February 7, 2016
Sparing the Wrongdoer like Najib Razak
by S. Thayaparan
‘Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets…’ – Napoléon Bonaparte
COMMENT: Nobody would agree more with the above quote than the Najib Abdul Razak regime. Ever since the Sarawak Report expose and then the alternative press began reporting on the ‘donation’-now-investment scandal that has engulfed the Prime Minister, the keris(es) have been out for the online media.
With UMNO devouring itself with its internal schisms, the search for acceptable scapegoats has been frantic. The Chinese community, always the first choice, has proven problematic since with each passing the day the Malay community has been inundated with news that the so-called defenders of race and religion have been selling them out for decades and getting rich in the process.
Sacred cows of Malay hegemony have been railing against the Najib regime and in the process, the Najib UMNO faction has been carry out a systemic Night of the Long Knives on dissenters and rebels.
The Christian community is always a juicy target but the threat of IS and Islamic extremism right on our doorsteps have the security apparatus in a constant state of high alert for provocations that could lead to sectarian Islamic conflict that we have demonstrated that we are woefully unprepared to face.
Secrets are leaking from the corridors of UMNO power. Sleepers, sympathisers, malcontents, dissidents, people of conscience or just plain troublemakers, are spilling their guts because Cash is King but, as always there is not enough of it to go around.
I never really liked the idea of calling Najib the Teflon Prime Minister. The only other person of such title is Russian President Vladimir Putin and we all know how he deals with dissent.
No, the real Teflon President was someone like former United States President William Jefferson Clinton, who had to contend with a free press, an independent legislature and his own personal demons. Yet nothing stuck to Slick Willy and most Americans loved him. Now that is Teflon.
However, our Prime Minister does not fit into my definition. With the UMNO state controlling everything, there is no need for spin or brilliant counter moves, shrewd political manoeuvrings, or deft handling of public perception, there is only the blunt force of the apparatus of the state doing its master’s bidding.
I have no idea when we descended the rabbit hole but when Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali warns everyone that his office is seriously mulling “to amend laws to increase the punishment for those who leak state secrets and journalists who report them” I think we can safely say we are not in Kansas any more.
What exactly are these “state secrets” he is alluding to? Plainly, his warning is to potential whistleblowers but more importantly, to the recalcitrant online press who continue offering alternatives views to the UMNO narrative.
Schizophrenic nature of this regime
The Attorney-General references China of all countries and says, “In some countries, the leaking of official secrets is a serious offence, like in China where it carries the death sentence,” which just goes to show, you the schizophrenic nature of this regime when the Chinese are sometimes to be scorned but other times worthy of emulation.
Well, let me remind the Attorney-General that China also has the death penalty for corruption. In fact according to the state-owned China Daily, “There is an overwhelming support for death penalty in corruption cases, according to an online survey conducted by Social Survey Centre of China Youth Daily on November 4, 2014. It claims that 73.2 percent of 2,105 respondents think that the death sentence should continue to be applied in graft cases.”
In the same article Che Hao, Associate Professor at Peking University Law School, said, “Considering the ongoing anti-graft campaign and people’s high expectations, it would be prudent to keep the death sentence for corruption cases”
Now, we already have the death penalty for a variety of offences but does the A-G’s office think that the death penalty be used for corruption cases? Would the public support something like this?
In the past year not only have our democratic institutions been compromised , we have a former de facto Law Minister charged in court for asking the Prime Minister to step down. We have had a law professor charged in court for giving a legal opinion. We have had a cartoonist charged in court for drawing cartoons. We have had activist charged in court for organising protests, as is our constitutional right.
We have had radio presenters investigated because of suspicion of turning Malaysia into a “liberal country”. We have had publications suspended because they were investigating and enticing employees to reveal damaging information of possible corruption. We have had material confiscated because certain words are verboten to a certain segment of the Malaysian polity.
In all those cases where charges brought, I am sure the A-G’s office had 90 percent (sic) of the evidence. What a ludicrous proposition. What exactly does 90 percent of evidence mean? Either you have evidence of probative value or you do not.
Why bother shooting the messenger? The alternative press is but a small fraction of the dissent that is heard in the online world. When the prime minister initiates legal proceedings against Malaysiakini because its Yoursay column offends him, does he really think the average netizens would be cowed into self-censorship like the propaganda organs of the state?
When the editors of Utusan Malaysia have no problem saying that it lies and spins for the government, all bets are off. That is one kind of message that is being spread. I suppose lying and spinning are on the bottom of the list for the A-G’s office unless it comes from the alternative media.
Whenever Apandi Ali or indeed anyone from Barisan Nasional speaks, what they say does not resemble anything like a functional democracy. What they describe, with their threats, intimidation, provocations and enticements is not a system of government or governance.
What they say makes the Malaysian government sounds more like Cosa Nostra rather than a democratically elected government for the people by the people. What does Cosa Nostra mean? It loosely translates to ‘Our Thing’.Indeed.
S. THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.