Malaysia’s Najib Razak demands Respect

August 4, 2016

Malaysia’s Najib Razak, Beset by Growing Scandal, Demands Respect

by Sara Schonhardt in Jakarta and  Yantoultra Ngui in Kuala Lumpur

The  Malaysian Prime Minister addresses World Islamic Economic Forum in Jakarta

JAKARTA, Indonesia—Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, facing a loss of international standing as he wrestles with global investigations into alleged domestic corruption, on Tuesdayurged countries not to meddle in the affairs of his Southeast Asian nation.

“I have always been a proponent of openness to the world and collaboration, but we must insist on respect for our own sovereignty, our own laws, and our own democratically elected governments,” Mr. Najib said at the opening of a summit on Islamic finance held in neighboring Indonesia.

Mr. Najib has struggled for more than a year in a scandal centered on the state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd. He used a keynote address to the World Islamic Economic Forum to restate his country’s importance in Asian trade and security arrangements and as a counterbalance to Islamic extremism.

The remarks amounted to a pointed statement of Malaysia’s traditional role as an investment-friendly, moderate Muslim mainstay. That role has been overshadowed in the past year by a steady stream of bad news around 1MDB, which Mr. Najib founded in 2009 to promote economic growth.

The three-day forum is the first big international event Mr. Najib has attended since the U.S. Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit July 20 seeking to seize assets that it said were bought with $3.5 billion misappropriated from 1MDB.

The lawsuit doesn’t name Mr. Najib, but there are 32 references to “Malaysian Official 1,” who allegedly received hundreds of millions of dollars in funds siphoned from 1MDB. People close to the investigation have said Malaysian official 1 is Mr. Najib.

“Without a doubt, the ongoing 1MDB investigation by half a dozen countries, including the U.S. and Singapore, is starting to take its toll on Najib’s credibility,” said Murray Hiebert, Deputy Director of the Southeast Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

“But much of this toll is focused on Najib,” Mr. Hiebert said. “Malaysia itself is still largely viewed as one of the most economically successful Muslim majority countries.”

Mr. Hiebert was jailed briefly in the late 1990s for contempt of court after losing an appeal against a 1997 conviction for writing about a case brought by the wife of a court of appeal’s judge on behalf of her teenage son. Mr. Hiebert was working at the time as a journalist for the Far Eastern Economic Review, then owned by Dow Jones. Mr. Najib wasn’t the prime minister at the time.

On the international stage, Malaysia remains an important member of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement the U.S. is pushing, and an increasingly important security partner for Washington amid tensions in the South China Sea, Mr. Hiebert said.

“Najib is still the Prime Minister and therefore he still must be given all the courtesies for a sitting head of government,’’ said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive of Kuala Lumpur-based think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs. “So in reality, it does not matter what people think. He is still in charge.”

Mr. Najib has been embroiled in scandal since The Wall Street Journal reported more than a year ago that hundreds of millions of dollars that originated with 1MDB flowed into his personal bank account. Several countries have since launched investigations.

Mr. Najib has said he did nothing wrong and is the target of political smears. The Malaysian Attorney-General has cleared him of wrongdoing, saying the funds that went into Mr. Najib’s account were a legal political donation from Saudi Arabia and that most of the money was returned. 1MDB has also denied wrongdoing.

Mr. Najib is still regarded as a moderate voice in the Muslim world and Malaysia sees itself as a model for developing countries, said Norshahril Saat, a fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute. His approach to terrorism has also earned him kudos among neighbors battling with Islamic extremism while earning rebuke from human-rights groups.

A special security law that took effect Monday widens Mr. Najib’s powers to fight Islamic terrorism but critics say it is broad and overly vague and could be used to silence critics. New York-based Human Rights Watch called for the law to be repealed.

Countries facing similar problems, including corruption, are less likely to pass judgment. But the allegations themselves continue to dog Mr. Najib and perceptions of Malaysia.

Political analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan says the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections will better show if Pakatan Harapan can unite as a viable pact or will continue to squabble over seat allocations. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

“I think Malaysia is suffering in terms of international reputation,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan (pic above). “Everywhere I go these days the question I have to answer is always about Najib and the allegations surrounding him. It is quite embarrassing and it is a distraction to the many good things we can talk about the country.”

The forum was founded in Malaysia in 2005, bringing together business leaders and government officials in the Islamic world to promote trade and investment opportunities. Malaysia is a global leader in the Islamic finance market and has more than tripled Islamic capital markets to $1.7 trillion over the past decade, Mr. Najib said.

An Islamic finance market is based on Islamic law. For instance, the system avoids investment in prohibited industries such as gambling and alcohol.

—Celine Fernandez contributed to this article.

17 thoughts on “Malaysia’s Najib Razak demands Respect

  1. PM claims he is innocent in the 1MDB fiasco. Why then must he be demanding respect if he believes he is innocent? Conscience pricking ? Respect must be earned not demanded

  2. Yes dont meddle in the affairs of Malaysia so that I can continue to occupy the top position to steal the thieve public funds in billions, continue to discriminate and oppress life chances of non-Malays , craft laws to intimidate and imprison opposition leaders. Call me a bastard or a sinner it is ok with me. I have thick skin and my 5 times prayer to my Allah insulates me.

  3. He said he has returned most of the donation received. Why? What more Malaysians want? Only think he has not revealed is

    1. the mode of payment he received into his personal account

    2. the mode of payment made when a large portion of donation was returned.

  4. 1MDB broke the financial laws and regulations of many countries.

    And we expect them to respect the de facto head of the board of directors
    of 1MDB ?

  5. Respect? Of course. He deserves the “respect” for his ability to ignore the 1MDB shenigans and scandals and pretend not to know the identity of Malaysia Official No.1.

  6. A discredited and thick-skinned Jibby asking for respect? What sort of respect is he asking for? He’s like a drowning man clutching at a straw.

  7. My perception is as follows:-
    1. Being “well known” means most people know the personality by name or appearance
    2. Being “famous” means being “well known” and well liked
    3. Being “notorious” means being “well known” and disliked or abhorred.

    Type 1 and 2 need not ask other people to respect them. Only shameless Type 3 need to ask others to respect them.

    Which type or types of person or persons would be desirable?

    People with dignity know that respect must be earned. Usually dubious personalities do not give a damn even if others categorize them as “notorious”.

    When one is buried 6 feet under the ground how would one prefer to be remembered?

  8. The rakyat at large demands his own self-respect first before the rakyat as a whole can reciprocate likewise to show respect to him…..

    It must be mutual and reciprocal ! These days, no one really cares about ‘ demands ‘ , unless by and due process of the law……Btw. is there a specific rule or law to prove one’s right to demand for respect at whims and fancies…..?

  9. Dato Din

    Allow me to write a little bit more.

    For a leader to earn the respect of his people I advocate he must :-

    1. Not say A and do B.
    Like advising others when accepting party donations -must ensure to receive such donations directly into the party’s account and not into any official of the party’s account;
    Like when reminding others about religious teachings – not to tell lies, to keep promises, not to betray when you are entrusted -see that you practice what you preach.

    2. Evaluate own achievement based on facts to support if claim to have performed well. Do not along the way adopt the old malay adage
    “masuk bakul angkat sendiri.

    3. Be thrifty and not lavish when using state coffers. Do not live like a king on people’s money.
    Be a “people first” and not “me first” kind of leader.

    4. Teach a man how to fish, not fish him with teenie weenie gifts which he can finish in one second with just one gulp.

    5. Show your respect to the people whom you serve by applying 1 to 4 at least. Demanding for respect is definitely a no go.

    6. Last but not least, mesti ada sifat malu. If ever challenged by others in issues that involve doubtful integrity- must face them head on. Never play hide and seek when it comes to defending own or country’s “maruah”.
    A leader whose integrity is challenged must have that perasaan malu and need to step down if he cannot face up to the challenge (due to reasons known only to him).
    Its like walking around with backside not or cannot be cleaned and letting out foul shit odour.

    No pun intended.

  10. We have a totally shameless MOFO surrounded by a bunch of kitchen cabinet ministers supported by a shameless AG, propped up by a thick skinned idiotic twit of an Igp! Apo nak di kato?

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