Inside the lavish world of Malaysia’s Rosmah Mansor

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This Hermes Matte White Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin bag with gold and diamond hardware was valued at more than US$300,000 in 2016. (AFP)
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This file photo dated 11 May 2000 shows Malaysian Defence Minister Najib Razak (L) and his wife Rosmah Mansor in Kuala Lumpur. (AFP)
Updated 09 June 2018
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Inside the lavish world of Malaysia’s Rosmah Mansor

  • Mansor defended her favorite pastime of shopping in her 2013 autobiography, saying: “I have bought some jewelry and dresses with my own money
  • Rosmah is a typical example of a woman going through a transition into a world she was not used to or exposed to — from a simple life to one of power and excess

KUALA LUMPUR: With her exquisite handbags, expensive spending habits and luxurious lifestyle, Rosmah Mansor, the wife of Malaysia’s then-Prime Minister Najib Razak, was living life writ large.

Fast forward to May 10, 2018, when Razak’s political grip crumbled after Malaysia’s elections, and the world had a glimpse inside the extravagant world of Malaysia’s own Imelda Marcos.

A few days after Razak and Mansor were barred from leaving the country, Malaysian police raided their homes and properties for evidence linking the pair to the 1MDB investigation. The police confirmed after the raid that they had “seized 284 boxes of handbags, 72 luggage bags, and tons of jewelry and cash.”

Like Imelda’s obsession for shoes, Mansor had an obsession with exquisite, branded bags.

“I feel it is a show of power and status,” said Karen Hoisington, a Singapore-based socialite and brand consultant. She is aware of the larger-than-life personality and lifestyle of Mansor.

“Rosmah has the means to get what she wants and her husband has certainly funded much of it,” she said.

It has long been rumored that Mansor was living beyond the means of her husband’s salary as a politician. A prime minister’s annual salary in Malaysia is less than $72,000.

On Tuesday, when Mansor was called to testify at the anti-graft agency in Kuala Lumpur, she came in style, toting a striking red handbag to go along with her blue and red traditional Malay assemble.

Netizens and fashionistas were quick to point out that the boxy, quilted red bag Mansor clutched bore a striking resemblance to the Versace’s Demetra Barocco-quilted Nappa leather handbag.

The Versace Demetra bag costs up to $2,765.

However, it is just one of the many expensive bags that Mansor is rumored to own, including her collection of Berkin bags.

According to Fortune magazine’s online site, a Birkin bag is considered a good investment because they “regularly sell on the secondary market for more than their original sale price.”

Hoisington told Arab News that “women like Rosmah feel a sense of entitlement. She must have sacrificed quite a lot to be a public person under scrutiny.”
 
She said that Mansor may feel she needs to be “rewarded” for helping firm up her husband’s success.

“I can’t guess what all her handbags will cost. That includes all the top designer brands, but I will make a guess that she would easily have spent around $5 million on bags alone,” said Hoisington

Mansor’s extravagant lifestyle sits uneasily with many in Malaysia.

In 2015, she received criticism over her complaints about a high-priced ‘$300 beehive hairdo’ after her husband imposed the GST in Malaysia. “But what about housewives like us, with no income?” she lamented.

In 2017, Malaysians discovered that Mansor had bought a 22-carat rare pink diamond necklace set. The jewelry cost $30 million, which the US Department of Justice said was funded from 1MDB.

Mansor defended her favorite pastime of shopping in her 2013 autobiography, saying: “I have bought some jewelry and dresses with my own money. What is wrong with that?”

At the same time, she would offer outlandish advice to Malaysians. In 2016, as head of the Association of Wives of the Ministers and Deputy Ministers, she told Malaysians to tighten their belts during Ramadan and avoid “overspending.”

In pursuit of power, Mansor’s bizarre lifestyle included a rumored penchant for black magic and plastic surgery. This was highlighted by her estranged daughter Azrene Ahmad in her lengthy Instagram post, where she described her mother’s spending on “shamans, witch doctors, aesthetic doctors and the like.”

In a website posting, Singapore-based plastic surgeon Dr. Siew Tuck Wah claimed that the ex-prime minister’s wife distorted face showed she had at least five surgeries.

Hoisington said that Mansor might be under pressure to maintain a public profile that befits her status. “Madam Rosmah must have been advised that this was what a prime minister’s wife should look like, wear and own,” she said.

“Rosmah is a typical example of a woman going through a transition into a world she was not used to or exposed to — from a simple life to one of power and excess. When women feel insecure with themselves, they seek means that they believe will make them more acceptable, loved and have a sense of belonging,” she said.


Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

Updated 52 min 41 sec ago
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Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

  • The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims

DHAKA: As the clock strikes 6 p.m., Shudhhanondo Mohathero hurries to the kitchen to alert his army of 15 monks that they have less than 40 minutes until iftar. 

Soon, people will begin queuing outside the Dharmarajika Bouddha Bihar, a Buddhist monastery in Dhaka, where Mohathero hands out free food packs to fasting Muslims who are too poor to buy a meal to end their fast.

It is a tradition that 89-year-old Mohathero started 10 years ago when he assumed responsibility for the temple’s upkeep.

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return,” Mohathero told Arab News.

Built in 1951, the monastery, which is located in Basabo in the eastern part of Dhaka, has been involved in various social welfare activities. Since the start of Ramadan this year, almost 200 food packs have been doled out every day, with plans to double the number by the end of the month. The 15 monks who live in the monastery prepare the food boxes for iftar.

At a cost of around 80 cents, which is funded by the temple, each box contains traditional Bangladeshi iftar items such as puffed rice, boiled and seasoned chickpeas, jilapi (a deep-fried sweet pastry), beguni (deep-fried eggplant) and dal bora (a fried item with smashed lentils and dates).

“In previous years, our junior monks used to prepare iftar at the monastery. This year, however, we are starting to outsource the items due to the sheer volume,” Mohathero said. 

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return.”

Shudhhanondo Mohathero, Chief monk of Dhaka’s Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims.

“I have been receiving iftar from the monastery for three years. Since my husband works as a daily-wage laborer, this iftar has made our lives very comfortable,” Asma Khatun, a local resident, said.

Another devotee, Sharif Hossain, said that iftar from the monastery “is like a divine blessing.”

“After losing all my properties in a river erosion, I moved to Dhaka just a few months ago and started living in a slum. I can finally feed my family with the iftar provided by the monks,” he said. 

Talking about his experience being part of a project that builds communal harmony, Prantar Borua, an apprentice monk at the temple, said: “We feel proud and happy to be doing such an extraordinary thing. It’s a small contribution to the community, but it’s the best we can do at this moment.”

The monastery’s generosity has won praise from the Bangladesh authorities, too.

“It’s a nice initiative from the Buddhist community, especially at a time when the world is experiencing many hate crimes and interreligious conflicts. It upholds the spirit of religious harmony,” Abdul Hamid Jomaddar, joint secretary of the Religious Affairs Ministry, said.

“Our government believes in the coexistence of different religions, which is the beauty of this secular land,” he added.