The fire in Jomo Kwame Sundaram's eyes probably began to burn on July 21, 1983. On that muggy Thursday the Malaysian economist's college schoolmate Jalil Ibrahim was found dead in the underbrush of a banana tree grove in Hong Kong's rural New Territories. Police reckoned that 36 hours before, after lunch and coffee with somebody in his room at the Tsimshatsui tourist district's luxury Regent Hotel, Jalil was strangled with a white bathrobe belt. His body was stuffed into a large suitcase, which a porter was told to cart through the Regent lobby and load into a taxi trunk.
Mak Foon Than, a Malaysian businessman, was later jailed for the murder. A 35-year-old executive of Malaysia's state-owned Bank Bumiputra, Jalil was sent to Hong Kong to investigate losses at its subsidiary, Bumiputra Malaysia Finance. BMF had lent to some shaky companies, including the giant Carrian Group headed by Malaysian-born businessman George Tan, which eventually crashed in October 1983. Among other things, Jalil had tried to find out who owned a block of 25 million Carrian shares and whether loans had gone to undeserving but well-connected borrowers.
"Jalil was a good and honest man, and his death was a turning point for me," recalls Jomo, 47, grimly. His friend's killing led the Universiti Malaya professor to his life mission: the fight against cronyism, the cozy and often corrupt connections between politicians and businesses. In a country where such ties are commonplace (though not necessarily illegal or even improper), Penang-born Jomo has stood against the tide — and faced down personal attacks and lawsuits. He has also received death threats, including, he recalls, a letter soaked in blood warning against his activism.
part of article on The War Against Cronies
p/s Latest news I heard is that Mak Foon Than is now a free man and is running a business in Penang!