12 September 2015


Pendapat Anda?

DSAI conveyed the following message to the public through his lawyers on 9 September 2015:

“Saya amat kesal dengan keputusan Menteri Dalam Negeri Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yang menyekat perjumpaan peguam-peguam dengan saya bagi tujuan perjalanan kes-kes di Mahkamah.

Ini adalah suatu pelanggaran hak saya mendapatkan nasihat guaman dan menghalang tugas dan tanggugjawab peguam-peguam saya.

Tindakan ini telah menafikan saya daripada berbincang dan memberi arahan mengenai kes-kes Mahkamah, yang mana saya terlibat dalam sejumlah 16 kes sivil dan jenayah.

Umpamanya, pada hari ini, peguam-peguam saya N Surendran dan Dato’
Ambiga Sreneevasan tidak dibenarkan berjumpa dengan saya walaupun mereka perlu mengambil arahan mengenai kes-kes Mahkamah yang akan berlangsung pada 15 September dan 5 Oktober masing-masing.

Sebelumnya, peguam dihalang berjumpa walaupun ada afidavit untuk diikrarkan pada kadar segera.

Hormati undang-undang dan proses Mahkamah dengan membenarkan peguam jalankan tugas dengan sempurna dan tanpa gangguan!”

Fahmi Fadzil
KEADILAN Communications Director

12 September 2015


Pendapat Anda?

Berikut merupakan perutusan DS Anwar Ibrahim yang disampaikan melalui peguam beliau pada 9 September 2015:

“Adalah wajar pertahankan hak dan keadilan bagi semua kaum dan rakyat Malaysia termasuk mempertahankan kepentingan masyarakat Melayu.

Namun kita tidak wajar mengapikan isu perkauman yang dibantah oleh Islam dan budaya Melayu, seperti yang dirancang melalui perhimpunan baju merah pada 16 September.

Kenyataan Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi serta sekerat pemimpin Umno lain bahawa ahli Umno bebas untuk menyertai perhimpunan sedemikian, memperlihatkan kegagalan moral pada kepimpinan mereka.

Yang pastinya apa yang dirancang adalah untuk mengalih pandangan dari kemelut politik dan kegawatan ekonomi yang terus melanda negara.

Rakyat tidak wajar terpedaya atau termakan oleh taktik pecah-belah seperti ini.”

Fahmi Fadzil
Pengarah Komunikasi KEADILAN
10 September 2015

9 September 2015


Pendapat Anda?


At issue is a $1.4 billion payment from 1MDB that officials at an Abu Dhabi investment fund said is missing

The corruption scandal around an economic-development fund in Malaysia is spilling beyond the country’s borders, as officials at a United Arab Emirates state investment vehicle raise questions about more than a billion dollars in money that they said is missing.

Abu Dhabi has long been a source of support for the fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd., which was set up six years ago by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to develop new industries in the Southeast Asian country. Now, as 1MDB tries to fend off a cash crunch, its backers in Abu Dhabi are asking what happened to a $1.4 billion payment the fund said it made but which they never received, two people familiar with the matter said.

The dispute comes as Mr. Najib is battling a separate scandal linked to 1MDB. Malaysian investigators are examining the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars into the prime minister’s alleged private bank accounts through entities linked to 1MDB. The disclosures have sparked a political crisis and set off a handful of investigations around the world, destabilizing the government and damaging confidence in Malaysia’s economy.

Mr. Najib has denied wrongdoing and said he didn’t take money for personal gain.

The U.A.E. is trying to sever its ties to the fund and restructure the entity that provided it with financial support, the people said.

The disputed payments are related to the purchase of power plants around the world by the Malaysian fund in 2012. A state investment fund in Abu Dhabi, the International Petroleum Investment Co., or IPIC, guaranteed the $3.5 billion in bonds that 1MDB issued to finance the purchase, according to the bond offering documents. In return, IPIC was to receive options to buy a 49% stake in the power plants as well as collateral for the bond.

According to 1MDB’s financial statements, the Malaysian fund made a collateral payment of $1.4 billion. A draft report into 1MDB’s activities by Malaysia’s auditor general, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, said the payment went to a subsidiary of IPIC called Aabar Investments PJS.

IPIC’s consolidated financial statements, however, contain no reference to the receipt of the payment. Two people familiar with the matter said IPIC and Aabar never received the money. It isn’t clear what happened to the funds. 1MDB didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The dealings between the two countries shines a rare light on the workings of sovereign-wealth funds, which have increased significantly in size and are backed by wealthy governments but often lack transparency. The interactions between the two funds also are attracting scrutiny in Malaysia.

“This relationship is beyond a normal business relationship,” said Tony Pua, a member of the Malaysian opposition Democratic Action Party who sits on a parliamentary committee that also is investigating 1MDB.

Ibrahim Al Abed, a spokesman for the U.A.E., declined to comment, as did the country’s ambassador to the U.S. The office of Mr. Najib, who also is chairman of 1MDB’s board of advisers, didn’t respond to questions. IPIC and Aabar didn’t respond to requests for comment on the transfers.

The U.A.E.’s focus on its dealings with 1MDB is the latest in a series of inquiries into the Malaysian fund.

A Malaysian government probe found that nearly $700 million moved through banks, agencies and companies linked to 1MDB before being deposited into Mr. Najib’s alleged private bank accounts ahead of a close election in 2013, the Journal reported in July.

The source of the money is unclear, and the government investigation hasn’t detailed what happened to the funds that allegedly went into Mr. Najib’s personal accounts. Malaysia’s anticorruption body in August said the funds were a donation from the Middle East. The donor wasn’t specified.

The allegations drew tens of thousands of yellow-clad protesters into the streets of the capital last month. Malaysia’s currency, the ringgit has fallen to a 17-year low in part due to concerns over the fund.

The 1MDB fund was created to spur economic development by investing in lucrative industries and attracting foreign partners to help finance projects. The fund has rolled up over $11 billion in debt to fund purchases of assets, largely made up of power plants and real estate in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Sri Lanka and the U.A.E.

The 1MDB fund’s assets have failed to generate enough cash, and at times it has rescheduled debt payments.

1MDB said it hopes to repay the debt by selling assets, which the fund’s management has said are valued at more than its borrowings.

The U.A.E.’s rulers in April dismissed IPIC’s managing director for a number of reasons, including issues related to 1MDB, according to the people familiar with the matter, and replaced him with the emirate’s energy minister.

The new management team is investigating the previous managers’ actions and relationship with 1MDB, according to the people. They also are in the early stages of crafting a restructuring plan for IPIC, which itself has become heavily indebted, they added.

To help shore up the Malaysian fund, IPIC’s new managers this year cut a deal with Malaysia’s finance ministry to inject $1 billion into 1MDB to cover a maturing bank loan and agreed to take over the $3.5 billion in power-plant bonds it had guaranteed. In return, the Malaysian government will transfer an equal value of assets to IPIC.

In the beginning, Malaysia touted ambitious goals for the fund. Mr. Najib sought to use 1MDB to raise Malaysia’s economic development and standing in the world by going beyond its dependence on exports of raw materials such as natural gas, palm oil and rubber.

Mr. Najib early on turned to the Middle East, a region with which Malaysia has strong ties based on trade and a shared religion in Islam. Over the next few years, the U.A.E. pledged to invest billions of dollars in projects through 1MDB, including a plan to turn Kuala Lumpur into a global financial center named after Mr. Najib’s father, Malaysia’s second prime minister.

Little of that money ever flowed. Instead, IPIC agreed to back the Malaysian fund’s power-plant bonds, leading to the payments that are the focus of IPIC’s inquiries.

Aabar, the IPIC subsidiary, also helped 1MDB during a disputed audit. According to the Malaysia auditor general’s draft report, 1MDB fired KPMG LLP as its auditor in late 2013 after the firm declined to sign off on 1MDB’s accounts unless it received more details about $2.32 billion the fund said was invested in a Cayman Islands account.

Aabar stepped in and guaranteed the Cayman Islands funds, an official for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd., which took over as 1MDB’s auditor, told a closed-door meeting of the parliamentary committee probing 1MDB, according to a transcript of the proceedings reviewed by the Journal. This guarantee was never made public. Deloitte later signed off on the fund’s accounts. KPMG and Deloitte declined to comment.

Malaysia’s auditor general plans to issue a full report on 1MDB later this year. The central bank last month said it had completed another report into 1MDB, but details haven’t been made public. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission also is probing allegations that cash flowed into Mr. Najib’s alleged accounts.

Two of the transfers into Mr. Najib’s alleged bank accounts totaling $681 million came from unknown sources via an account held by a British Virgin Islands-based company at Falcon Private Bank, a Swiss bank owned by Aabar, the U.A.E. fund, according to Malaysian investigation documents reviewed by the Journal. Falcon Bank declined to comment.

Swiss authorities said in August that they have opened a criminal probe into what they called suspicious transactions between Switzerland’s banking system and 1MDB. On Sept. 2, they said they had frozen funds valued at tens of millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts linked to the fund on suspicions of corruption and money laundering.

9 September 2015


Pendapat Anda?


The storm sweeping over emerging markets has hit Malaysia at an especially fraught moment, with Prime Minister Najib Razak embroiled in a $700 million funding scandal. The country’s economic difficulties are bad enough by themselves. The political turmoil makes them all the harder to deal with.

Najib denies accusations that almost $700 million found its way from a state investment fund into his private accounts, and Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission has declared that the money represents donations from anonymous Middle Eastern sources. This explanation failed to satisfy the thousands of protesters who took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur last month to demand Najib’s ouster.

Leaders of the ruling United Malays National Organization, which has governed the country since independence in 1957 and has long prized loyalty over accountability, will certainly support Najib when they meet on Wednesday. But they need to ask themselves whether maintaining the political status quo is worth the continuing damage to Malaysia’s financial reputation and prospects for growth.

China’s slowdown and plunging oil prices — Malaysia derives 22 percent of its income from oil-related sources — have hammered the ringgit, which has fallen for 11 weeks running. The currency stands near lows last reached during the 1997 financial crisis. The central bank has spent almost a fifth of its reserves trying to halt the slide. Although a full-scale crisis may not be imminent, the country is among the most vulnerable in Asia to a rise in U.S. interest rates.

The situation requires a government that commands trust. Yet while Swiss authorities have started a criminal investigation into the fund, Najib has stalled a domestic probe by removing the attorney general and reassigning four members of a committee coordinating the inquiry. He’s dismissed as unpatriotic the crowds of largely Chinese and Indian protesters calling for him to step down. Such efforts at damage control risk further undermining the credibility of Malaysia’s institutions and polarizing its racially mixed society.

Foreign investors are watching. Ratings company Fitch has so far maintained its A- sovereign rating, noting that “weak governance is already factored” into its judgment. The country’s anti-corruption commission “lacks genuine independence,” according to Transparency International, and the prime minister has too much influence over the appointment of judges. Weak campaign-finance laws leave too much scope for political patronage. Parties can spend freely between elections and don’t have to account for contributions. An anonymous $700 million donation wouldn’t, in itself, be illegal.

If UMNO now chooses to bolster its support by pandering to its rural Malay base, pro-growth economic policy may be sidelined. Powerful government-linked companies are stifling innovation and crowding out private investment. Reform is needed, but it’s politically challenging. Najib once promised to roll back government policies favoring Malays. That no longer looks feasible. A brain drain of able minorities is likely to continue.

Indeed, the greatest danger is that growing racial and religious polarization might fracture Malaysia’s multiethnic society. Some UMNO leaders have flirted with the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, which favors the imposition of Sharia law. Even normally circumspect neighbors are worried.

It looks unlikely that Najib will subject himself to a truly independent and transparent investigation. U.S. President Barack Obama, who’s scheduled to visit Malaysia for a regional summit this fall, may be able to exert some quiet pressure. But ultimately, UMNO leaders will have to choose: What kind of Malaysia are they trying to build?

4 September 2015


Pendapat Anda?

4 September 2015


Pendapat Anda?


Seorang lagi aktivis anti-rasuah global memberi tekanan ke atas Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Razak untuk berterus-terang mengenai derma RM2.6 bilion dalam akaun bank peribadinya, berkata “taktik melambat-lambatkan” yang digunakan untuk menghalang siasatan tidak akan berkesan dalam jangka masa panjang.

Pengasas Bersama Transparency International (TI) Michael J. Hershman berkata, ketidakupayaan Najib menangani soalan mengenai sumbangan itu menjejaskan kredibiliti sebagai perdana menteri.

“Nasihat saya kepada perdana menteri adalah jangan berselindung, tidak menghalang keadilan kerana ia tidak berkesan.

“Katakan yang sebenarnya tentang dari mana wang itu datang dan tangani tuduhan itu. Dan jika beliau melakukan sesuatu yang salah, minta maaf dan berhadapan dengan akibatnya,” kata Hershman di Persidangan Antarabangsa Pencegahan Rasuah 16 (IACC) di mana Malaysia menjadi tuan rumah.Katanya, sebarang penangguhan tidak akan menghilangkan semua dakwaan.

“Perkara sebenar akan diketahui dan daripada pengalaman saya, lebih cepat ia dikeluarkan adalah lebih baik bagi tertuduh dan negara,” katanya.

Hershman berkata penjelasan yang diberikan setakat ini tidak cukup baik.

“Jika ia datang dari Timur Tengah, daripada siapa? Bila ia diterima dan untuk tujuan apa? Ini adalah soalan yang sangat mudah,” kata Hershman.

Tambahnya, memandangkan Najib mempunyai kawalan akaun, beliau pasti tahu dari mana ia datang.

“Tiada sebab menubuhkan panel untuk siasatan. Hanya beritahu kebenaran. Nyatakannya secara publik,” katanya.

Reaksi awal Najib terhadap laporan The Wall Street Journal berhubung wang dalam akaun beliau pada awal Julai adalah penafian mengambil dana daripada 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) untuk kepentingan peribadi.

Kemudian, Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM) mengesahkan dana sebagai sumbangan politik daripada seorang penderma Timur Tengah.

Najib dan pemimpin Umno yang lain kemudian mula mengatakan dana itu adalah untuk kepentingan parti, dan beliau sebagai presiden parti mempunyai kuasa memegang wang sebagai amanah bagi pihak Umno.

Tetapi Hershman berkata Najib terlepas peluang bercakap kepada penonton global pada IACC.

“Beliau terlepas peluang menjelaskan kebenaran di sini. Saya menghormati beliau dan percaya terhadap integriti beliau. Saya masih bersedia untuk mempercayainya tetapi beliau perlu tampil ke hadapan dan bercakap benar,” kata pegawai TI.

Beliau juga menegaskan Najib melakukan banyak perkara bagi SPRM, sambil menambah ia adalah salah sebuah agensi anti rasuah dibiayai terbaik di dunia dan ia sebahagiannya disebabkan dasar-dasar Najib.

Hershman ialah seorang daripada ahli panel pada sesi bertajuk “Fighting Corruption by Authorities: What worked and what went wrong” di IACC yang diadakan di Pusat Konvensyen Antarabangsa Putrajaya.

Persidangan 3 hari ini dihadiri 1,000 perwakilan dari 130 buah negara berakhir esok.

4 September 2015


Pendapat Anda?


Despite Umno leaders dismissing the RM2.6 billion in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s bank accounts as not a big deal, Transparency International chairman Jose Ugaz said it has all the elements of “grand corruption”.

The globally renowned anti-graft fighter said grand corruption has three characteristics: it is committed by those in very high positions of power, involves huge amount of money, and has an impact on human rights.

Speaking at the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Ugaz said the RM2.6 billion that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak received in his personal bank accounts was an example of grand corruption.

The funds transfer, Ugaz said, was comparable to illicit funds that flowed to major banks such as the United Kingdom’s HSBC and France’s BNP Paribas.Activists have in the past claimed that HSBC had funnelled money from illegal logging in Sarawak, while a US court had fined BNP Paribas US$9 billion for moving billions of dollars to countries labelled as sponsors of terrorism.

Last month, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) confirmed that Najib had received the RM2.6 billion from an unnamed Middle Eastern source for an unspecified purpose.

“If that money is meant to help the poor and it did not go to them, then that impacts their human rights,” Ugaz told The Malaysian Insider on the sidelines of the conference.

“He has not explained, for what and where the money came from and what he was to do when he received it.

“He must also prove that the money is not illicit or that it comes from an illicit source. Political parties should not receive money that comes from illegal origins,” Ugaz said.

Following revelations of the transactions into Najib’s accounts, critics have demanded his resignation.

They also rubbished his explanation that it was to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis), saying the terrorist group was formed much later after 2013, when the transactions took place.

The Umno president has defended the “donation”, saying it was for his party.

Najib’s supporters in Umno, such as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, had said that the funds were not a big issue, while Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor described it as “normal” for party presidents to hold funds in trust.

The RM2.6 billion “donation” has been a hot talking point among speakers at the IACC.

On Wednesday, Ugaz said Malaysia’s commitment to tackle corruption could not be taken seriously as long as there was no satisfactory explanation on the matter.

He noted the replacement of Malaysia’s attorney-general “who was critical of the government”, suspension of the task force probing into the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) issue, arrests of graft investigators and suspension on a newspaper.

“These are not the actions of a government that is fighting corruption,” Ugaz had told the conference of top anti-graft authorities, experts and activists from around the world.

4 September 2015


Pendapat Anda?


Datuk Seri Najib Razak should step down and allow investigations into the US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) transferred into his accounts to proceed without undue influence, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) coalition has said.

UNCAC coalition chairman Manzoor Hasan said Najib staying in power could jeopardise the probe, even as the prime minister’s supporters insist that critics should simply wait for the investigation to be completed.

“In an ideal world, you would want to see the prime minister stay, and the investigation happen. But I think the reality is that if they don’t step down, the process of investigation can be influenced and could undermine the whole process.

“If you apply the natural, legal principles when a person is being investigated, normally that person steps down so a clean independent investigation can take place,” Manzoor told The Malaysian Insider when met at the sidelines of the ongoing 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Putrajaya.When asked whether Najib should step down, he said, “Yes, I would certainly say so for the interest of fair investigations.”

Manzoor described Najib’s decision to stay in power as “strange”, but added that it was neither new nor uncommon for a world leader to do so.

“I think this is where civil society and media can play an important role and put pressure on the government to change the principles and rules that apply,” he said.

Manzoor added that the action taken against investigating officers in Malaysia went against the spirit of UNCAC – a legally binding international anti-corruption instrument adopted by the UN general assembly in October 2013.

Malaysia signed the document on December 9, 2003, and ratified it on September 24, 2008.

“If you have to implement the convention internationally and nationally, the independence of a commission, like the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), is very critical.

“If the independence is not there, the whole investigation can be undermined, as in the case of Malaysia – with the investigating officers transferred, the leadership is arrested.”

He said agencies such as MACC were merely labelled as independent, “but, in spirit, they are controlled by the same political elite which runs the country and which is also involved in grand corruption”.

The UNCAC coalition, which Manzoor chairs, is a global network of 350 civil society organisations in over 100 countries committed to promoting the ratification, implementation and monitoring of UNCAC.

Yesterday, Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim, the chairman of Malaysia’s anti-graft advisory board, said MACC was still investigating the case and that everyone should wait for the commission to complete its probe.

Tunku Abdul Aziz added that MACC was as “independent as you can get”.

4 September 2015


Pendapat Anda?


Datuk Seri Najib Razak dan 5 lain termasuk AmIslamic Bank akan diminta mendedahkan maklumat berkaitan dengan saman PKR terhadap perdana menteri kerana melakukan kesalahan pilihan raya berhubung RM2.6 bilion yang terdapat dalam akaun bank peribadinya.

Peguam Michelle Sunita Kumar yang mewakili 6 plaintif berkata, permohonan mendapatkan dokumen akan disampaikan kepada defendan sebagai susulan kepada saman sivil PKR bertujuan membatalkan keputusan pilihan raya di kerusi yang dimenangi Umno-Barisan Nasional (BN) semasa Pilihan Raya Umum ke-13 (PRU13) pada 5 Mei 2013.

Permohonan penemuan juga disampaikan kepada AmIslamic Bank Bhd, Affin Islamic Bank Bhd dan Goldman Sachs (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, yang bukan pihak dalam saman itu.

Pihak-pihak terbabit mempunyai 14 hari bertindak balas kepada permohonan penemuan itu – prosedur yang membolehkan satu pihak mendapatkan pendedahan wajib dokumen dan maklumat lain yang berkaitan dalam prosiding sivil daripada pihak lain, atau bukan daripada pihak berkenaan.Antara penemuan dokumen yang diminta daripada Najib adalah resit RM2.6 bilion daripada Tanore Finance Corp ke dalam akaun peribadinya, resit RM42 juta daripada SRC International Sdn Bhd ke dalam akaun peribadinya dan penyata bank bulanan dari April 2009 bagi 3 akaun yang disimpan AmPrivate Bank.

Semalam, Mahkamah Tinggi Kuala Lumpur memerintahkan Najib memfailkan pembelaan kepada saman utama sebelum Oktober 1.

3 September 2015


Pendapat Anda?

Perutusan DS Anwar Ibrahim mengenai penubuhan Amanah pada 1 September 2015

DS Anwar Ibrahim telah menyampaikan perutusan berikut melalui peguam beliau pada 1 September 2015:

“Saya telah dimaklumkan mengenai niat penubuhan Parti Amanah Negara (PAN) seperti yang telah diumumkan Sdr Mohamad Sabu semalam.

Penubuhan sebuah parti pembangkang baru yang komited kepada perubahan dan reformasi merupakan satu petanda baik bagi politik matang yang mengetengahkan kebertanggungjawaban demokratik.

Amanah akan terus mengukuhkan pembangkang diperingkat nasional, bersama KEADILAN, PAS, DAP; dan kami akan memperluas muafakat ini termasuk kepada NGO-NGO lain yang komited dan yang berkongsi matlamat yang sama.

Fokus kini adalah untuk memberikan Rakyat satu alternatif yang berdaya maju, berasaskan kedaulatan undang-undang dan nilai-nilai demokratik.”

Fahmi Fadzil
Pengarah Komunikasi KEADILAN

1 September 2015


DS Anwar Ibrahim’s message to the public on the formation of Amanah on 1 September 2015

DS Anwar Ibrahim conveyed the following message to the public through his lawyers on 1 September 2015:

“I am informed of the intention to form Parti Amanah Negara (PAN) which was announced by Sdr Mat Sabu yesterday.

The formation of a new opposition party committed to change and reform, augurs well for the mature politics of democratic accountability.

Amanah will further strenghten the national opposition, together with KEADILAN, PAS, DAP; and we will expand this cooperation to other committed NGOs which share our common objectives.

The focus now is to offer the rakyat a viable alternative, based on rule of law and democratic values.”

Fahmi Fadzil
KEADILAN Communications Director

1 September 2015

1 September 2015


Pendapat Anda?

Al Jazeera

Malaysia’s pro-democracy rally shows a country deeply divided along ethnic lines.

The human sea of yellow swarming though the streets of Kuala Lumpur on the weekend looked, at first glance, like an overwhelming show of people power directed against a government and a prime minister deeply imperilled by political and financial scandals.

But the rally, smaller in number than hoped for and lacking a representative ethnic mix, served only to show that democracy in Malaysia is more troubled than many previously thought. 

A splintered opposition failed to mobilise supporters on the scale hoped for and those who did turn up – and without a doubt, there were tens of thousands of them – were predominantly from the minority ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.

That these groups have legitimate concerns is a valid reason to protest. But to the large ethnic Malay support base of the beleaguered Prime Minister Najib Razak, this was a startling show of opposition towards the status quo and the rule of the Barisan Nasional coalition. This, of course, is exactly what Najib was hoping for.

Malay culture under threat?

The paucity of Malay protesters played directly into Najib’s hands, strengthening his core Malay support base with a mass visual display claiming that ethnic Malay heritage and culture are under threat.

The prime minister, who was not in Kuala Lumpur during the protest, deemed the protesters “shallow and poor in their patriotism and love for their motherland“. Malaysia’s ethnic groups, and thus Malaysia itself, are looking more and more divided.

The timing of the rally, which was the fourth held by the Bersih civil society group that campaigns for free and fair elections, is also no coincidence.

On Monday, Malaysia will celebrate Merdeka Day, the annual celebration marking its independence from Britain in 1957.

For those taking part in the rally, this patriotic holiday is a chance to look back at the past and focus on what kind of Malaysia people want for the future. For the government that has been the sole holder of power since independence, however, patriotism means a chance to display their Malay identity and reinforce the nationalist narrative that surrounds independence celebrations.

Public dissatisfaction has been brewing in Malaysia for the past months as the economy slows and political scandals escalate.

The street protests come amid allegations of Najib’s mismanagement of the debt-laden 1Malaysia Development fund (1MDB), a faltering economy with a plunging currency, and allegations of impropriety over a 2.6 billion Malaysian ringgit ($700m) “donation” deposited into Najib’s personal bank accounts. Najib denies allegations that he used public money for personal gain.

Colourful symbol

In the lead-up to the protest, the government used almost every lever available to deter protesters. They ruled the rallies illegal, saying correct permissions had not been sought, banned internet sites that mentioned the protest, and even tried to ban the yellow shirts that were to become the colourful symbol of the protest.

These heavy-handed scare tactics may have served to keep some protesters away. But the rally’s failure to mobilise a crowd representative of Malaysia’s ethnic groups highlighted the widening religious and ethnic polarity in Malaysian politics, as well as the weakness of opposition groups plagued by infighting and disagreements over the place of religion in multiethnic Malaysia.

In the past, Bersih rallies could count on numbers mobilised by opposition parties for a good turnout. The Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), with one million members nationwide, is no longer part of the opposition after a fallout with former opposition allies, who represent mainly ethnic Chinese and Indian interests.

Perhaps the best result in the aftermath of the Bersih 4.0 rally is to instil in the ruling UMNO leadership a sense that the prime minister is no longer electable. But the UMNO party leadership conference, the forum that could vote him out as leader, has been delayed for 18 months.

Patronage politics

The other hope is in a vote of no confidence that could be moved by opposition politicians when parliament resumes in October. However, it seems unlikely that it will garner enough support.

Malaysia has shown repeatedly that the prime minister does not need the people’s support to survive. Patronage politics is deeply ingrained, and the recent sackings of senior politicians are a stark reminder of what lies in store for those whose loyalty is questioned. For now, it seems Najib is likely to survive and lead his party into the next election.

Despite the show of force, with military hardware and armoured water cannon trucks lining the protest route, there was little violence and few arrests. Previous rallies saw street scuffles, the use of water cannon and tear gas along with hundreds of arrests.

Whether intentional or not, the Malaysian police have managed this rally with a light hand, perhaps driven by a belief that the protest is essentially harmless. After cracking down hard before the rally, the authorities seemed content to sit back, show the world that they can effectively manage public discontent – and then do nothing.

Democracy in Malaysia is the poorer for it.


1 September 2015


Pendapat Anda?



This weekend tens of thousands protestors gathered in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere calling for political reform in Malaysia. They were joined twice by 90-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, who ran the nation for more than two decades and has—like many of the protestors—called for the removal of embattled prime minister Najib Razak, whom he helped put in power.

The rallies ended just before the nation’s Independence Day, which takes place today (Aug. 31).

Najib is under pressure after last month’s revelation that nearly $700 million found its way into his bank accounts shortly before the close-fought 2013 general election. He claimed the money was donated by an unnamed Arab family. He sacked his deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who called for the truth on 1MDB, and he’s worked to silence publishers, journalists, and others.

The rallies called for clean elections, clean government, the right to dissent, a strengthened parliament, and the rescue of Malaysia’s faltering economy. They were named Bersih, after the Malay word for “clean.” Organizers put the number of protestors in Kuala Lumpur at 200,000 on Saturday and 300,000 on Sunday, while authorities—who had declared the rallies illegal beforehand—said the number was closer to 25,000.

With the gap between estimates so glaring, one post shared drone footage from an anonymous source showing the crowds from above.

Malaysians and their supporters were also marching around the globe, including in London, Melbourne, Hong Kong, and other cities:

The amounts involved in the transfers to Najib’s accounts have captivated Malaysians being asked to tighten their belts to help reduce the nation’s budget deficit. In April Najib’s administration implemented a highly resented consumption tax of 6% on all goods and services. Late last year it removed subsidies for gasoline, diesel, and sugar, and it plans to continue cutting others, including for liquefied petroleum gas and cooking oil.

Meanwhile Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor—dubbed “the first lady of shopping”—has been likened to Imelda Marcos for her extravagant buying binges abroad.

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