The Rule of Law in Malaysia


October 9, 2016

The  Rule of Law in Malaysia

by James Giggacher

1MDB shows that an already fragile rule of law is being stretched to the limits, writes James Giggacher.

Malaysia’s rule of law may have reigned supreme in this week’s case of the Budgie Nine – saving the Southeast Asian state from gross national insult at the hands of some silly young Australians. Too bad the same thing can’t be said about another national disgrace, the 1MDB financial scandal.

Image result for Budgie Nine

The Budgies of Australia

In the face of investigations into the country’s failing sovereign wealth fund, and Prime Minister Najib Razak’s alleged links to millions of missing dollars, the Rule of Law has in fact gone missing in action.

This was certainly the case when Najib sacked Attorney-General, Abdul Gani Patail, who planned to bring charges relating to 1MDB against the Prime Minister in July 2015.In doing so, the Malaysian Prime Minister violated the Malaysian constitution [Article 145 (6)]. Unfortunately, Mr. Patail did not challenge the legality of the sacking in the Malaysian court

The plan was leaked, and Abdul Ghani stepped down, officially for ‘health reasons’. Perhaps he’d heard about what happened to former Mongolian model and Najib’s inner circle mainstay, Altantuya Shaarribuu.

At the same time, Najib removed his deputy and one of his most vocal critics — Muhyiddin Yassin.

Image result for Crooked Najib above theLaw

Mamak Mohamad Appandi  Ali–UMNO Crony Attorney-General

The former AG’s replacement, Mohamed Apandi Ali, almost immediately cleared his embattled PM of any wrongdoing. Apandi said that the royal family of Saudi Arabia had gifted Najib $US 681 million, of which $US 600 million had been returned. He also said no criminal offence had been committed. However, several countries, including the US, Switzerland, Singapore and the Seychelles, are still investigating the case.

Reports on the scandal by Malaysia’s central bank and anti-corruption commission have also been dismissed by Apandi; according to him the PM has no case to answer.

And in June, Najib filed court documents that denied graft, misuse of power, and interference in 1MDB investigations in response to a lawsuit brought by former PM and mentor, and now key adversary, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Image result for Crooked Najib above theLaw

Seeking God’s Mercy

Meanwhile, the almost 700 million dollar question of how 2.6 billion ringgit managed to find its way into Najib’s personal bank accounts has yet to be satisfactorily answered.

So much for due process, democratic safeguards, transparency, and holding those in power to account. But can we expect anything better from a Malaysia still under the sway of long-ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and its leading party, Najib’s UMNO?

The dismantling of and disdain for judicial and state institutions is not a recent phenomenon. As Jayson Browder notes, BN has long had a poor record of abiding by the rule of law.

Image result for najib and rosmah

Fighting Fit Rosmah ready to take on all comers

It has consistently leveraged several national laws – including The Peaceful Assembly Act of 2012, the Sedition Act of 1948, and the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1948 – to curtail freedoms, assembly, political expression as well as intimate activists, opponents, civil society and the media, and ensure its power.

These tactics guarantee the ruling coalition’s stranglehold over Malaysia’s political system “in direct violation of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution in Malaysia.” Article 10 is meant to guarantee Malaysian citizens the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.

An embattled Najib has only sharpened the teeth of a legal system already heavily stacked in his party’s favour. In August he brought in an unprecedented law that allows him to designate ‘security areas’ and deploy forces to search people, places and vehicles without a warrant.

Draconian would be an understatement.Laurent Meillan, from the UN Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia, said that they were “gravely concerned” about human rights violations as a consequence of the act. The act could further restrict already highly limited rights of free speech and free assembly.

And in March this year, the independent news site The Malaysian Insider, went offline. Owners cited poor financial returns and high costs. The then editor, Jahabar Sadiq, said it was because the threat of being charged with sedition that could lead to jail time had become all too real.

The decision to pull the plug came almost three weeks after Malaysia’s Internet regulator — the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission – issued a gag order on the site because of a report alleging the country’s anti-corruption commission had sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Najib in the 1MDB case – even though he had already been cleared by Apandi.

The lesson? Smuggling budgies and smearing the flag is a clear no-no. Smuggling billions and smearing the nation’s sovereign wealth fund is a-ok. It all goes to show that in Malaysia there is the rule of law – but most of the time there’s the law that lets BN rule.

James Giggacher is an associate lecturer in the ANU Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs and editor of New Mandala.

http://www.newmandala.org

7 thoughts on “The Rule of Law in Malaysia

  1. Rule of Law?? Seriously? We are on a runaway train to CHAOS.. The Red-Shirt is just a peek to the future for the nation – your jobs, your income and business, your neighbourhood, churches, temples, schools etc etc. The Red-Shirt are Najib’s people, stripped of Money and pretense, Najib is just one of them..

    We have STRUCTURAL WRECKAGE – there is no system of governance, its just micro-controlled – people not acting out because of habit and rituals rather than any real believe in law, society and nationhood. When it starts to go negative, then all the repressed real feelings, ideas and attitiudes will come out of the woodwork and reveal the true system – utter chaos.

  2. What does it mean by Rule of Law? There is no rule of law when there is double standard in both enforcing the law as well as meting out punishment by the Judiciary.
    The Police is selective in enforcing the law. Example is Bersih versus Red Shirts. Other examples are action taken on police report against the Opposition as opposed to those from the ruling BN.
    Then the issue of meting out punishment by the Courts. Remember the judgement by the Judge on the rape case of an underage minor. The rapist was given a light sentence since he is a potential sports personality. The issue is the rapist committed “Statutory Rape”.
    Then there are many other cases where the person is fined thousands of dollars for stealing RM 3. The person is unemployed and he steals to provide food for his family. But try stealing millions of RM and you will just get a one year jail sentence at most. Many white collar criminals get light sentences in spite of the gravity of their crime and the loss to society.

  3. We are nearly there – Anarchy…!

    “Anarchy doesn’t necessarily start at a particular point in time. Often, a society slides into anarchy as government gradually loses control. The government might technically be in place and operating, but they are ignored by the vast majority of the population. As this increases and government influence decreases, others step in and try to take control.

    While any one of these things can be a harbinger of anarchy, the greatest danger is when you see a combination of them working together. The more signs off of this page that are going on at the same time, the closer a society is to falling into anarchy….” – http://www.survivopedia.com/anarchy-signs/

  4. In our beloved Malaysia, Rule of Law is the rule of People or Leaders who are the law unto themselves : they rule the law to rule the people…..so Malaysia is a Unique example of how the obverse becomes the reverse……its a real model of the concept of Democracy , and scholars have to study & re-write Malaysia’s ingenious way of ruling the nation……

  5. RULE OF LAW IS WHAT IS INTERPRETED BY THOSE IN POSITIONS OF POWER OR THOSE WHO CAN ‘INFLUENCE’ THOSE IN POWER. THIS IS WORLDWIDE CULTURE.
    THE ONGOING TRUMP-HILLARY DEBATE AIRED AT 9.00am TODAY MALAYSIAN TIME ON CNN CHANNEL JUST CONFIRMED THIS BY THEIR RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS RELATING TO TAXES NOT PAID BY THE RICH WHO MAY HAVE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF THE TAX LOOPHOLES AVAILABLE IN LAWS.
    REMEMBER THAT TAX LAWS ARE APPROVED BY POLITICIANS IN POWER WHOSE CAMPAIGNS MAY HAVE BEEN FINANCED BY THE RICH TOGETHER WITH ADVISE BY TAX-ACCOUNTING-LEGAL PROFESSIONALS THOUGH MANY MAY HAVE BEEN TRUE TO THEIR PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS BUT MAY HAVE BEEN IGNORED.

  6. An important distinction needs to be made between rule of law and rule by law. In rule of law, the law is something the government serves; it implies fairness and predictable application, even the government has to obey the law. In rule by law, the government uses law as the most convenient way to govern; it is neither fair nor predictably applied. In Malaysia, Najib is above the law. There is no rule of law but only rule by law in Malaysia.

    • In rule of law, the law is something the government serves; it implies fairness and predictable application, even the government has to obey the law.

      THOSE WHO MAKE THE LAWS GENERALLY PROVIDE EXEMPTIONS FOR THEMSELVES OR THOSE WITH ENFORCEMENT FUNCTIONS MAY BE RELUCTANT TO APPLY THE LAWS TO THEM INCLUDING THEIR RELATIONS-FRIENDS-RELATIONS-WHO CAN ‘BUY’ THE LAWS.
      FURTHER THERE ARE SUFFICIENT LEGAL EXPERTS TO FIND ‘LOOPHOLES’ AND OTHER INTERPRETATIONS TO ENSURE THAT THOSE HIGH AND MIGHTY ARE NOT SUBJECTED TO THE LAWS.

      IT IS FOR THIS REASON THAT IT MAY BE A COMMON PERCEPTION THAT THERE ARE TWO INTERPRETATIONS OF THE SAME LAWS – ONE FOR THE RAKYAT AND ANOTHER FOR THOSE IN POWER OR WEALTH AND THEIR RELATIONS/FRIENDS/FINANCIERS.

      Ordinary citizens do not comply with the laws they are fined but those with power can flout the laws in the presence of the Enforcers. For evidence just see the violations of traffic laws, illegal occupation of marked parking bays, parking on sidewalks, double parking, non payment of loans [small amount you can lose the house but large loans you get considerations in the form of waivers-reduced penalties. Discount culture is common here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s