David Cameron under Fire for Talks with Scandal Ridden Premier Najib Razak


July 29, 2015

Foreign Affairs: David Cameron under Fire for Talks with Scandal Ridden Premier Najib Razak

by Beh Lih Yi in Jakarta

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/28/david-cameron-talks-scandal-malaysian-leader-najib-razak

David Cameron

David Cameron under fire ahead of talks with scandal-hit Malaysian leader

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak sacks Deputy and country’s top attorney after questions over claims he took millions from government investment fund.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing criticism for pushing ahead with a visit to Malaysia this week at a time when the south-east Asian nation’s leader is embroiled in an escalating corruption scandal and has stepped up a crackdown on dissent.

Malaysian Premier Najib Razak has been urged to resign after media reports alleged some US$700m linked to a troubled state investment fund (1MDB) had ended up in his personal bank accounts.

Razak has denied taking any public funds for personal use, and his government has lashed out at criticism by mounting a crackdown on dissent that has seen two newspapers suspended and a British-based whistleblowing website blocked.

MuhyiddinFormer Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia

On Tuesday, the Malaysian Premier removed his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, who has openly criticised him over the scandal, just hours after the government sacked the country’s top attorney, who had been leading an official investigation into the corruption allegations against Najib.

Politicians and activists who have criticised the government have also been hit with travel restrictions, with one prominent opposition MP barred from leaving the country.

“There could have been a better time for the visit,” Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Malaysia’s opposition leader, told the Guardian ahead of Cameron’s arrival in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, the final stop of a four-nation tour of south-east Asia.

The MP, who is also the wife of jailed opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim, called on Cameron to raise the scandal and human rights issues when he holds talks with Najib, and said he should also meet opposition parties to get “a better idea” about the political turmoil engulfing the former British colony.

“He must not only meet with the government but the opposition as well,” she said. “He should talk about freedom, the suspension of the newspapers and the use of the sedition law – something that is so repressive – and the welfare of the former opposition leader [Anwar].”

Liew Chin Tong, a lawmaker from the opposition Democratic Action party, said Cameron must tell Najib categorically to “respect the rule of law as well as human rights”.

Cameron is hoping to boost trade ties between the UK and the region during his visit that also includes stops in Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam. Efforts to fight jihadist group Isis are also on the agenda during his stops in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia.

Michael Buehler, a south-east Asian expert at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said Cameron would not be “entirely honest” if he ignores the corruption claims during his visit, as business and politics remain closely linked in the region.

“One cannot talk about business without also mentioning the political conditions in these countries. Cameron’s visit is indeed untimely, given the escalation of the corruption scandal in the country,” Buehler said.

Writing in the Daily Mail last week about the trip, Cameron himself vowed to put the fight against graft top of his agenda after claiming critics were “wrong” to say the UK should avoid doing business with countries with barriers to trade, including corruption.

“Many in South East Asia have led the battle against corruption, which costs the global economy billions of pounds a year. Britain is joining them in that fight – I’ve put the issue at the top of the global agenda,” he wrote.

Najib’s move against the deputy premier came in an unexpected cabinet reshuffle just two days after Muhyiddin broke ranks and openly urged Najib to tell “real facts” over the scandal and answer questions over whether he received the money.

Announcing the decision, Najib said “differences of opinions shouldn’t be expressed openly” among his cabinet members, according to the Malay Mail Online website.

The cabinet reshuffle was seen as an attempt to shore up support for the beleaguered Najib in the cabinet, as an internal tussle within the ruling party in the coming days could put pressure on the Malaysian leader to resign.

Foreign Affairs: Obama Stay Clear of Najib’s Malaysia


July 29, 2015

Time

Foreign Affairs:  Obama Stay Clear  of Najib’s Malaysia

by Charlie Camp6ell

http://time.com/3974380/obama-malaysia-najib-razak-1mdb/

Washington is having serious trouble finding dependable allies in Southeast Asia

Obama Najib GolfStay Away from Tainted Malaysian Prime Minister

The U.S.’s “rebalancing” toward Asia has two main pillars: being a counterweight to China and securing a free-trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If Washington is to succeed on both fronts, it needs as many friends in the region as it can win. The U.S.’s newest ally is Malaysia, this year’s chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Nation, collectively a growing market, and, on the surface, a modern, democratic, Muslim country.

In April 2014 U.S. President Barack Obama paid an official visit to Malaysia, the first sitting President to do so in decades, and, later in the year, played golf with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak when both were on holiday in Honolulu. This November, Kuala Lumpur will host the next East Asia Summit and Obama is due to attend.

But recently, all the news coming out of Malaysia is negative. After becoming embroiled in a corruption scandal, Najib on Tuesday sacked his Deputy and Malaysia’s Attorney-General in an apparent purge of critics. British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing a domestic backlash for pushing forward with a visit to Kuala Lumpur this week despite the snowballing controversy.

Here are five reasons why Obama might want to break from Cameron by giving Najib a wide berth.

  1. 1MDB — A Wall Street Journal report has alleged that Najib’s personal bank accounts received nearly $700 million in March 2013 from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a government-owned development fund. Najib has protested his innocence and threatened legal action against the Journal. “I am not a thief,” Najib told Malaysian media on July 5. “I am not a traitor and will not betray Malaysians.” The Police, the local anticorruption agency, the Attorney General’s office and the central bank are investigating the allegations. On July 8, the police raided 1MDB’s office in Kuala Lumpur and took away documents. Even before the latest news, 1MDB was an embarrassment for Najib, who chaired the fund’s advisory board as debts of $11.6 billion were accrued. Such are the suspicions of malfeasance that former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who ran the country from 1981 to 2003 and has long been considered Najib’s mentor, has repeatedly called for his protégé’s resignation over 1MDB’s alleged mishandling.
  2. Anwar Ibrahim — Najib’s main political rival is once again in prison for a sodomy conviction. Human Rights Watch deemed his five-year sentence handed down Feb. 10 to be “politically motivated proceedings under an abusive and archaic law.” This is the second time Anwar has been jailed for sodomy.
  3. Hudud — Stoning for adultery and amputation for theft are not the kind of punishments meted out by the progressive state that Malaysia purports to be. Yet Najib’s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) is supporting attempts to introduce hudud Islamic law in the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party’s (PAS) heartland state of Kelantan, where nightclubs are forbidden and men and women are designated separate public benches. Why is UMNO supportive of recognizing hudud under federal law? Largely because PAS is part of a three-party Pakatan Rakyat coalition that is UNMO’s chief challenger. The other partners — Anwar’s Keadilan, or People’s Justice Party, supported by middle-class, urban Malays, and the Chinese Malaysian–backed Democratic Action Party (DAP) — are strongly against hudud. Many analysts accuse UMNO of cynically fostering a radical Islamic bent to widen rifts in its political opponents.
  4. Shaariibuugiin Altantuyaa — In 2002, when Najib was Defense Minister, a $1.25 billion contract was signed to purchase two Scorpène submarines from French firm DCNS. Altantuyaa was a Mongolian woman who, knowing French, facilitated negotiations as a translator, and then allegedly attempted to blackmail Abdul Razak Baginda, one of Najib’s aides with whom she was also having an affair, for $500,000 over “commission” payments he had allegedly received. Two policemen posted to Najib’s bodyguard detail were convicted of murdering Altantuyaa on October. 18, 2006. Najib denies any involvement.
  5. Prevention of Terrorism Act — Najib campaigned on scrapping the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) but then immediately replaced it with the equally sweeping Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or SOSMA. The POTA includes practically the same powers as ISA, including two-year detention without trial, and was dubbed a “legal zombie arising from the grave of the abusive [ISA]” by Human Rights Watch. Najib also vowed to repeal the similarly maligned Sedition Act but reneged after his election in 2013. In fact, in April his government extended the maximum jail term under the Sedition Act from three to 20 years.

Anwar Ibrahim: A Lone Voice from Prison delivers a Message of Hope


July 25, 2015

MALAYSIA: A Lone Voice from Prison delivers a Message of Hope

Anwar --The Prisoner

Anwar Ibrahim

by http://www.themalaymailonline.com

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/malaysia-ready-for-change-imprisoned-anwar-writes-in-wsj-amid-1mdb-scandal

With the Najib Administration facing even more pressure now to explain the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim has seized the opportunity to rally his supporters, saying although tough times are expected ahead for Malaysians, the country’s growing opposition cannot be silenced.

Anwar, who was given the opportunity to pen an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the international daily now facing the possibility of lawsuit by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said Malaysia is ready for the change long-trumpeted by the federal opposition, one that he claimed would see a return to the underpinnings of the Federal Constitution.

The PKR de facto leader, now five months into his five-year jail sentence for sodomy, also said a “brighter future” is possible with good governance and the rule of law.

“We believe in the dismantling of Malaysia’s system of race-based privileges that has devolved into nothing more than rent-seeking for the privileged few. We believe that corruption is a slow bleed that robs future generations of the education and business opportunities that will make them prosper,” he wrote in the piece.

Anwar, who was the Deputy Prime Minister from 1993 to 1998, said his decision to stay in the country to face prosecution had not been easy and had put a “tremendous burden” on his family but insisted that he had done so because he believes the country is ready for change.

“Malaysia is ready for change.This is why, rather than flee my country, I chose to stay and continue the fight for peaceful, democratic reform from my prison cell,” he said.

He also said in four decades in public service, this was the first time racial and religious sensitivities have become so inflamed, and at the same time so poorly managed by the country’s political leadership.

He said the “real danger ahead” is that Malaysia could devolve into a failed state after several decades of economic mismanagement, opaque governance and overspending.

“The irresponsible manner in which the current leadership is handling religious issues to curry favor from the extreme right is fueling sectarianism.Increased political repression may drive some to give up on the political system altogether and consider extralegal means to cause change, thus creating a tragic, vicious cycle,” Anwar added.

The only way out of this “mess”, he said, was to uphold the Malaysian Constitution, to ensure better checks and balance in the administration, keep the elections free and fair; and a media that is not afraid to challenge authority.

The Najib government is currently under pressure to explain the 1MDB scandal, following the series of exposes by media outfits claiming to be in possession of documents that show impropriety in the state investor’s allegedly opaque deals.

In its July 2 exposé, WSJ, citing documents from Malaysian investigators currently probing 1MDB’s financials, said a money trail showed that US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) had been funnelled into what is believed to be Najib’s accounts.

Anwar Ibrahim on the new coalition:’We’ll rise with new friends, become stronger’


June 23, 2015

Anwar Ibrahim on the new coalition:’We’ll rise with new friends, become stronger’

http://www.malaysiakini.com

anwar-ibrahim-1

The Architect – who brought three parties with opposing ideologies to sit at the same table under the banner of Pakatan Rakyat – today confirmed of a new realignment in the opposition.

 Anwar Ibrahim, who is currently serving a five-year sentence, believes the opposition would rise stronger from the ashes of Pakatan. “I have no doubt that the Opposition, reorganised with new forces including NGOs, will emerge united and stronger from these troubles. I assure you, that I will never give up this struggle as long as there remains breath in this body,” he said in a statement released through his lawyers. Anwar’s statement is the clearest yet of efforts to create a post-Pakatan coalition.

Today, PasMA President Phahrolrazi Mohd Zawawi had announced that it will be joining a new opposition coalition that is to be formed with DAP. This is despite Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali’s insistence that Pakatan wasn’t dead.

Partnership to better serve the rakyat

PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang had also insisted Pakatan has not been dissolved as it still comprise PAS and PKR.

Lim Guan Eng

DAP had last Tuesday declared Pakatan dead in response to PAS, under its new conservative leadership, passing a motion at its muktamar which proposed the severing of ties with DAP.  DAP had insisted that Pakatan comprises three parties and cannot exist without any one of them. Anwar said in spite of recent events, the purpose and strength of the opposition in its struggle against BN’s “poor governance and authoritarianism” endures.”We are now working to forge a stronger and enduring partnership, to better serve the rakyat,” he said. In the interim, Anwar assured that there is a “functioning and robust” opposition at both state and parliamentary levels.

Despite being in jail, Anwar urged his colleagues to press on with the opposition’s struggle. “From behind these iron bars, I urge you, my colleagues in the opposition and my fellow Malaysians, to press on with this great struggle until victory is achieved, and the nation saved,” he said.

Malaysia’s Long Road to Change


June 21, 2015

Malaysia’s Long Road to Change

by Asia Sentinel Editors

http://www.asiasentinel.com/opinion/malaysias-long-road-to-change/

Taken in the current context, it is remarkable that Prime Minister Najib Razak remains in power. In an actual democracy – instead of the kind of purpose-built one-party state in Malaysia – he would presumably be long gone and perhaps in the dock.–The Asia Sentinel Editors.

Adam AdliAdam Adli- A  Rebel with Causes

The headline issues behind Malaysia’s current political crisis often puzzle outside observers, not just for the specific and sometimes bizarre details but for what they reveal about a system designed to maintain the status quo at all costs. Taken in the current context, it is remarkable that Prime Minister Najib Razak remains in power. In an actual democracy – instead of the kind of purpose-built one-party state in Malaysia – he would presumably be long gone and perhaps in the dock.

Najib's ScandalsThe 1Malaysia Development Berhad debacle, with its overtones of greed, political favoritism and inside deals is exactly the kind of sleaze that should and does bring down governments worldwide. Add to that the lingering issue of the 2006 murder of the misbegotten Mongolian party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu by bodyguards linked to Najib, the shamelessly cooked-up jailing of long-suffering opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the poisonous stew of bitter racial politics manipulated by the ruling elite and the widespread disgust with the acquisitive ways of Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, and it is a wonder that anyone can keep a straight face while claiming Malaysia’s system is anything but a thinly disguised playpen for the Barisan National and its cronies.

Still, and finally, we may be witnessing the endgame in the country’s painful transition from the 20th century politics and governance that started with the transition from British colonialism to rule by the Barisan Nasional, the race-based coalition of political parties led by the United Malays National Organization. In power since 1957, the Barisan is the world’s longest-ruling parliamentary coalition.

Malaysia, a much richer and more sophisticated country now than it was when the kampungs could so easily be fooled by the elite, may finally have no choice but to adapt to the demands of the 21st century and the digital era.

Finding its own way

If it happens it won’t be anything like the Arab Spring, the sudden downfall of Indonesia’s Suharto or the tumultuous and joyous chaos favored by the Philippines when its people and elites overthrow governments. Instead it will be the result of a long, frustrating process that began with Anwar’s premature and frustrated effort to supplant then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in 1998 during the chaos of the Asian Financial Crisis.

anwar_ibrahim2Curiously, 17 years after those first attempts at reformasi, it almost looks as if the country is back where it started. Mahathir is lashing out, only this time at the sitting Prime Minister; Anwar is back in prison on trumped-up charges; the PM is again facing a financial scandal.

But in those days, Anwar’s movement had virtually no media voice. His supporters dreamed to no avail of a radio station that might take up the cudgels. But in keeping with the digital age, today’s political drama is being played out on the Internet by contending blogs and social media chatter that even has the royalty getting in on the act, such as the Johor Crown Prince’s recent weighing in via Facebook. Malaysians are also skewering Najib and Rosmah with vicious spoofs on YouTube.

It remains for the system to catch up with the popular mood and realize that Malaysia will stand still or go in reverse if racial gerrymandering and rank corruption prevail over change. Perhaps the real significance of the recent tantalizing news that Najib’s powerful banker brother, Nazir Razak, is poised to lead an NGO that will seek to build a unity government is that big business may finally be putting the nation’s best interests ahead of the payoffs and perks handed out by UMNO

Indeed, if UMNO chooses to align itself with the medieval minds of PAS in imposing sharia law and hudud amputations in parts of the country as a cynical way of clinging to power, an admirably modern business sector that has accomplished much could see itself mortally damaged.

The long race

Here is one way to look at this marathon drama. 1998 marked the year when Malaysians first threw off the shackles of fear by protesting in the streets. They marched, they had no fear of being arrested, they began speaking out. Later, Internet sites like Malaysiakini, Malaysia Today and Malaysian Insider kept the flames of free thought alive at a time when the mainstream media were all owned by the ruling political parties.

In 2008, a decade later, this manifested itself in the electoral field. The ruling coalition lost its two-thirds majority in parliament to the Anwar-led opposition; the then-PM was shown the door by his party colleagues led by Mahathir; and Najib took over. But in the 2013 election, the BN did even worse. It’s taken 17 years to get to this point, but the once-unthinkable question is finally being asked by more and people: is Malaysia’s single-party-rule system finally in its death throes?

Unlike more obvious dictatorships such as those that once existed in the Philippines and Indonesia, Malaysia’s collective party-certified dictators could hide under the guise of legality. That curtain is falling away and the only system most Malaysians have ever known seems as close as it has ever been to real change.

That such change carries with it risks and unease is certainly the case. The alternative – a seemingly crooked and ossified elite clinging to power through corruption, court manipulation and racism – seems far worse. Just as other countries have found a way forward without their once-entrenched despots, we are certain Malaysia will find its path.

Malaysian Activists: Soldier on for Democracy, Freedom and Justice


June 1, 2015

Malaysian Activists: Soldier on for Democracy, Freedom and Justice

Tiananmen Square
Malaysian activists who appeared to suffer from political fatigue are told to embrace the never-give-up spirit in Hong Kong’s social movement. “What we should learn from Hong Kong activists? Persistence,” said political analyst Low Chee Chong at the ‘Remembering Tiananmen Square Massacre’ forum last night.

He related the emergence of Hong Kong’s social movement which was sparked by the infamous Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, where a Beijing student movement demanding for political reforms was brutally stamped out by Chinese troops.

According to Beijing, 200 were killed in the massacre, while the international media reported up to 3,000 deaths.

“The Hong Kongers commemorate the Tianamen massacre every year without fail. They have the July 1 rally as well as the recent 79-day Occupy movement,” said Low.

Likewise, Malaysians were inspired by politicians and activists who stood up against oppression, he added. The social movement here gained traction particularly after the 2008 general election, where hundreds of thousands of Malaysians poured into the streets of Kuala Lumpur to demand free and fair elections. However, the clamour for democracy seems to have died down after the 2013 general election.

Low, who is former PKR Deputy Treasurer, conceded that the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition has failed to live up to the people’s expectation.

But he argued Malaysians who want to see a two-party system should continue to back Pakatan as an alternative to the ruling BN.

“Bear in mind, political change is a long-term struggle. You will not see all your targets achieved at the various stages of the movement,” he said.

The ‘Remembering Tiananmen’ forum, which was attended by 300 people, saw Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong and lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung sharing their experience on video after they were deported on arrival in Malaysia earlier this week.

Hong Kong teen’s advice

Wong, who rose to fame at the tender age of 14 for protesting against changes to the education system imposed by Beijing, urged Malaysians to continue to fight for democracy through his pre-recorded video message.

“While I am not familiar with Malaysian politics, I want to encourage you to continue to fight, (just like) Hong Kong is fighting to uphold its core values of justice and democracy,” said the ‘Umbrella revolution’ activist.

Malaysians can reclaim their democratic rights if they persist in their struggle despite facing suppression by the government, he said.

Wong also shared the difficulties faced by youth activists, which include the likelihood of being banned by local universities, defamed by pro-Beijing media and being rebuffed by the older generation, who prefer not to rock the boat.

Meanwhile, Wong Ji-yuet, a 17-year-old Hong Kong student activist, admitted they made some mistakes in the Occupy movement, dubbed the ‘Umbrella revolution’, which saw thousands of protesters setting up camps in the territory’s business district for weeks last year.

“We tend to go to the streets, but forget to go back to the community and do advocacy work. This needs to be strengthened,” said Ji-yuet, who is spokesperson for student movement Scholarism. Unlike Joshua and Leung, Ji-yuet was allowed to enter Malaysia to attend the forum.

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