David Cameron talks to Najib on Democracy, Civil Rights and Corruption


July 31, 2015

Bilateral Relations

David Cameron challenges Malaysian PM Najib Razak on Corruption

The Prime Minister urged Mr Razak to clean up his government and challenged the treatment of Anwar Ibrahim, the country’s opposition leader in jail

Najib-Razak-david-_3392712bDavid Cameron and Najib

Allegations that $700 million (£450 million) in state development funds ended up in Mr Najib’s personal bank accounts overshadowed a visit by the Prime Minister designed to build trade ties.

During a long, one-to-one meeting, Mr Cameron on Thursday urged Mr Najib to clean up his government.

In a pointed move, he then met with civil society leaders, including journalists, the G25 group of campaigners and lawyers, who are campaigning for greater democracy and a free press.Mr Cameron also challenged Mr Najib over the treatment of Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader in jail on sodomy charges.

Sir Kim Darroch, Mr Cameron’s national security adviser, met with Mr Anwar’s daughter who is playing a leading role in the opposition movement.They discussed building a free press and her father’s treatment.

The encounters followed demands from some opposition figures that Mr Cameron cancel the visit, during which he courted investors to fund the so-called Northern Powerhouse infrastructure projects in Britain.

The Prime Minister said: “It is right to go ahead with the visit, but nothing should be off the table. We should talk about these issues including the specific ones now,” he said.

“We always have discussions with civil society figures, anti-corruption campaigners, opposition leaders and all the rest and that will happen on this visit too.

“I don’t think it helps not traveling to a country and turning away. It is better to go and talk about these things.”

UK officials stressed the visit was to build relationships between “peoples”, not leaders.

After the one-to-one meeting, Mr Cameron is understood to have repeated the message to a wider gathering of Malaysian government figures in front of Mr Najib.

In an address in Singapore on Tuesday, Mr Cameron denounced corruption as the “enemy of progress” that held back growth and fuelled al-Qaeda and migration.

“We have a strong relationship and that enables us to talk difficult issues. I want to raise some of the issues I raised in my speech earlier in the week, such as ethics in business and fighting corruption,” he is understood to have said.

“We should be working together for an open society and open economy.”

Mr Najib is facing growing calls to resign over the allegations, which he denies. He this week fired attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail, who was investigating the scandal, and Muhyiddin Yassin, who had criticised him over the affair.

Time to welcome Timor Leste into ASEAN


July 31, 2015

Foreign Affairs

Bendera-Timor-Leste-2

COMMENT: Friends of Timor Leste welcome this initiative by the Jokowi administration to push for the country’s admission into ASEAN. There are no grounds to postpone this decision and one hopes that come November 2015 ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur ASEAN leaders will welcome Timor Leste as a full and equal partner.

It is commendable that Indonesia, a former occupier of this little island nation, should take the initiative to raise the matter at the forthcoming August 2015 ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting in Kuala Lumpur. This will be seen as a final reconciliation move and as formal endorsement of Timor Leste as a sovereign and independent nation state by Indonesia.

I remember  being in Dili several years ago when the question of Timor Leste’s admission into the ASEAN community was the sole agenda for the forum organised by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research Institute. At the time, Timor Leste was protected by a UN Peacekeeping Force which included a contingent from our Royal Malaysian Police.

There was consensus among forum delegates that Timor Leste’s membership in ASEAN should be a non-issue. We, however, agreed at the time that their officials should use the interim period to learn more about ASEAN processes and work on a campaign to convince their own citizens that ASEAN would be good for their country. I was impressed with these officials for their commitment to and understanding of ASEAN.

I am now glad that the opportunity has come to admit Timor Leste. I am sure that we can look forward to welcoming the people of this beautiful island nation into our community in Kuala Lumpur at the  November 2015 ASEAN Summit. I thank President Jokowi Widodo, Foreign Minister Retno Lestari Priansari Marsudi and officials of the Indonesian Foreign Ministry for this important initiative. Timor Leste deserves our support and encouragement. –Din Merican

ASEAN: Time Leste as 11th Member –A Welcome and Timely Move

ASEAN Community 2015

The Indonesian delegates would raise the issue of membership of Timor Leste in ASEAN during the 48th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Kuala Lumpur early next month, an Indonesian official said in Jakarta today.

The Indonesian government would persistently attempt to include the new nation into the ASEAN membership, China’s Xinhua news agency reported MI Derry Aman, Director at the Indonesian foreign ministry, as saying.

“Indonesia will raise the issue of Timor Leste membership in ASEAN (at the meeting). It is time for the ASEAN member countries to consider the membership of Timor Leste,” he said at his office.

Indonesia is the first country giving support to the membership as the new nation is located in the Southeast Asia region, according to Aman.

“Indonesia’s commitment is clear that Timor Leste will be an ASEAN member country in the future,” he revealed.

A study on the readiness of Timor Leste on the membership has been carrying out which will determine whether the new nation will be accepted into the Asean membership, according to him.

– Bernama

ASEAN Economic Community?


July 30, 2015

Foreign Affairs:  ASEAN Economic Community? 

By Pattharapong Rattanasevee

http://www.asiasentinel.com/econ-business/is-asean-ready-to-integrate-not-likely/

ASEAN EconC

…without a strong central authority and mandate, ASEAN integration will remain in a mess and the AEC remain an illusion. A single market across ASEAN nations requires a strong central authority that can harmonize and standardize regional regulations, and it must be recognized by all member countries.– Rattanasevee

With just six months left before the end of 2015 and the scheduled implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community, it is clear that the member nations of ASEAN are far behind in planning what is supposed to be the integration of the region into a close-knit community featuring free movement of goods, services, skilled labor and freer flow of capital.

It is a significant step forward and could be a crucial turning point for ASEAN. But without a strong central authority and mandate, ASEAN integration will remain in a mess and the AEC remain an illusion. A single market across ASEAN nations requires a strong central authority that can harmonize and standardize regional regulations, and it must be recognized by all member countries.

ASEAN will need a guardian of competition. It will need to significantly improve the current trade competition policy and arbitration. The scheme itself requires a consensual agreement among members that should be implemented as a bundle. That is, governments should not be allowed to pick and choose among components or sectors.

ASEAN is dealing with a colossal and ambitious task but with limited resources and capacity.But how limited are these resources? ASEAN has no intention to become a supranational organization like the European Union, where members coordinate within the context of inter-governmentalism. The internal dynamics of ASEAN institutions have been designed to uphold the roles of national governments and the norms of the association — known as the ASEAN Way.

The ASEAN Secretariat — the current central authority and only real institutional organ — remains at the margins of ASEAN policy making. It does not possess the mandate or power to command individual member states, or the power to devise common policies on its own. It is a glorified secretary, responsible for only administrative support, sorting out the daily paper work and arranging meetings for the organization.

There is no guarantee that the central authority will implement policy effectively and ASEAN will be unlikely to enforce compliance from obstinate members. Interestingly, Barry Desker pointed out that during the preceding 40 years of ASEAN, only 30 percent of agreements were actually implemented.

ASEAN will need to increase funding if it is to strengthen the Secretariat. The current operational budget relies on equal contributions by the member states, reflecting the norms of equality and stemming from the belief that different contributions might lead to a hierarchy of powers. The payment has never been increased substantially and has been kept low enough to ensure the poorest members can pay. ASEAN also receives substantial funding from dialogue partners and external donors — mostly through specific projects or operations — but this is not sustainable in the long run if ASEAN wishes to present itself to the world as a non-aligned power.

The Secretariat lacks professional staff, making it difficult for it to become a powerful central administration and the backbone of the association. It employs roughly 300 staff: 65 managers and experts, 180 local staff and 55 people from donor organizations. These figures are miniscule compared to other organizations with similar size and missions. They do not fairly represent a community of 625 million people and a nominal GDP over US$2.5 trillion.

The secretariat has also been facing difficulties attracting talented and capable people. Working for ASEAN is not seen as prestigious or well-paid, unlike other regional organisations that could offer up to US$74,000 for bright talent.

These problems raise the question about how prepared ASEAN is to implement the single market scheme, and how feasible that scheme will be. The region contains countries that are prone to financial shortfalls, domestic weakness, poor governance, corruption and coordination problems.

he member states lack an ‘ASEAN mindset’ to facilitate cross-national and cross-sectoral interactions. The AEC will not thrive unless there is a significant improvement to how ASEAN policy is implemented. ASEAN does not need to — and will not — depart from the ASEAN way to become a supranational or fully-consultative organization like the EU.

But its central administration is a basis of continuity. It needs to be given mandate and resources in order to acquire the capacity to encourage compliance and support its administrative functions. This could narrow the gap between ASEAN’s rhetoric of cooperation and its actual commitments. It could improve the poor implementation record.

Additionally, the contribution system should be substantially revised. It is not realistic nor applicable to the growing activities of the association and the excessive tasks of the ASEAN Secretariat. It should consider a GDP-based contribution system or seek other sources of revenue such as a share of taxes, import duties and licensing.

Finally, ASEAN awareness must be promoted among private sectors and ordinary citizens. The AEC could bring tremendous benefits to their daily lives. Improved ASEAN awareness would encourage public scrutiny and would put massive pressure on governments to focus on accomplishing the AEC in time.

ASEAN is not quite ready for the AEC. But with some significant improvements to how the ASEAN Secretariat is run, it may just be possible.

Dr Pattharapong Rattanasevee is a lecturer at Burapha University, Chonburi, Thailand. This was adopted from an article that appeared on the website of the East Asia Forum, This was written for the East Asia Forum, a platform for analysis and research on politics, economics, business, law, security, international relations and society centered on the Asia-Pacific region. It is based out of the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University 

Open Letter to Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK


July 30, 2015

READ THIS:

This is a government whose officials have frequently publically sneered at the concept and at the need to uphold human rights (despite being a former member of the United Nations Human Rights, a sitting non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and having a National Human Rights Commission).

In the first half of 2015, the Malaysian government has liberally utilised the Sedition Act of 1948 to detain and charge critics, journalists, academics, activists, and opposition politicians who fell afoul of what the authorities vaguely consider as “seditious.” Whatever that means.

This is the same government that has time and again relented and failed to address rising conservatism and intolerant religious dogma within the country and prefers to maintain an “elegant silence” whenever controversies or debates are related to religion.

It brags setting up and showcasing platforms promoting the concept of “moderation” and tolerance at the international and global levels, yet barely practises them with its own citizens instead preferring to allow racism, religious intolerance and discrimination to begin to mushroom and solidify institutionally to gain communal populist support. This has also led to the radicalisation of individuals and allegedly added on recruits for ISIL as well as other militant groups in the region.

This is a government that has also violated its own promises and charter to “ensure no Internet censorship” (refer to 1996 Multimedia Super Corridor Malaysia 10 Point Bill of Guarantees) and has curtailed freedom of the press numerous times.

The recent suspension of The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily and the blocking of access to the Sarawak Report website in relation to the 1MDB scandal, are themselves in contradiction with the words of the Malaysian prime minister who back in 2009 promised a new way forward in policy and politics with a “vibrant, free and informed media” which “allows people to hold public officials accountable” and that it would not be fearful of doing so. So much for that.

Those promising sunny Canaan days are now gone. Through its actions inflicted upon the media over recent years and especially within the context of the 1MDB affair, this government appears intent on continuing in not honouring those promises. It also appears that it wants to ensure its survival to remain in power at all costs. Especially now.

It is especially telling that despite the perceived loss of billions of taxpayers’ money, nobody of responsibility and consequence has resigned.

The Malaysian people are increasingly disillusioned, frustrated and angry with this administration, especially when the media are being threatened and suppressed in a perceived effort to control access to information regarding this scandal.– Azrul Mohd Khalib

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/azrul-mohd-khalib/article/why-pm-cameron-may-want-to-reconsider-his-visit-to-malaysia#sthash.knStpVEv.dpuf

Malaysia: Open Letter to Prime Minister David Cameron

From MP Tony Pua

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

David CameronWelcome to Malaysia

Welcome back to Malaysia. It is an honour that you have decided to return to my country so soon after your last trip in April 2012.

Let me first take this opportunity to congratulate you on the recent successful re-election of your government.

For all its oft-cited shortcomings, the British democratic system remains among the most free and fair in the world, with the Westminster an institution most countries like ours look up to.

I am also extremely encouraged by the increasing assertiveness of UK’s foreign policy which seeks not only to serve the British national interest but equally to establish a minimum moral and ethical standards in a world increasingly dominated by greed and self-interest.

At a forum entitled “Building the world we want by 2030 through transparency and accountability” during the 69th UN General Assembly on September 24th 2014, you highlighted the fact that “the more corruption in your society, the poorer your people are.”

You admonished those who refused to deal with corruption. “Some people don’t want to include these issues in the goals. I say: don’t let them get away with it,” you said.

​Just last month, you wrote in the Huffington Post to implore the G7 to place priority on fighting corruption, using the FIFA scandal to provide the impetus. You argued eloquently that:

…at the heart of FIFA is a lesson about tackling corruption that goes far deeper. Corruption at FIFA was not a surprise. For years it lined the pockets of those on the inside and was met with little more than a reluctant sigh.

The same is true of corruption the world over. Just as with FIFA, we know the problem is there, but there is something of an international taboo over pointing the finger and stirring up concerns… But we just don’t talk enough about corruption. This has got to change.

You have since 2013 led a mission to ensure Britain’s network of overseas territories and Crown dependencies, like Cayman and British Virgin Islands, signed up to a new clampdown on tax evasion, aimed at promoting transparency and exchange of information between tax jurisdictions.

As you said, “we need to know more about who owns which company – beneficial ownership – because that is how a lot of people and a lot of companies avoid tax, using secretive companies in secretive locations.”

Yesterday, your speech in Singapore was pointed and direct. You told the listening Singapore students that “London is not a place to stash your dodgy cash”.

“I want Britain to be the most open country in the world for investment. But I want to ensure that all this money is clean money. There is no place for dirty money in Britain. Indeed, there should be no place for dirty money anywhere.”

You rightly pointed out that “by lifting the shroud of secrecy”, we can “stop corrupt officials or organised criminals using anonymous shell companies to invest their ill-gotten gains in London property, without being tracked down.”

We, Malaysians need you to make the very same points in our country. Making the above points in Singapore is good, but it is like preaching to the converted as our neighbour is ranked 7th in the 2014 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.

The leaders of the Malaysian government on the other hand, are embroiled in a financial scandal of epic proportions.In particular, our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, whom you are to meet has been recently accused by The Wall Street Journal that he has received in his personal account cash deposits amounting to nearly US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) in 2013.

It was a damning but substantiated allegation which he has steadfastly refused to deny.

Some, if not all of the money could be linked to state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) which is crippled by US$11 billion of debt, requiring billions of ringgit of emergency bailout funds by the Malaysian tax-payers.

I am certain that you have been briefed on leaked documents clearly points to an incriminating trail of plunder and international money-laundering across Singapore, the Middle East, the United States, Switzerland and yes, the United Kingdom.

The New York Times and other media outfits have also raised questions about how his family owns properties, in New York, Beverly Hills and London worth tens of millions of dollars.

These properties were purchased with the same opaque “shell companies” which you have rightly censured.

The sheer scale of the sums involved makes the FIFA bribery scandal look like child’s play. This is the very reason for the drastic iron-fisted actions Najib has taken over the past two weeks.

As you would have found out by now, he has sacked the Attorney-General who was leading the investigating task force on the above scandals.

He has also sacked the Deputy Prime minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for questioning the 1MDB shenanigans in a Cabinet reshuffle designed to stifle inquiries into the subject matter.

The newly promoted Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who is also the Home Minister, acted to suspend the country’s leading business papers, The Edge Weekly and The Financial Daily last week because they played a leading role in uncovering the multi-billion dollar scam to defraud Malaysians.

Can you ever imagine the UK Financial Times being suspended? I have on the other hand, been in a relentless pursuit to uncover the conspiracy to defraud the country at the very highest levels since 2010. Earlier in March this year, I became the first Member of Parliament to be sued for defamation by a prime minister in the country in a blatant attempt to muzzle my strident criticisms.

When that failed, I have found out last week that I’ve also become the first MP ever to be barred from travelling overseas, without any reasons, valid or otherwise, being provided.

The only plausible reason for such a drastic action against my right to travel is that I will soon be arrested for my troubles to expose the truth and highlight the staggering size of embezzlement, misappropriation and criminal breach of trust.

If the local media’s Police sources were to be believed, I am most ironically being investigated under the recently amended Criminal Penal Code for “activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy”. It is a ‘heinous’ crime which carries up to a 20-year jail sentence.

Mr Prime Minister,

You have written that you “need to find ways of giving more support and encouragement to those in business, civil society and the media who are working to fight corruption”.

Malaysians need your “support and encouragement” today. While we do not need your interference over our sovereign affairs, we also do not need any pretentious praise embedded into polite diplomatic speak which will lend any legitimacy desperately sought by Najib’s administration.

We also hope that the worthy mission to increase trade relations between our two countries with great historical links will not relegate your goals to “make the global business environment more hostile to corruption and to support the investigators and prosecutors who can help bring the perpetrators to justice.”

We pray for your wisdom to speak resolutely on Britain’s zero tolerance against corruption and money laundering. For Malaysia, the façade of a moderate Westminster-like democracy masks many ugly truths of social injustice, political oppression and extensive corruption.

Like you, I’ve had the immeasurable privilege of completing my degree in the best university in the UK, which ranks among the best in the world (if not the best). We completed the same course in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) but I was 6 years your junior.

While you received a first class honours and I missed the cut, I hope that our alma mater has embedded in us the moral fortitude to play our little roles in building a better world.

I will end my letter with a quote from our fellow alumnus and PPEtony-pua2 graduate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who most pertinently said, “sometimes I think that a parody of democracy could be more dangerous than a blatant dictatorship, because that gives people an opportunity to avoid doing anything about it”.

Thank you for listening, Mr Prime Minister. – July 29, 2015.

* Tony Pua is DAP Selangor Chairman and Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara

–www.themalaysianinsider.com

Note: I congratulate my MP Tony Pua for penning this Open Letter to you, Mr.  Cameron. Your visit is poorly timed. One would have thought you would have postponed it to a much better time, not now because Malaysia is in a political crisis. The desperate Malaysian Prime Minister will use your visit to boost his image. However, now that you have come to our country those of us who were  educated in Malaysia in 1950s  and abroad have enough “British” manners to receive you and your delegation with respect. We warmly congratulate you on your recent electoral success. 

During your brief stay in Kuala Lumpur, we hope you will convey a message to your idiotic and insecure Malaysian counterpart that he must listen to the voices of the Malaysian people and serve them well.  Right now he cannot be trusted to do the right thing. When no one is watching, he puts his hand in the till to the tune of USD 700 million and maybe more. When he is caught, he fails to respond  with dignity.  He is not attempting to solve our country’s political, economic and social problems. In stead, your Malaysian counterpart is compounding them with his divisive politics.

Mr. Najib should be reminded that we put him there because we voted for his coalition in 2013, although his coalition lost the popular vote,  and we intend to throw his coalition out should he decide to hold our next general elections, barring massive rigging and cheating at the polls. In a democracy, power belongs to the people, that is Democracy 101. –Din Merican

Malaysia: The Mess Mahathir created


July 29, 2015

Malaysia: The Mess Mahathir Made

by  Dan Slater, University of Chicago
http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2015/07/29/malaysias-mess-is-mahathir-made/
Mahathir Lawan Najib

At least embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is right about one thing. The current mess in Malaysian politics is the making of his greatest nemesis, Mahathir Mohamad, who led the Southeast Asian nation with an iron fist from 1981–2003. What Najib fails to fathom is that Mahathir has not produced this mess by criticising his leadership, but by paving Najib’s path to power in the fashion he did during his decades in office. Mahathir may believe that he can end the crisis by bringing Najib down. But history should judge Mahathir himself as the author of a long national decline that has culminated in this latest crisis.

To be sure, Najib’s fingerprints are all over the current mess. The proximate source of the crisis has been the collapse of Najib’s pet sovereign-investment company, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). This has caused Malaysia’s stock market and currency, the ringgit, to plummet in turn. All this has transpired amid credible allegations that the prime minister siphoned an eye-popping US$700 million into his personal bank account.

But this road toward ruin commenced with Mahathir, not Najib. It is vital to realise that Mahathir rose to power in blessed circumstances. Malaysia’s economy had been growing healthily for decades, thanks to the prudent economic management of a highly capable bureaucracy. Governance and tax collection were effective, and debts were few. Natural resource wealth, including oil, was professionally stewarded. A decade of muscular redistribution to the country’s ethnic Malay majority had restored social stability after the race riots of 1969. Incoming foreign investment was copious and about to mushroom even further. Mahathir commanded one of the most cohesive ruling parties (the United Malays National Organization, or UMNO) and coalitions (the Barisan Nasional, or BN) in the world. The regime was authoritarian, but not intensely repressive or disliked in comparative terms. In short, Mahathir was holding a winning hand when he became Prime Minister in 1981.

Then came the debt. Obsessed with following in the footsteps of Asia’s technological leaders, Mahathir began borrowing heavily to fund his ‘Look East’, state-led heavy-industrialisation program. Privatisation was part of his growth package, but the beneficiaries were businessmen of loyalty more than talent. When the global economy went into recession in the mid-1980s, patronage started drying up. UMNO split, largely in reaction to Mahathir’s strong-armed style of rule. Mahathir’s two most talented rivals, Tengku Razaleigh and Musa Hitam, bolted from UMNO despite their deep personal ties to the party, mostly to get away from Mahathir himself. Mahathir responded by launching a police operation under the pretext of racial tensions, imprisoning and intimidating political rivals, and cementing his autocratic control.

Hence by the late 1980s, all of the defining features of Malaysia’s current crisis under Najib’s leadership were already evident under Mahathir. The regime was increasingly repressive. The office of prime minister was becoming a haven of autocracy. Ethnic tensions had been reopened to political manipulation. The economy was worrisomely indebted. UMNO was shedding some of its most capable leaders. This was the beginning of Malaysia’s sad national decline, under Mahathir’s watch and at his own hand.

Fast-forward a decade and all of these syndromes would recur in even nastier forms. The Asian Financial Crisis of 1997–98 punished Malaysia for the unsustainable dollar-denominated debts it had accumulated under Mahathir’s single-minded push for breakneck growth. Mahathir blamed everybody but himself for the crash. He sacked and imprisoned his popular and gifted deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, largely for his temerity in suggesting that Malaysia needed deeper reforms to regain economic health.

najib-low-yat2

Mahathir didn’t pull Malaysia out of its crisis with economic reform or adjustment, but with more and more borrowing and spending. This was possible because Malaysia was still sitting on the fiscal reserves it had been amassing for half a century, since the British colonial period. Mahathir grandiosely claimed that his imposition of capital controls had saved the economy. But capital flight had basically run its course by the time controls were implemented. Mahathir imposed them to facilitate political repression as much as economic recovery. The spectre of anti-Chinese riots in neighbouring Indonesia was then callously manipulated to keep ethnic Chinese voters in the BN fold in the 1999 elections.

Hence even before the turn of the millennium, Malaysia was hurtling down the very trajectory of decline we are witnessing in the current crisis. Like Mahathir, Najib assumed autocratic control over the economy and embarked on reckless borrowing and investment schemes, especially 1MDB. Like Mahathir, Najib unleashed a torrent of repression under antiquated security laws to protect his own position amid rising criticism from civil society and from within UMNO. Like Mahathir, Najib has recklessly played the ethnic and religious card as his position has weakened. And in consummate Mahathir style, Najib has now even sacked his deputy, Muyhiddin Yassin, for questioning Najib’s repression of the media in response to the 1MDB scandal. In sum, Mahathir has nobody to blame more than himself as he watches Najib drive Malaysia even further into the ground.

The 2015 Najib Cabinet

Neither Najib nor any of his current plausible replacements appear capable of reversing Malaysia’s decades-long decline. Herein lies perhaps Mahathir’s worst legacy of all. By forcing the three most capable politicians beside himself out of UMNO during their prime, Mahathir ensured that only relative lightweights would command leading positions in Malaysia’s most powerful political institution. If Malaysia is to exit this crisis on a path to restored health rather than steeper decline, the political and economic reforms first demanded in the reformasi movement of the late 1990s will finally need to put in place: either by a new generation of leadership within UMNO, or by Malaysia’s repressed but resilient political opposition.

Dan Slater is associate professor in political science at the University of Chicago.

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,177 other followers