Clare Rewcastle Brown: "Pissed off rich Malaysian politicians are ruthless"
Clare Rewcastle-Brown. This name ranks high on the Najib administration's list of most despised individuals, given the slew of damaging articles on 1MDB in her website Sarawak Report.
In an interview with Esquire magazine published yesterday, the sister-in-law of former British prime minister Gordon Brown shares what she has learned about Malaysian politicians.
"If you piss off rich Malaysians in positions of political power, they are ruthless and unscrupulous in what they are prepared to do to get their own back.
"I've had PR outfits, lawyers, computer hackers and radio-jamming professionals thrown at me, but they've shot themselves in the foot.
"They've made me into a character I wouldn't have been if they hadn't reacted so angrily and expensively. They created my Wikipedia site, for god's sake," she said.
The 56-year-old mother of two, who was born in Sarawak and spent her early childhood there, denies she is driven by a nefarious agenda, though her detractors appear to be hell-bent on creating such an impression.
"They're always trying to make one out about me, but actually, I'm just a dreadful old do-gooder who's got a bit between my teeth," added the London-based journalist.
Blatant corruption in Malaysia
Quizzed on the issue of corruption, Rewcastle-Brown said the practice is "blatant" in Malaysia.
"You don't have to do that much research to see it. They got lazy and weren't bothering to cover it up.
"They're trying harder now, but you know, there was 30 years of fairly blatant corruption that I just started covering, and I guess nobody else was," she added.
Touching on 1MDB and Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Rewcastle-Brown said the former prime minister is genuinely furious over what has happened.
"The 1MDB debacle is not only a fairly blatant heist on public funds, but also not very well done - and, you know, I think Mahathir is probably annoyed on both fronts," she added with laughter.
She also conceded that investigative journalists live in dread of committing errors with regard to their articles.
"You try to get it right on the big things, but you can often get it wrong on the little things. It's also easier to make mistakes in an environment like Malaysia, where there's so little transparency.
"You're often dealing with little bits of information that you're trying to piece together because you're not getting the information you should. But touch wood, I don't think I've made any clangers so far on the 1MDB story," she said.
No clangers on 1MDB
The key thing, she stressed, is to be honest and not publish something without evidence.
"I think if you've seen something that's a crime, you shouldn't just report it as if you have no opinion of it.
"Also, as an investigative journalist, you don't publish something unless you've caught somebody out doing something naughty; and once you do, you've got a certain amount of licence to give him a hard time.
"That's the job. I'm not trying to be objective, but I'm honest about what I say, and I'm critical where I think it's deserved," she said.
Rewcastle-Brown also spoke about her brother-in-law (right), saying he was one of the reasons she had kept her identity under wraps for a certain period.
"One of the reasons I kept my identity secret for as long as I could was because I didn't want to get him involved, particularly when he was still in office.
"But when he stepped down (as prime minister), I was bolder, and actually, he was really encouraging.
"When I started getting death threats, he said, 'Look, you should just say who you are and what you're doing because that's the best way to deal with them'," she added.