPH bookstores throughout Malaysia.