24 May 2016

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International Business Times- 19 May 2016 (Samhati Bhattacharjya)

Jailed Malaysian leader Anwar Ibrahim’s family has lodged an appeal against the prison director’s decision to deny physical contact during jail visits.

Anwar, his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, their four children and four grandchildren filed the application on Wednesday for a judicial review of the decision by Sungai Buloh prison authorities.

The family named Sungai Buloh prison director Commissioner-General of Prisons and Home Minister as respondents, the court papers showed.

The application filed by counsel N Surendran and Latheefa Koya seeks an order quashing the prison director’s decision that bans physical contact between Anwar and his family members.

Anwar claimed that under the prison rules he was allowed visits from his family once in every three weeks and the communication with them was done via a telephone. “During these visits, my family is made to sit across from me. We are separated by a glass partition. This partition allows no physical contact between myself and my family,” said Anwar.

Anwar and his family members have said that the denial of physical contact was unnecessary, cruel and oppressive.

Anwar is serving a five years’ jail sentence after he was found guilty of sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

5 May 2016

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Southeast Asia Globe- By Daniel Besant (4 May 2016)

I am satisfied with the findings that the funds were not a form of graft or bribery. There was no reason given as to why the donation was made to Prime Minister Najib – that is between him and the Saudi [royal] family.”

These are the words of Malaysia’s attorney general, Mohamed Apandi Ali, at a press conference on 26 January. Many Malaysians were outraged by his barefaced exoneration of Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, of any wrongdoing in the 1MDB corruption scandal that has gripped the nation.

Abdul Gani Patail, Apandi’s predecessor, was reportedly on the cusp of filing charges against Najib in July 2015 after the revelation that nearly $700m had been deposited in one of the PM’s personal bank accounts just before the 2013 national elections. But then Patail abruptly retired for “health reasons” and Apandi was appointed. Official enquiries into Najib’s financial arrangements soon ground to a halt.

Nonetheless, Apandi’s decision over Najib’s funds did not deter multiple investigations from outside Malaysia into Najib and financial dealings linked to the government, not least by the US Department of Justice and prosecutors in Luxembourg and France. Back at home, meanwhile, Apandi himself is now the target of the Malaysian Bar Association, the organisation that represents the country’s lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia.

On 19 March, the bar association overwhelmingly passed a motion calling on Apandi to resign immediately “for the good of Malaysia, to restore public confidence and perception of the rule of law, in particular the administration of criminal justice in Malaysia”. The body also called for Azailiza binti Mohd Ahad, the solicitor general and Apandi’s deputy, to assume the role of public prosecutor in cases involving Najib and companies connected to him.

Apandi was once a treasurer for the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the largest party in the country’s ruling coalition, in Kelantan state and stood as a UMNO parliamentary candidate in 1990. Not only that, in 2013, he was the lead judge in a panel that acquitted two senior police officers of the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, the lover of one of Najib’s closest advisors. When Apandi was a judge, the jailed former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim applied for him to be dismissed from hearing his case due to his UMNO connections.

However, under Malaysia’s legal system, the Agong – the constitutional monarch – appoints the attorney general, under advice from the prime minister. Therefore, the appointment does not require the confidence of the public or even the judiciary, merely the backing of the prime minister. Apandi serves as both public prosecutor and attorney general, leaving critics such as Transparency International Malaysia and the bar to call for a separation of powers and for greater transparency.

“The motion is looking at how we can reform the attorney general’s position, because in the constitution itself [he] has certain differing roles,” said Charles Hector Fernandez, a member of the Malaysian bar and one of the instigators of the motion.

“This matter is of critical public interest,” wrote Steven Thiru, the bar’s president, in a 15 March statement. “There should be no usurpation of the judicial powers of the courts, as it is for the courts, not the attorney general, to decide on the innocence or guilt of a suspect in respect of any alleged crime.”

The bar’s motion has something of a ‘do or die’ ring to it, according to James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania. “The bar council is the last independent institution in Malaysia,” he said. “Moreover, as the body that represents lawyers in Malaysia, they have the standing to take a stand over the attorney general’s behaviour.”

And there is good reason for them to be pushing for change, said Eric Paulsen, executive director of Lawyers for Liberty, otherwise, “it looks like we’re going by the laws of the jungle”.

Paulsen believes, however, it is highly unlikely Apandi will step down. The only thing that might change this is if a royal personage were to speak out, “because royalty still command some respect”.

5 May 2016

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Malaysiakini (4 May 2016)

Political cartoonist Zunar is now the recipient of the 2016 Cartooning for Peace Award. The award-winning cartoonist received his latest award at a ceremony held at the Palais Eynard in Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday.

Apart from Zunar, Kenyan cartoonist Gado was also honoured with the award and the works of both cartoonists are exhibited at the Lac Leman in Geneva.

Also at the ceremony were Swiss Foundation Cartooning for Peace honorary president Kofi Annan, who is a former United Nations secretary-general, and Geneva’s municipal councillor Guillaume Barazzone.

Commenting on the award, Zunar said the prize has given him ‘new strength’ to continue his fight against Malaysia’s ‘corrupt and repressive regime’.

“Human rights and freedom of expression in Malaysia are in dire straits,” said Zunar in a statement yesterday.

Talent, he added, is not a gift but a responsibility. Therefore, it is his duty as a cartoonist to use art as a weapon to fight unjust rulers.

“Fear and intimidation are the potent tools being used by the regime to scare the people. I believe that strokes of art can lead the people to cross the line of fear.

“I also strongly believe that, when facing a moral crisis, there is no room to grumble in silence. We have to stand up and cry our voice out loud and clear.

“Neutrality is escapism for those who live in a comfort zone. How can I be neutral, even my pen has a stand,” said Zunar, who vowed that he would keep fighting until his last drop of ink.

Several of his works banned or confiscated

Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, has had several of his comic books critical of the government banned and confiscated.

His cartoons also appear in Malaysiakini’s Cartoonkini.

Zunar was detained by police twice, in 2010 and 2015, on grounds of sedition.

He is currently facing nine sedition charges and up to 43 years in jail for his critical comments over the jailing of then opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in February last year.

Apart from this latest award, Zunar was the recipient of the Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett Award for 2011 and 2015, and he also won last year’s International Press Freedom Award, given by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

 

5 May 2016

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Today Online (4 May 2016)

KUALA LUMPUR — Ms Nurul Izzah ­Anwar, an opposition Member of the Malaysian Parliament, flew to the ­island of Borneo earlier this week to participate in a local election campaign. She did not stay long.
Immigration officials in Sarawak, a semi-autonomous state with its own border controls, refused to let her ­enter on Monday (May 2) . Ms Nurul Izzah took the next plane home.

“I am participating in legitimate political activity,” she said on Tuesday. “But I found myself immediately deported as soon as I arrived.”

The Sarawak vote on Saturday is the first test of Prime Minister ­Najib Razak’s popularity — and of his willingness to compete in fair elections — since disclosures that almost US$700 million (S$950 million) had been mysteriously deposited in his personal bank accounts.

Sarawak is set apart from other states in Peninsula ­Malaysia by its semi-autonomous status. It will hold elections for state and federal offices two years ­before the rest of the nation.

For Malaysian opposition leaders, restrictions on campaigning there are part of the frustration of going up against Mr Najib, who heads Malaysia’s formidable governing coalition.

Ms Nurul Izzah is one of about two dozen opposition leaders and activists who have been refused entry into Sarawak this year in keeping with a ban on “unsavoury elements” imposed by state Chief Minister Adenan Satem. Mr Najib and Mr Adenan are allies and appeared there together last week to kick off the campaign.

Mr Najib had been campaigning in Sarawak during the past week in the hope that his candidates will win by a large margin. On Wednesday, he chaired a Cabinet meeting in Sarawak’s capital. After the meeting, Mr Najib and his deputy, Mr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, ­announced that the federal government had committed RM3.5 billion (S$1.2 billion) for various projects in the state.

The Prime Minister noted that it was not out of the ordinary to hold Cabinet meetings outside of Putrajaya. He also told Sarawakians to be mindful of the ­opposition rhetoric during the hustings.

“The people must think and reason, so that they can differentiate ­between what can be accepted and can be ­implemented from the political rhetorics of the opposition,” he said.

Since the 1990s, Sarawak has banned political leaders and activists it deems undesirable from entering, but the deportations have increased considerably this year, according to a list compiled by the online news site Malaysiakini.

Asked about the ban last month, Mr Adenan said: “I have to protect the interests of Sarawak from unsavoury elements, political or otherwise. That is my job.”

He added that the deportees could return as tourists after the polls. “They are at liberty to come to Sarawak any time after the election,” he said, with a laugh.

“Mr Najib has been the subject of investigations spanning five countries,” said Ms Nurul Izzah. “If anyone were to be barred, it should ­actually be him.” Ms Nurul Izzah is the daughter of former opposition leader ­Anwar Ibrahim, who is serving a five-year sentence for sodomy.

In the last national election, in 2013, opposition parties won a majority of the popular vote but ended up with far fewer seats in Parliament. That is because the district lines favour ­rural voters, who generally support Mr ­Najib’s coalition.

In beginning the campaign last week, Mr Najib called the Sarawak election a “precursor” to the next General Election, scheduled for 2018. A victory this week, he said, according to The Malay Mail Online, “will certainly form a very strong ­momentum for us moving forward”

4 May 2016

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Second International Conference of the World Forum for Muslim Democrats addressed critical issues facing the Muslim world, from the challenges of violence and extremism and refugee crises to Islamophobia and challenges to improve social justice and strengthen the rule of law. Bringing together experts and practitioners from Southeast Asia, Turkey, the Middle East and Europe, the participants offered diverse perspectives of the causes and solutions to these issues, calling for greater engagement, dialogue and participation by Muslim democrats in formulating and implementing solutions. The rich discussion over two days ranged in scope, but stressed three core themes:1) the central role that democratic principles and norms in areas such as pluralism, justice and inclusion play in underling sustainable solutions to the challenges in the Muslim world; 2) the vital leadership role that Muslim democrats must play in addressing contemporary challenges, from controlling the narrative about Islam and deepening dialogue to taking more active role in strengthening legal frameworks on refugee issues and in other areas of social justice. 3) Finally,  participants highlighted the need adopt new approaches to existing problems, be it moving away from primary focus on military solutions to ISIS to a more inclusive approach to refugee issues that brings in civil society actors. These discussions contributed to important ongoing debates in the Muslim world.

[Download : WFMD – Report FINAL]

27 April 2016

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Bloomberg (26 April 2016)

KUALA LUMPUR: The ringgit dropped the most in two months and stocks were set for the lowest close since mid-March as troubled state investment company 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) confirmed it’s in default after missing an interest payment on bonds.

The company is withholding a US$50 million payment on US$1.75 billion of dollar notes amid a dispute with International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC), Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund that is the co-guarantor of the bonds maturing in 2022, according to an e-mailed statement. The deadline was on Monday. The cost to insure Malaysia’s government debt rose to the highest level in seven weeks and ringgit yields surged.

“At the margin, this has to be negative for the ringgit,” said Nizam Idris, the Singapore-based head of strategy for fixed income and currencies at Macquarie Bank Ltd. “Obviously, contingent liability on the government as well as rating risk is there.”

The currency declined for a fourth day, its longest run of losses since Nov 2, according to prices from local banks compiled by Bloomberg. It fell 0.9% to 3.9420 per dollar as of 1:10pm in Kuala Lumpur, the biggest slide since Feb 19 and taking its drop in April to 0.9%. The five-year bond yield rose five basis points to a six-week high of 3.49%

“Whilst 1MDB has the funds to have made the interaest payment, it is 1MDB’s position, as a matter of principle, that it was IPIC’s obligation to do so,” the company said. “Until IPIC accepts that all obligations have been met, 1MDB is obliged to withhold payments and will seek legal recourse and resolution.”

1MDB Bonds

Five-year credit-default swaps climbed four basis points to 167 basis points, prices from Nomura Holdings Inc show. That leaves the measure set for its highest close since March 8, according to data provider CMA.

The price of 1MDB’s 4.4% dollar bonds due in 2023 dropped 4 cents on the dollar to 87 cents, Bloomberg-compiled data show. The yield surged 73 basis points to 6.89%. The three-year sovereign note yield climbed five basis points to 3.32%, the steepest increase since Feb 24.

The FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index of shares retreated 0.7%, which was also the biggest loss in two months.

The missed 1MDB payment triggered cross defaults on RM7.4 billion (US$1.9 billion) of the company’s debt, according to the statement. The firm has been in dispute over its debt obligations to IPIC under an agreement reached in May last year. As part of the pact, the wealth fund said then it would assume obligations to pay interest due under US$3.5 billion of 1MDB bonds that it guaranteed. IPIC said this month that Malaysia’s state fund was in default after failing to pay it more than US$1 billion in connection with a loan.

Standard & Poor’s said in a e-mail it doesn’t see any impact on Malaysia’s A- rating, its fourth-lowest investment-grade ranking, from 1MDB.

27 April 2016

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Malaysiakini- Kow Wah Chie (26 April 2016)

Bekas ketua pembangkang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim berkata ia belum terlambat untuk PKR dan DAP berunding mengenai pertembungan calon kedua parti itu dalam pilihan raya negeri Sarawak.

Dalam perkembangan yang sama, beliau turut melahirkan rasa kesal bahawa calon sekutu Pakatan Harapan terbabit dalam pertembungan sesama sendiri.

Anwar bagaimanapun menyeru mereka supaya terus bekerjasama bagi memastikan kemenangan.

“Saya kesal (ini berlaku dalam pilihan raya Sarawak),” kata Anwar ketika ditemui di Mahkamah Tinggi Kuala Lumpur hari ini.

Beliau ditanya mengenai pertembungan antara calon PKR dan DAP di enam kerusi dalam pilihan raya negeri Sarawak pada 7 Mei ini.

“Buat masa ini, saya mahu mereka terus bekerjasama untuk memastikan Pakatan Harapan menang.

“Masih ada masa bagi mereka untuk cuba berunding. Itulah yang terbaik,” katanya.

Calon PKR dan DAP akan bertembung di kerusi Mulu, Murum, Simanggang, Mambong, Ngemah dan Batu Kitang.

Anwar hadir di mahkamah hari ini untuk memohon kebenaran daripada Mahkamah Tinggi bagi merujuk kepada Mahkamah Persekutuan mengenai isu itu sama ada keengganan Lembaga Pengampunan untuk memberi keampunan kepadanya atas sabitan kesalahan liwat, boleh dicabar.

18 April 2016

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APRIL 14, 2016)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — On Thursday the High Court here rejected yet another challenge to the Sedition Act, paving the way for the government’s record-breaking case against the political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, better known as Zunar, to proceed. Zunar faces up to 43 years in prison on nine counts of sedition — the most counts anyone in Malaysia has ever been charged with.

His crime? Posting comments and cartoons on social media criticizing a court decision last year that upheld a conviction for sodomy against the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

In February, the police hauled in another cartoonist, Fahmi Reza, for drawing Prime Minister Najib Razak as a clown. (Mr. Fahmi has since been released.) The latest to be summoned were three lawyers who asked the Malaysian Bar to remove Attorney- General Mohamed Apandi Ali from his post for refusing to prosecute Mr. Najib over alleged financial improprieties. Their motion was deemed to be seditious because the attorney general is appointed by the king, and a challenge to him is seen as a challenge to the king himself.

In 2015 alone, according to Amnesty International, 91 people were arrested, charged or investigated under the 1948 Sedition Act — almost five times as many as during the law’s first 50 years.

The act, which was amended after race riots in 1969, prohibits any action that might “raise discontent or disaffection” among Malaysians. It was enacted by the British colonial authorities, mostly to stamp out criticism from communists. But the Najib administration, after pledging to repeal the archaic law, is now wielding it to silence anyone who questions the state, or even the political status quo. This is an unprecedented onslaught against free expression in Malaysia, and an attempt to muzzle the entire population.

On Feb. 25, soon after The Malaysian Insider reported that an independent oversight panel within the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission had found sufficient evidence of financial improprieties by Mr. Najib, Internet regulators blocked access to our site. They claimed that our story would confuse the public because the attorney general had already announced there wasn’t enough evidence against the prime minister.

Our site remained accessible outside Malaysia, but the block order shut us out of the Malaysian market, and our advertising revenue, which already was weak, then flatlined. With no worthy bids forthcoming from potential buyers, on March 14, after eight years of operation, The Malaysian Insider was closed by its owners.

Fifty-nine of us lost our jobs. Malaysia lost one of its few independent news sources. And the communications and multimedia minister defended the government’s position by suggesting that The Malaysian Insider published content as “undesirable” as pornography.

Of course, Malaysia has never been a truly free and open society. In the late 1990s, then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), promised freedom on the Internet to attract Silicon Valley start-ups and propel Malaysia into the cyberage. But the Internet and mobile phones were beyond the reach of many Malaysians back then, so Mr. Mahathir had little cause to place any limits on them. And he shut down several newspapers in 1987, on security grounds, while generally keeping a tight leash on traditional media.

Mr. Mahathir’s successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, also of UMNO, was more lenient, partly on the advice of a coterie of young advisers. Online news portals mushroomed. Social media flourished. This was the period when cartoonists such as Zunar and Mr. Fahmi came to prominence, beyond just doodling for newspapers. But critics within UMNO pointed out that Mr. Abdullah had given too much away when under his tenure the party lost a commanding parliamentary majority between one election and the next.

Mr. Najib replaced Mr. Abdullah in 2009, and for a while all was well. In response to growing rifts between the country’s Malay, Chinese and Indian populations, he announced the “1Malaysia” program, a campaign to encourage national unity, diversity and pluralism. His government repealed draconian security laws that allowed detention without trial.

But just like the Mahathir administration had done, the Najib administration reversed itself after a few years in office. UMNO, which was first created to represent and unite Malay interests, was still failing to make inroads with non-Malays. It lost the popular vote in the 2013 general election. The party and its allies managed to secure a majority in Parliament thanks only to the weighted distribution of seats in Malaysia’s electoral system, which benefits small rural constituencies, UMNO’s traditional strongholds.

Opposition politicians and civil society activists were the first to be hassled for exposing the outrageous details of 1MDB’s losses and Mr. Najib’s apparent windfall. After that it was journalists and cartoonists.

The Najib administration is desperate to control what is said about these sordid scandals and suspected wrongdoings. It feels especially threatened by nontraditional media outlets, which are widely accessible to the public: The Malaysian Insider was a free news portal published in both English and Malay; Zunar distributes many of his cartoons via social media, some free of copyright and with the permission to reuse them.

My colleagues and I have already lost our jobs. Zunar may yet lose his freedom. Surely, Malaysia is losing its way.

18 April 2016

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18 April 2016 – Malaysiakini (Harinder Singh Randhawa)

Two years heretofore, on this fateful day, this nation lost a man. A man who was just as ordinary but chose, to be an uncommon man – for he felt that this was his right. He was a lawyer and a statesman. More than that however, he cherished a place that was vastly more sacred and noble in form: in the hearts of commoners.

He was their hero. He was a selfless defender and guardian of the law and righteousness, a friend to the marginalised and oppressed. A towering beacon of hope he was, for those whom the roots of injustice had imperiled. He was Karpal Singh – the people’s lawyer.

Karpal was an indefatigable and gallant defender of the Rule of Law and the Malaysian constitution. He fought both – in the causes he believed in and the causes of the people at large, fierily without any fear or favour. And the price for this – came hefty in form of detrimental consequences to Karpal and his family.

In 1987, he was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) during Ops Lalang, without trial, for two years. His family, unsure each long day that passed if there was to be food on the table the next, as Karpal was the sole breadwinner of the family. They lived, dashed with uncertainty, about the fate that was to be.

Upon his release from detention in 1989, many had expected a dispirited and crestfallen Karpal to trudge through the overshadowing gates of the Kamunting Detention Camp. Some had even gone to the extent of predicting that he would withdraw from the political arena completely. A detention without trial under the ISA was harsh and unforgiving. Detainees were subject to vile and iniquitous treatment. What more when his detention stretched over a period of two years.

However what came, was instead a man who marched valiantly through those very gates; enraged and even more determined, to set proper the course of justice that had been misdirected and trampled upon. This was what inspired people the most about Karpal. His warrior-spirit. Despite the impossible odds that may be, he was one to ever see pass them with ultimate optimism.

He was not a lawyer who won every case that he took on. He too, had his fair share of losses. What was admirable about Karpal was the fact that every case he fought, he fought with diligence and courage. He gave every legal challenge he mounted an equal and unqualified share of his utmost best. No case was paid less attention to or given less priority. If he lost a case, it would be with dignity. His clients, too, knew this well.

Lionhearted, Karpal was. A man so true to what he believed in, that no possible form of affliction, persecution or injustice, could ever cause him to be untrue to what he held on to and triumphed so dearly. In his words: “They can lock me up, they can do whatever they want to me. But I know that I’ll be in there with my integrity intact.” He represented a fearless source of unfettering inspiration to all.

Independence and forthrightness

What led Karpal to command the respect of the legal fraternity and his political opponents was his independence and forthrightness in giving legal interpretations truthfully, as they stand. This was the case several different times even when it failed to favour Karpal or his political standing. He remained steadfast to his principles in upholding the Rule of Law.

Many of Karpal’s cases were also taken on a pro bono basis. He refused to accept payment or legal fees. This was especially such when a client had been a victim of manifest injustice. As he said to Anwar Ibrahim when the family attempted to pay him for his legal services rendered: “How could I accept payment from you, Anwar!? You’ve been a victim of injustice. You fought them and they’re persecuting you! Don’t talk to me about money again. I’m a man with dignity.”

The news of his passing in the wee hours of April 17, 2014 shook the nation.

The people lost their hero. Their defender, their guardian, their inspiration, gone forever. Many were unaccepting at first, suspicious of a hoax as similar messages and news had also circulated several times before. But as the hours went by, it was confirmed. The Tiger of Jelutong had passed on.

A three-day wake was held at Karpal’s home in Penang. People, citizens from all walks of life, in the hundreds of thousands, thronged to pay their last respects to their hero, on his final journey. Men and women, of all races, ages, creeds and colours, stood by his coffin, teary-eyed and some even crying uncontrollably, as they bid the people’s lawyer, farewell. This just stood to show lucidly the place he enjoyed and held in the hearts of the ordinary men and women of this nation.

It is said that there will never again be another like Karpal Singh – at least for a long time to come. However, I beg to differ. We are all Karpal. We should all aspire in his aspirations for justice, integrity and freedom and bring effect to these notions. We are change.

Live his dream and walk in his shadow. He taught us exactly on how not to fear the government and for that is what we must do. Let us not disappoint in what Karpal devoted his life to. Even in his passing, he remains a beacon of hope and a tower of inspiration shadowing over us. Reminding us, that even an ordinary man can make extraordinary changes, if he wishes to.

Thank you Mr Karpal, for all that you had dedicated unwaveringly to this nation, its people and its defining fundamentals.

You were a true Malaysian.

14 April 2016

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By The Washington Post editorial board ( 9 April 2016)

Back in January, Malaysia’s autocratic-minded prime minister, Najib Razak, tried to decree the end to a scandal involving the appearance of $681 million in his personal bank accounts. After an attorney general he installed reported that the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family, and did not involve wrongdoing, Najib declared: “The matter has been comprehensively put to rest.” Malaysians who argued otherwise, officials suggested, risked prosecution under the country’s draconian sedition law.

Fortunately for the rule of law in Malaysia, the strongman’s gambit failed. Revelations about alleged misappropriation of funds from a Malaysian state investment fund set up by Najib continue to pour forth, and investigations in half a dozen nations appear to be gathering momentum. Malaysia’s scandal appears likely to implicate financiers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the United States as well as some big Western banks. Perhaps most important, the chances that Najib will himself face legal and political consequences are steadily growing.

At the center of the scandal is a fund established by Najib in 2009 called 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB. The entity has borrowed $11 billion, and Swiss authorities are saying that as much as $4 billion may have been improperly diverted. According to the Wall Street Journal,more than $1 billion entered Najib’s personal accounts between 2011 and 2015, including the $681 million transfer, most or all of it originating with 1MDB.

Najib has insisted the funds were not for his personal use, but were used to legally fund his party’s 2013 election campaign. According to the Journal, millions were transferred to party officials. But at least $15 million was used for personal expenses, including lavish spending on clothes, jewelry and a car. Moreover, the newspaper reported that $150 million went from 1MDB to a Hollywood production company set up by Najib’s stepson, who invested it in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and other films.

Najib’s strategy for combating the allegations relies almost entirely on repression. Last year he fired a deputy prime minister and the previous attorney general – according to one report, shortly before criminal charges were to be brought against him. At least 15 people have been charged under the sedition law, which Najib once promised to repeal; opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been imprisoned for more than a year on trumped-up sodomy charges. The government has blocked news websites, deported foreign journalists and even banned yellow T-shirts used by anti-corruption campaigners.

Increasingly, it looks like a losing effort. Even if Malaysia’s investigators are blocked, those in other countries appear likely to move forward and expose how money was diverted. The Malaysian economy is meanwhile sputtering, and former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has formed a coalition to seek Najib’s ouster.

All this ought to sway the Obama administration, which has cultivated Najib even amid the growing evidence of corruption and his repressive response. Last month the State Department objected to the government’s crackdown on the media, but President Obama, who invited Najib to a round of golf in 2014, has met with him twice more since November without commenting on the mounting scandal. It’s past time for the administration to distance itself from a ruler who appears headed for well-deserved disgrace.

More : http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/04/a_losing_effort_by_a_strongman.html

13 April 2016

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By 12 April 2016)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s jailed Anwar Ibrahim said it is not difficult representing himself, as his bid to challenge a decision not to grant him a royal pardon hit more delays on Tuesday (Apr 12).

The former opposition leader is serving out a five-year jail sentence on a sodomy conviction. He decided to represent himself in his application for leave to seek a judicial review of the Pardons Board’s rejection.

The hearing for this was meant to be on Tuesday after earlier postponements, but it has now been pushed to Apr 26.

His family’s lawyers say he needs more time to prepare by himself from prison. They allege he was not given a copy of the opposing counsel’s submissions in advance, and does not have access to sufficient resources such as a law library to prepare himself for his case from prison.

But Anwar told Channel NewsAsia he does not find representing himself difficult, saying it was just “extra work”. “You need to study, understand the law,” he added.

Anwar has 16 ongoing court cases and he decided to represent himself in several matters after he was given only an hour a week to meet with lawyers at prison.

Anwar Ibrahim’s family sought a royal pardon for him not long after he was convicted in February last year, but the Federal Territories Pardons Board rejected that request last March. His family then applied for leave for a judicial review in June 2015.

They now want the Pardons Board to meet again and dispense what they view as proper advice to the King of Malaysia, who presides over the board. As an alternative, they want an order to compel the board to advise the King to pardon and release Anwar.

Without a pardon, he faces another four years in prison – though he can be released early on good behaviour. However, the 68-year-old’s family feels that is still too long due to his health.

Anwar has always maintained that the sodomy charges he has faced are politically motivated, but the Malaysian government has insisted it had nothing to do with the decision to send him to jail.

13 April 2016

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11 April 2016 (ASIA ONE)

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s Sarawak state dissolved its assembly Monday, the country’s official news agency Bernama reported, paving the way for an election that is being closely scrutinised for its impact on a huge financial scandal. Prime Minister Najib Razak and his nationally ruling coalition have taken a battering over allegations that billions of dollars were plundered from a state-owned investment fund which he founded.Parties from the Barisan Nasional (National Front) have long had firm control of Sarawak.

But political observers are watching for any signs of eroding support before national elections due by mid-2018.New polls for Sarawak’s state assembly must now be held within 60 days. A date is expected to be set this week.Sarawak, known for its vast tropical forests, is one of Malaysia’s most sparsely inhabited states, yet plays an outsized role in politics.It is often referred to as a reliable “fixed deposit” of support for the ruling coalition even as Malaysia’s opposition has gained ground elsewhere.

Although richly endowed with oil, timber and hydropower resources, its people – many from tribal communities – are among Malaysia’s poorest.It is one of ten Malaysian states controlled by the Barisan Nasional while three are held by the opposition.Despite the scandal swirling around the state-owned investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), ruling coalition parties are widely expected to remain in firm overall control of Sarawak.The opposition and electoral reform advocates say Barisan Nasional parties retain control of the states via “money politics”, control of the media, and other means, adding that a recent redrawing of electoral boundaries in Sarawak blatantly favoured the ruling coalition.

Analysts say a strong showing by the coalition could boost its position in the next national polls. Barisan Nasional has governed Malaysia since independence in 1957.A recent independent survey found that most people in Sarawak supported the current government and were little influenced by the 1MDB scandal.Najib, who denies wrongdoing, has weathered the scandal so far by taking steps to scuttle investigations and clamping down on his powerful ruling party.

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