30 July 2015

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The Diplomat

The country suspends two newspapers.

Malaysia’s Home Ministry has suspended two newspapers for three months after the latter published a series of reports exposing corruption in a government-managed investment company that implicated Prime Minister Najib Razak. Meanwhile, a news website was blocked in the country last week after a government agency found it guilty of publishing unverified information in relation to the similar corruption issue.

The licensing permit of The Edge Financial Daily and The Edge Weekly was suspended because their 1MDB reports were deemed by the Home Ministry to be “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interest”.

The 1MDB issue refers to the controversial financial transactions of the company that allegedly benefited some politicians, including the prime minister. Early this month, the Wall Street Journal published a report linking Najib to a bank money transfer totaling $700 million. The government is currently investigating 1MDB as Najib denies the allegations. Some opposition leaders including former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad have called for the resignation of Najib over the 1MDB scandal.

The Edge is challenging the suspension order by filing a judicial review. It emphasized that its reports were based on hard evidence and that it has already handed over bank documents to government investigators.

“Our report is based on evidence corroborated by documents that include bank transfers and statements. How can the work that we have done be deemed as a political conspiracy?”

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has ordered the blocking of the Sarawak Report “based on complaints received from the public” that it is spreading misinformation about the 1MDB issue. Sarawak Report described the order as a “blatant attempt to censor our exposures of major corruption.” It dismissed the “strong arm, anti-democratic media clamp-down” as a futile attempt of the ruling party to hide the truth about the financial mess.

The blocking of Sarawak Report and the suspension of two papers of The Edge were viewed by many as an attack on Malaysia’s media sector. “Blocking a website and threatening critics with prosecution will not make the firestorm over alleged government corruption go away,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

The Center for Independent Journalism asserted that the blocking of Sarawak Report “without a clear, legitimate purpose and without reference to a proper law authorising such blocking of content is a breach of the guarantee to freedom of expression.”

Meanwhile, uman rights group Suaram urged the government to uphold truth and transparency.

“This latest action by MCMC is totally against its own mission statement which is “providing transparent regulatory processes to facilitate fair competition and efficiency in the industry”.

The Lawyers for Liberty group reminded authorities that “journalism is not a crime.” It added that “Press freedom is an indispensable component of any modern and democratic society as it functions as a form of check and balance against government excesses. Such authoritarian behaviour unfortunately sends a chilling message to the press to self-censor on issues such as 1MDB or else they may invite retaliation.”

But Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who is the urban wellbeing, housing and local government minister and director of strategic communications of the ruling party Barisan Nasional, defended the suspension order issued by the government against The Edge:

“The government suspended The Edge publications because there was a real possibility that the contents of their reporting were not authentic.  If this possibility turns to be true then the impact on the government and the economic stability due to irresponsible reporting cannot be understated.”

Aside from condoning corruption, the government is now accused of silencing the press. Reacting to the perceived media persecution, five local media networks have banded together and are planning to hold a public rally on August 8 to assert the right the free speech.

30 July 2015

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The Telegraph

As David Cameron arrives to talk trade, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak’s bank accounts, his wife’s handbags and her son’s Hollywood deals are making the headlines

David Cameron might have hoped that his few final hours in Malaysia at the end of a four-day, four-state whirlwind trade tour of South East Asia would have been the chance to start winding down before heading home.

Instead, he finds himself flying in to a deepening controversy on Thursday as a multi-billion dollar scandal engulfs his host Najib Razak, the prime minister of the former British colony.

Nor is it just Mr Najib who is under attack from his foes in Malaysia amid allegations that he ended up with $700 million in his personal accounts from a state investment bank that he founded.

The Malaysian leader’s wife Rosmah Mansor has been derided for her alleged penchant for luxury and free-spending ways – claims that her husband has dismissed as political assaults.

And Riza Aziz, her son from her first marriage and Mr Najib’s step-son, is also a staple in the gossip as well as financial pages.

He has emerged as a major Hollywood film producer with multi-million property deals in Manhattan and Los Angeles since becoming close friends with a Malaysian playboy investor during their education in London.

So who is Najib Razak?

He’s the 61-year-old scion of Malaysian political royalty with UMNO, the Malay nationalist party that has ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1957. His father was the country’s second prime minister and his uncle its third. Mr Najib inherited his late father’s seat as an MP at 23 and later rose through the party ranks as chief minister of his home state and the serving in the Cabinet portfolios of education, defence and finance as well as deputy prime minister.

It is an impressively lifelong dedication to public service that has coincided with his family becoming one of the country’s richest. His personal profile was low until he married his second wife in 1987.

And Rosmah Mansor?

Ms Rosmah has repeatedly been criticised for her love of the good things in life. Earlier this year, she said she was the victim of “wildly exaggerated” allegations, published by the Sydney Morning Herald, describing her the “first lady of shopping” after reports that she had spent $75,000 on a single trip to a designer boutique.

She was also widely assailed for a reported claim that she lamented about having to pay $300 for a house call by hair stylist. And series of photos showing her holding at least nine Birkin handbags – items that normally sell for between $10,000 and $150,000 each – went viral on social media.

And she has denied allegations that she ever intended to buy a diamond ring worth $24 million that was shipped under her name to Malaysia in 2011 but then returned to the US jeweller. Mr Najib also went public to deny that that his wife bought the diamond ring for his Kazakh in-laws or that they had any links to the “Russian mafia”, as a regional media outlet had claimed.

And the Hollywood connection?

Riza Aziz, his British-educated step-son, has emerged in the film business as a major Hollywood player with his production company Red Granite Pictures (most notably with The Wolf Of Wall Street blockbuster).

He has also made the headlines in the US over complex property deals reportedly conducted with Jho Low, a Malaysian financier whom he met while studying at the London School of Economics and who became famous for sharing jeroboams of champagne with the likes of Paris Hilton.

As the New York Times documented, Mr Low began making some very expensive property deals in the United States in 2010. Those deals included acquiring a $24 million apartment in Manhattan that three years later was sold to a shell company controlled by Mr Aziz for a reported $33 million, according to the newspaper.

A similar transaction was playing out on the West Coast, the investigation continued. “Mr Low bought a contemporary mansion in Beverly Hills for $17.5 million, then turned around and sold it, once again to the prime minister’s stepson.”

And what about 1MDB?

That is the state investment fund that Mr Low encouraged Mr Najib to found and oversee. He helped channel Arab investment into a series of deals with the Malaysian government.

And how’s that going?

1MDB has reported debts of $11 billion. And $700 million of its funds allegedly ended up in Mr Najib’s personal accounts, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation that has been widely reported elsewhere. Mr Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing or making any financial benefit from the operations of 1MDB.

This week, he sacked his deputy prime minister for breaking ground and saying publicly that the scandal was damaging their party He also replaced his attorney-general who was overseeing the investigation into the allegations.

So why does the family seem to be doing so well financially?

Mr Najib’s office, in a statement, told the New York Times that the prime minister does not track how much Mr Aziz earns or how such earnings are reinvested. As for the prime minister himself, the statement said he had “received inheritance”.

It noted that the family’s lifestyle was not unusual for a person of the “prime minister’s position, responsibilities and legacy (of) family assets”.

No allegations of wrongdoing have been confirmed against Mr Najib. But it is not the first time that he has been the subject of intense questions about his finances as political opponents have previously focussed on a long-running bribery inquiry in France involving a submarine order that Mr Najib commissioned while he served as defence minister.

Didn’t Mr Cameron just speak out on corruption during his Asian tour?

He did indeed, during a speech in Singapore on Tuesday delivered just a few hours after Mr Najib purged his government ranks of officials raising questions about the 1MDB scandal.

The British prime minister warned that foreign fraudsters and corrupt officials can no longer “stash dodgy cash” in London’s luxury property market as he announced a major review of ownership rules.

He said that the international community has “looked the other way for far too long” when it comes to corruption“, which he called “one of the greatest enemies of progress in our time.

He continued: “We simply cannot afford to side-step this issue or make excuses for corruption any more. We need to step up and tackle it.”

So will he be “side-stepping” such allegations in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday?

Malaysian opposition MPs have urged the British prime minister to use his visit to press Mr Najib on the allegations, warning that otherwise the trip would appear to be a vote of support for the beleaguered leader. Privately, one senior opposition figure told The Telegraph that the timing of the visit was “nuts” and “boggled the mind”.

But this tour is all about the realpolitik of international trade for Mr Cameron. He is visiting Malaysia to try and drum up British business deals and secure Malaysian co-operation in security measures to combat Islamic radicals. And he knows he won’t get far with that if he embarrasses his host, however embattled he may be.

30 July 2015

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The Guardian

Clare Rewcastle Brown, editor of a Malaysian news website, complains to the police about harassment by men she says are employed by Malay political party

A journalist who claims that she has been followed around London by “teams of stalkers” engaged in “illegal harassment” has made a complaint to the Metropolitan police.

Clare Rewcastle Brown, founder and editor of Sarawak Report, an investigative news website devoted to reporting on Malaysian politics, believes the stalkers are employed by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the ruling party in Malaysia led by its prime minister, Najib Razak.

The news comes ahead of controversy over this week’s visit to Malaysia by prime minister David Cameron at a time when Razak is embroiled in a corruption scandal that Rewcastle Brown’s website has been in the forefront of reporting.

Rewcastle Brown has called on Cameron to cancel his visit. In a separate item an article on Sarawak Report, she describes two men who, she claims, “took photographs of her in broad daylight in Hyde Park” while “other individuals have followed her car.”

On 20 July, her website was blocked for a period in an apparent hacking attempt which, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, was ordered by the Malaysian government’s media regulator.

Home minister Seri Ahmad Zahid Mamidi was reported on Friday as saying that Rewcastle Brown could be extradited from London to Kuala Lumpur on charges that her reporting had violated Malaysia’s sovereignty.

Rewcastle Brown, a British citizen who was born in Sarawak, is married to the younger brother of the former prime minister, Gordon Brown.

Her Sarawak Report site has regularly reported on the troubles faced by a debt-laden state investment, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (aka 1MDB), which is closely linked to Razak.

Reports on the topic by two Malaysia-based newspapers resulted in them being banned on Friday from publishing for three months by Razak’s government.

The suspensions were imposed on The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily. The group’s chief executive, Ho Kay Tat, announced that he would challenge the legality of the ban. Meanwhile, his group would continue to publish online.

“This is nothing more than a move to shut us down in order to shut us up,” Ho was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. He has also been subjected to a travel ban in company with two opposition politicians.

The CPJ pointed out that The Edge is only the latest news outlet to be harassed. The Wall Street Journal reported on 2 July that $700m of the 1MDB fund’s cash had ended up in Razak’s personal bank accounts.

A week later, Razak’s lawyers threatened to sue the newspaper and its publisher for defamation, although no action has yet been taken.

The Journal’s publisher, Dow Jones, says its articles “speak for themselves” and the paper stands by its reporting.

Earlier this year, Razak’s government cracked down hard on critical commentary about the trial and conviction of political opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges.

The political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, known as Zunar, now faces a possible 43 years in prison on multiple sedition charges for raising questions about judicial independence. His trial is scheduled to begin on 9 September.

But the clamp on media should be seen in the context of Malaysia’s brief, rich history of suspending newspapers, according to The Malaysian Insider website.

It says the suspension of the Edge titles “marks the government’s continued tradition of clamping down on print media, a practice which began nearly three decades ago.” It goes on to list scores of examples.

29 July 2015

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TIME

Washington is having serious trouble finding dependable allies in Southeast Asia

The U.S.’s “rebalancing” toward Asia has two main pillars: being a counterweight to China and securing a free-trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If Washington is to succeed on both fronts, it needs as many friends in the region as it can win. The U.S.’s newest ally is Malaysia, this year’s chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Nation, collectively a growing market, and, on the surface, a modern, democratic, Muslim country. In April 2014 U.S. President Barack Obama paid an official visit to Malaysia, the first sitting President to do so in decades, and, later in the year, played golf with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak when both were on holiday in Honolulu. This November, Kuala Lumpur will host the next East Asia Summit and Obama is due to attend.

But recently, all the news coming out of Malaysia is negative. After becoming embroiled in a corruption scandal, Najib on Tuesday sacked his deputy and Malaysia’s attorney general in an apparent purge of critics. British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing a domestic backlash for pushing forward with a visit to Kuala Lumpur this week despite the snowballing controversy. Here are five reasons why Obama might want to break from Cameron by giving Najib a wide berth.

  1. 1MDB — A Wall Street Journal report has alleged that Najib’s personal bank accounts received nearly $700 million in March 2013 from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a government-owned development fund. Najib has protested his innocence and threatened legal action against the Journal. “I am not a thief,” Najib told Malaysian media on July 5. “I am not a traitor and will not betray Malaysians.” The police, the local anticorruption agency, the attorney general’s office and the central bank are investigating the allegations. On July 8, the police raided 1MDB’s office in Kuala Lumpur and took away documents. Even before the latest news, 1MDB was an embarrassment for Najib, who chaired the fund’s advisory board as debts of $11.6 billion were accrued. Such are the suspicions of malfeasance that former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who ran the country from 1981 to 2003 and has long been considered Najib’s mentor, has repeatedly called for his protégé’s resignation over 1MDB’s alleged mishandling.
  1. Anwar Ibrahim — Najib’s main political rival is once again in prison for a sodomy conviction. Human Rights Watch deemed his five-year sentence handed down Feb. 10 to be “politically motivated proceedings under an abusive and archaic law.” This is the second time Anwar has been jailed for sodomy.
  1. Hudud — Stoning for adultery and amputation for theft are not the kind of punishments meted out by the progressive state that Malaysia purports to be. Yet Najib’s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) is supporting attempts to introduce hudud Islamic law in the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party’s (PAS) heartland state of Kelantan, where nightclubs are forbidden and men and women are designated separate public benches. Why is UMNO supportive of recognizing hudud under federal law? Largely because PAS is part of a three-party Pakatan Rakyat coalition that is UNMO’s chief challenger. The other partners — Anwar’s Keadilan, or People’s Justice Party, supported by middle-class, urban Malays, and the Chinese Malaysian–backed Democratic Action Party (DAP) — are strongly against hudud. Many analysts accuse UMNO of cynically fostering a radical Islamic bent to widen rifts in its political opponents.
  1. Shaariibuugiin Altantuyaa — In 2002, when Najib was Defense Minister, a $1.25 billion contract was signed to purchase two Scorpène submarines from French firm DCNS. Altantuyaa was a Mongolian woman who, knowing French, facilitated negotiations as a translator, and then allegedly attempted to blackmail Abdul Razak Baginda, one of Najib’s aides with whom she was also having an affair, for $500,000 over “commission” payments he had allegedly received. Two policemen posted to Najib’s bodyguard detail were convicted of murdering Altantuyaa on Oct. 18, 2006. Najib denies any involvement.
  1. Prevention of Terrorism Act — Najib campaigned on scrapping the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) but then immediately replaced it with the equally sweeping Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or SOSMA. The POTA includes practically the same powers as ISA, including two-year detention without trial, and was dubbed a “legal zombie arising from the grave of the abusive [ISA]” by Human Rights Watch. Najib also vowed to repeal the similarly maligned Sedition Act but reneged after his election in 2013. In fact, in April his government extended the maximum jail term under the Sedition Act from three to 20 years.

28 July 2015

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The Guardian

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak sacks deputy and country’s top attorney after questions over claims he took millions from government investment fund

British prime minister David Cameron is facing criticism for pushing ahead with a visit to Malaysia this week at a time when the south-east Asian nation’s leader is embroiled in an escalating corruption scandal and has stepped up a crackdown on dissent.

Malaysian premier Najib Razak has been urged to resign after media reports alleged some US$700m linked to a troubled state investment fund had ended up in his personal bank accounts.

Razak has denied taking any public funds for personal use, and his government has lashed out at criticism by mounting a crackdown on dissent that has seen two newspapers suspended and a British-based whistleblowing website blocked.

On Wednesday, the Malaysian premier removed his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, who has openly criticised him over the scandal, just hours after the government sacked the country’s top attorney, who had been leading an official investigation into the corruption allegations against Najib.

Politicians and activists who have criticised the government have also been hit with travel restrictions, with one prominent opposition MP barred from leaving the country.

“There could have been a better time for the visit,” Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Malaysia’s opposition leader, told the Guardian ahead of Cameron’s arrival in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, the final stop of a four-nation tour of south-east Asia.

The MP, who is also the wife of jailed opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim, called on Cameron to raise the scandal and human rights issues when he holds talks with Najib, and said he should also meet opposition parties to get “a better idea” about the political turmoil engulfing the former British colony.

“He must not only meet with the government but the opposition as well,” she said.

“He should talk about freedom, the suspension of the newspapers and the use of the sedition law – something that is so repressive – and the welfare of the former opposition leader [Anwar].”

Liew Chin Tong, a lawmaker from the opposition Democratic Action party, said Cameron must tell Najib categorically to “respect the rule of law as well as human rights”.

Cameron is hoping to boost trade ties between the UK and the region during his visit that also includes stops in Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam. Efforts to fight jihadist group Isis are also on the agenda during his stops in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia.

Michael Buehler, a south-east Asian expert at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said Cameron would not be “entirely honest” if he ignores the corruption claims during his visit, as business and politics remain closely linked in the region.

“One cannot talk about business without also mentioning the political conditions in these countries. Cameron’s visit is indeed untimely, given the escalation of the corruption scandal in the country,” Buehler said.

Writing in the Daily Mail last week about the trip, Cameron himself vowed to put the fight against graft top of his agenda after claiming critics were “wrong” to say the UK should avoid doing business with countries with barriers to trade, including corruption.

“Many in South East Asia have led the battle against corruption, which costs the global economy billions of pounds a year.

“Britain is joining them in that fight – I’ve put the issue at the top of the global agenda,” he wrote.

Najib’s move against the deputy premier came in an unexpected cabinet reshuffle just two days after Muhyiddin broke ranks and openly urged Najib to tell “real facts” over the scandal and answer questions over whether he received the money.

Announcing the decision, Najib said “differences of opinions shouldn’t be expressed openly” among his cabinet members, according to the Malay Mail Online website.

The cabinet reshuffle was seen as an attempt to shore up support for the beleaguered Najib in the cabinet, as an internal tussle within the ruling party in the coming days could put pressure on the Malaysian leader to resign.

26 July 2015

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Malaysia’s prime minister battles claims of corruption
25 July 2015

WHATEVER the truth of them, the accusations levelled against Najib Razak, Malaysia’s prime minister, have astonished a country that some had thought inured to scandal. In early July the Wall Street Journal reported that it had seen documents produced by government investigators suggesting that nearly $700m from companies linked to a troubled state-backed investment fund had been paid into what they believed to be Mr Najib’s personal bank accounts. With worries about an oil-dependent economy, the controversy is the last thing Malaysia needs.

The allegation is that the money was received shortly before the general election in 2013, in which a coalition dominated by Mr Najib’s party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) scraped home, despite narrowly losing the popular vote. The prime minister helped launch the fund, known as 1MDB, in 2009 and chairs its board of advisers. It has acquired land and power plants, yet has struggled to service debts of around $11 billion. The firm’s affairs were already the subject of official investigations, but until this month no one had claimed to have evidence that the prime minister himself had received any money.

Mr Najib has vigorously denied wrongdoing, including ever having used public money for personal gain. He called the allegations “political sabotage” and blamed Mahathir Mohamad, a nonagenarian UMNO grandee who was prime minister from 1981-2003, for waging a campaign against him. For months Dr Mahathir has been calling for Mr Najib’s resignation, warning that under him, UMNO—which has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957—may lose an election due by 2018.

The opposition has demanded that the prime minister step down until a special task force, now investigating the allegations, has finished its work. Campaigners known in the past for organising big protest rallies against Malaysia’s heavily gerrymandered electoral system are thinking of calling for fresh demonstrations against the prime minister. But Mr Najib says he is not budging. Outwardly at least he appears still to have his party’s support. A government agency has warned Malaysians against discussing the allegations on social media and has started blocking an indefatigable British website, the Sarawak Report, which has written a lot about 1MDB. Police say they are conducting an inquiry which may uncover the source of the Wall Street Journal’s report.

A boon for Mr Najib is the paucity of obvious substitutes within UMNO. One possibility is Muhyiddin Yassin, a deputy prime minister who had been tipped for the top job when it fell vacant in 2009. Another replacement might be Hishammuddin Hussein, the defence minister and Mr Najib’s cousin (who for now appears loyal). But neither man seems any more likely than Mr Najib to find the vim required to rejuvenate UMNO, which has grown quarrelsome and complacent after six decades in power—and which, in stemming its ebbing popularity, has taken to exploiting old fears among ethnic Malays that their prospects are threatened by Malaysia’s Chinese and Indian minorities.

As for the opposition, it is in disarray. Since its leader, Anwar Ibrahim, was imprisoned on a dubious sodomy charge earlier this year, the opposition coalition has been torn apart by tensions between the DAP, an ethnic-Chinese party, and PAS, a Malay Muslim one, over the latter’s efforts to enforce strict sharia punishments in Kelantan state in the north. Some in PAS now look minded to mend fences with their old foes in the ruling party. Hadi Awang, PAS’s leader, has argued that Islam requires that the Wall Street Journal should produce four witnesses to support its reporting.

All this has distracted attention from Malaysia’s pressing economic problems. Hobbled by low oil prices and slowing Asian economies, the value of the ringgit has sunk to a 16-year low against the dollar. Meanwhile, politicians of all stripes have scrambled to deny that race played a role in scuffles this month in Kuala Lumpur, when a mob of mostly Malay youths confronted the largely ethnic-Chinese employees of an electronics mall—all sparked, apparently, by an instance of shoplifting.

Even if Mr Najib is cleared of wrongdoing, the brouhaha is sapping his standing among ordinary Malaysians. It was already hurt by the recent imposition of a disliked value-added tax. If his popularity keeps sliding, it is difficult to imagine UMNO sticking by him until the next general election. The end of Ramadan, which concluded in Malaysia on July 17th and during which Muslim politicians are supposed to avoid unseemly squabbles, may bring fresh attacks from dissident factions. But Mr Najib is rumoured to be mulling a cabinet reshuffle, presumably to silence critics there. If he can blast through this crisis his opponents may well wonder what, if anything, will bring him down.

http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21659770-malaysias-prime-minister-battles-claims-corruption-soldiering

24 July 2015

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Why I’ve chosen to stay and continue the fight for peaceful, democratic reform from my prison cell.

By ANWAR IBRAHIM
Updated July 23, 2015
Selangor, Malaysia

Since Prime Minister Najib Razak’s 2013 electoral victory, which was plagued by widespread allegations of gerrymandering, fraud and voter intimidation, Malaysia has taken a turn for the worse. Mr. Najib, who once promised democratic and economic reforms and pledged to allow “the voices of dissent” to be heard, has doubled down on political repression.

A former deputy prime minister of Malaysia and leader of the opposition, I am now in the fifth month of a five-year prison sentence that has been roundly condemned by governments and human-rights groups around the world. I spend my days in solitary confinement in meditation and in the company of the few books that are allowed into my cell. Meanwhile, allegations of corruption at the highest levels of Malaysian government have surfaced.

In 2012, the draconian Internal Security Act was repealed by the Najib government with much fanfare, only to be replaced by the Prevention of Crime and Prevention of Terrorism Acts, which are equally, if not more, repressive. Beyond encroaching on Malaysian citizens’ fundamental liberties, these new laws rob judges of their discretionary sentencing powers.

Instead of abolishing the outdated and much-abused Sedition Act of 1948 as promised, Mr. Najib’s government has deployed it as a weapon of mass oppression. In the past 18 months, more than 150 Malaysians have been arrested and many charged with sedition for an array of activities including accusing the government of voter fraud and criticizing the verdict in my trial. The arrested include students, professors, journalists, cartoonists, activists, human-rights lawyers and opposition politicians.

Mr. Najib’s finance ministry’s “strategic development fund,” 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, founded by Mr. Najib in 2008, is under intense scrutiny. As this newspaper reported on July 2, Malaysian investigators “have traced nearly $700 million of deposits into what they believe are the personal bank accounts of Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak.” Neither the original source nor ultimate destination of the money is clear.

A few weeks earlier, on June 18, this newspaper reported that during the 2013 election 1MDB “indirectly supported Prime Minister Najib Razak’s campaign.” The fund paid what appeared to be an inflated price for assets acquired from a Malaysian company; the company then contributed to a Najib-led charity that announced projects, such as aid to schools, that Mr. Najib was able to tout as he campaigned.

After these two stories were published, Mr. Najib’s office put out a statement that “there have been concerted efforts by certain individuals to undermine confidence in our economy, tarnish the government and remove a democratically-elected prime minister.” It called the Journal articles a “continuation of this political sabotage.” Not surprisingly, foreign investors are increasingly wary. Malaysia’s currency, the ringgit, recently fell to a 16-year low.

Meanwhile, the Najib government sows communal and religious animosity among the Muslim ethnic Malay majority and the country’s large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities. Mr. Najib’s ruling coalition blamed a “Chinese tsunami” for its losing the popular vote in the 2013 parliamentary elections, regardless of a study showing this to be false. And despite Mr. Najib’s claims of moderation internationally, the state-run media have vilified Shiite Islam. Last summer the prime minister urged his ruling United Malays National Organization members to be “brave” like Islamic State fighters in Iraq, causing him to later explain he doesn’t support Islamic State or its radical brand of Islam.

Such actions undermine the fragile fabric of Malaysia’s multiethnic and multireligious society. In four decades in public service I cannot recall a time when racial and religious sensitivities have become so inflamed, and at the same time so poorly managed by the country’s political leadership.

Yet I stayed put in Malaysia to face a difficult third bout of unjust incarceration because we in the opposition believe in a brighter future made possible by good governance and the rule of law. We believe in the dismantling of Malaysia’s system of race-based privileges that has devolved into nothing more than rent-seeking for the privileged few. We believe that corruption is a slow bleed that robs future generations of the education and business opportunities that will make them prosper.

Most important, we are joined by a new generation of young, millennial Malaysians with a commitment to building an inclusive, democratic and economically vibrant country.

Still, there is real danger ahead. Middle-income nations like Malaysia—after several decades of economic mismanagement, opaque governance and overspending—can devolve into failed states. The irresponsible manner in which the current leadership is handling religious issues to curry favor from the extreme right is fueling sectarianism. Increased political repression may drive some to give up on the political system altogether and consider extralegal means to cause change, thus creating a tragic, vicious cycle.

Yet there remains a clear path out of this mess: a return to the underpinnings of the Malaysian Constitution, which preserves and protects the rights of all Malaysians; a devolution of power from the executive, whose role now resembles that of a dictator more than a servant of the people; elections that are truly free and fair; and a free media unafraid to challenge authority.

Malaysia is ready for change. This is why, rather than flee my country, I chose to stay and continue the fight for peaceful, democratic reform from my prison cell. This is not easy and puts a tremendous burden on my family. I am grateful for their love and commitment. While I am physically behind bars my spirit remains with them, the people of Malaysia, and people all around the world who continue the struggle for dignity and for freedom.

Mr. Anwar, a former deputy prime minister of Malaysia (1993-98), is a former member of parliament for the People’s Justice Party and until April was leader of the opposition.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/malaysias-growing-opposition-cant-be-silenced-1437692741

24 July 2015

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Whose party hat do you wear? Dr M’s or Najib’s?

On Friday, July 24, a unique political contest will take place in Kuala Lumpur: competing birthday parties for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his nemesis, former Premier Mahathir Mohamad, who is determined to drive Najib from office.

The simultaneous events have Malaysia’s elites trying to figure out which party to attend, or attend first, or for how long. It will be possible to attend both, but according to a politically well-wired source, both sides will be watching to see who is going to attend what party first, and for how long.

“The tan sris and datuks are in disarray,” chortled a source, referring to titles bestowed on well-connected Malasyians.

Najib was born 62 years ago on July 23, Mahathir was born 90 years ago on July 10, but was unable to celebrate his birthday on that date because of the onset of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month. Last year, both birthdays fell inside Ramadan, during which celebrations must be postponed.

Vincent Tan, the billionaire who owes much of his fortune to Mahathir’s granting a non-tendered chance to buy the country’s lucrative lottery in 1985, reportedly sent out invitations to Mahathir’s party two months ago. As many as 1,000 people are expected to honor Mahathir at Tan’s convention hall in his Berjaya Times Square shopping center.

Najib appears to have miscalculated. His birthday actually is July 23 but apparently, a source said, the planning got underway just a few weeks ago and it was decided to postpone it until tomorrow because it means the next day isn’t a weekday. Reportedly Najib’s private secretary has been calling political figures, businessmen and others, asking them to make sure they attend his party.

The war between Najib and Mahathir has been going on either behind the scenes or out front for more than a year. After months of back-room criticism, Mahathir in August 2014 took to his popular blog, Che Det, to announce that he had publicly withdrawn his support for the man he anointed in 2009 after playing a decisive role in driving Abdullah Ahmad Badawi from office.

Their relationship has grown increasingly bitter, with Mahathir accusing Najib of deep involvement in the disastrous 1Malaysia Development Bhd state-backed investment fund and hinting that he may have had something to do with the 2006 death of Mongolian translator and party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu at the hands of two of Najib’s bodyguards, who were found guilty and sentenced to death. Najib has countered that Mahathir abandoned him because he refused to do the former premier’s bidding on white elephant projects.

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/mahathir-najib-dueling-parties/

23 July 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

DS Anwar Ibrahim conveyed the following message to the public through his lawyers on 22 July 2015:

“The authorities have finally made arrests in relation to the massive 1MDB financial scandal.

This scandal has exposed the shocking extent of the mismanagement and corruption high in the BN leadership, with the PM himself heavily implicated.

I had raised the mismanagement of 1MDB funds in Parliament since 2009, but nothing was done by the government or Umno!

Now the country faces billions in losses and international embarrassment; the value of the ringgit has plummeted and investor confidence shaken.

This affects the financial well-being of every Malaysian, for which the BN must answer.

Although a couple of arrests have now been made, it is reasonable for the public to remain skeptical, until action is taken against the primary actors in this scandal.

The authorities must also work with international organisations such as Interpol, as some key players/witnesses are overseas.

There must be resolute action, to restore public and investor confidence; no stone must be left unturned. No one, no matter how high up, must be let off.”

Fahmi Fadzil
KEADILAN Communications Director
23 July 2015

22 July 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim has released this message to the public through his lawyers on 21 July 2015:

“Our country continues in a state of worsening crisis, whilst the BN government remains in denial. The value of the ringgit is plummeting, whilst corruption and financial scandals have reached levels unprecedented since Merdeka.

At this crucial time, Malaysians must come together, united and resolved, to save our country.

We are working towards a strengthened coalition which will work together with all progressive forces, including NGOs such as the BERSIH coalition, ABIM, IKRAM and newly formed Gerakan Harapan Baru.

This coming together of a wide range of groups committed to reform and change, will offer a genuine democratic and just alternative to the Rakyat.

Let us all put aside all other considerations and differences, and focus upon this great struggle to save Malaysia.”

Fahmi Fadzil
KEADILAN Communications Director

15 July 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim has completed 155 days of imprisonment at the Sg Buloh prison.

His conviction and jailing has been criticised by governments, respected organisations and prominent individuals throughout the world.

Millions of ordinary Malaysians share the concerns of the international community on the jailing of Anwar.

The highly respected global organisation Amnesty International has officially declared Anwar a Prisoner of Conscience.

The government must now recognise Anwar’s status as a prisoner of conscience, and treat him as such.

Malaysia, as a member of the UN Security Council and a trading nation, cannot afford to ignore the opinion of the internationally community. Neither can it, as a democratic nation, ignore the concerns of ordinary Malaysians for Anwar.

In view of the preceding, we have on the instructions of Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on 14th July 2015 formally written to the Home Minister and D-G of Prisons asking that Anwar be treated as a Prisoner of Conscience. Accordingly, we have asked that Anwar be removed from Sg Buloh prison, and placed under house arrest as befitting a prisoner of conscience. His house arrest will be at his usual place of residence at Bukit Segambut, Kuala Lumpur.

We have made this request in accordance with legal requirements, pursuant to section 43 of the Prisons Act 1995.

Issued by,

N Surendran
Latheefa Koya
R Sivarasa

Lawyers for Anwar Ibrahim
15 July 2015

15 July 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim conveyed the following through his lawyers:

“For the first time in our history, a sitting Prime Minister is under investigation for the misappropriation of funds.

This is happening at the same time as the people face rising prices, the burdensome GST and the worst economic uncertainty since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

At the same time, the Sedition Act and a range of other repressive laws remain in place in order to silence the people.

From behind these prison walls, I feel a great concern and worry for my country.

The BN must take full responsibility for the current state of affairs. Their corruption, abuse of power, arrogance and appallingly poor governance has brought Malaysia to this state. The utter collapse of the Greece economy is a warning of what can yet happen to our beloved country.

Removing Dato’ Sri Najib as prime minister is not enough for the Rakyat.

We have gone through the futile process of changing leaders, but leaving the corrupt and obsolete system intact. We do not want piecemeal solutions but a serious commitment to reform and the end of corruption.

A Mahathir-led removal of Najib, without real reform, will only satisfy some cronies; it will do nothing to bring about real change for the people.

There must be comprehensive change in the governance and administration of the country.

In the cities, towns and kampungs, the Rakyat want Change and Reform!

On behalf of my fellow Malaysians, I call for these immediate steps:

1) Reform of key institutions such as the MACC, the Attorney General’s office, the Judiciary and the Police force which have failed to stem the tide of corruption and abuse of power;

2) Reform of the electoral system as called for by Bersih 2.0;

3) The repeal of the Sedition Act and all repressive laws which pervert democracy and stifle the voice of the Rakyat;

Now is the moment for the Rakyat, united and strong, to rise up to demand change and accountability from the Barisan Nasional!”

Fahmi Fadzil
KEADILAN Communications Director

14 July 2015

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