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

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.


Filipino expats unite as home country battles volcano’s wrath

Updated 11 min 26 sec ago

Filipino expats unite as home country battles volcano’s wrath

  • Filipino groups in Dubai are coming together to collect goods for donation for the Taal eruption victims
  • The Philippines remained on high alert on Friday as authorities monitored Taal, which is the second most active volcano in the country

DUBAI: A vast grey stretched across empty villages – once verdant, now lifeless after volcanic ash wiped its colors. The thick charcoal-like substance cloaked cracked roads, tumbled trees, and dilapidated houses, as an angry volcano rumbled in the Philippines.

Tens of thousands of people were displaced earlier this week when Taal Volcano, a picturesque tourist spot about 70 kilometers south of Manila, spew huge plume of volcanic ash to the sky and triggered sporadic tremors around the province.

“When can we go back to our homes?” a hopeful man asked Filipino volunteer Jaya Bernardo, as she visited an evacuation site near where the Taal Volcano erupted on Sunday.

She couldn’t answer him straight, Bernardo said, because that meant telling him there might not be anything to go back to.

Bernardo, who lives in a mildly-hit town around Taal, has been going around evacuation centers to give out care packages, saying it’s “important for people to come together” in times like this.

Within hours of the volcanic eruption, the call for help reached the UAE, home to about a million Filipino expats. Many community groups have been organizing donation drives to collect goods to be sent back home.

Lance Japor, who leads a community group in Dubai, said inquiries were coming in about how to help volcano victims even before a campaign was announced.

“What I’ve noticed is that the desire to help others in need is innate to us,” he told Arab News, adding it was not the first time Filipino expats showed urgent concern and care for their countrymen when a calamity hit the Philippines.

There was a strong response for families displaced from a city in the south of the country after armed rebels captured the area. A community group from Dubai flew to the restive city to hand out gifts to families who had taken refuge in an abandoned building.

Japor’s volcano campaign has attracted the help of private companies such as hotels donating blankets and pillows, and cargo companies pledging to deliver the packages for free to the Philippines.

Filipino expats have also expressed a desire to volunteer, Japor added, and a volunteer event has been scheduled for Jan. 18 at the Philippines’ Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s office in Dubai.

Groups in the UAE are working with organizations in the Philippines to facilitate the donations and determine what the affected communities need. The list includes special face masks and eye drops, said Japor.

The Philippines remained on high alert on Friday as authorities monitored Taal, which is the second most active volcano in the country.

Volcanic ash has blanketed the area and villages lie empty, with authorities warning of a “bigger eruption” as earthquakes were still being felt around the area. 

The region was at alert level four from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, meaning that “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.” The highest alert level is five.

The institute strongly reiterated total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and high-risk areas as identified in hazard maps.

“Residents around Taal Volcano are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall. Civil aviation authorities must advise pilots to avoid the airspace around Taal Volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from the eruption column pose hazards to aircraft,” it added.

Police in the area have also warned residents against trying to go back to their houses without official clearance from authorities, but local media reports said people were sneaking back by boat to the island and nearby towns to check on their possessions.