Malaysia : Investigate Corrupt Prime Minister, not punish the Fourth Estate


July 24, 2015

READ THIS: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/the-edge-weekly-daily-suspended-for-3-months-from-july-27

Malaysia : Investigate Corrupt Prime Minister, not punish the Fourth Estate

by Malaysiakini

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Gan and ChandranSteven Gan and Premesh Chandran–The Malaysiakini Dynamic Duo

The media as the Fourth Estate serves as an indispensable pillar in a democratic nation. It has the sacrosanct task of monitoring those in the seat of power to ensure that the people and their rights are safeguarded. To use a draconian legislation to silence or punish the media is an act that is detrimental to parliamentary democracy and press freedom.

October 1987

That was the last time a major mainstream newspaper was shut down for publishing dissenting views. The Star – labelled as ‘Suara Tunku Abdul Rahman’ by certain pro-government forces – was among the dailies suspended as part of Operation Lallang in a bid to silence detractors of then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Over 100 activists, politicians and intellectuals were incarcerated without trial.

Now, twenty-eight years later, The Edge Weekly and The Financial Daily – both part of The Edge Media Group – have been suspended for three months. This comes hot on the heels of the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission blocking access to whistleblower website Sarawak Report.

Mahathir is now raising the alarm on the alleged wrongdoings of the country’s top man. But Najib Abdul Razak would probably laugh it off while inviting the former Premier to take a good look at himself in the mirror.

Ironically, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who is now Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications Director, had criticised DAP statesman Lim Kit Siang for “shooting the messenger”. Perhaps Abdul Rahman should also school Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on this. Alas, we have to live with such ironies under the 1Malaysian sky.

The suspension today of The Edge Weekly and The Financial Daily by the Home Ministry is an outrage, unwarranted and unjustifiable. It is a case of punishing the messengers rather than the criminals.

new-najib
At the heart of the attack against The Edge and Sarawak Report is the matter of whether their reporting on the 1MDB scandal is true or false. If based on the evidence they have, public funds have indeed been siphoned away to serve private and political interests.

If indeed these media companies had fabricated evidence in a bid to topple an elected government, they can be charged with publishing false news. The matter would then go to court, where surely 1MDB, banks and the parties involved can produce conclusive evidence of fabrication.

The Edge has handed over all the documents it obtained from former PetroSaudi International executive Xavier Andre Justo to the authorities.  Till today, neither 1MDB nor the government is able to back up their claims of tampering, nor have the authorities charged The Edge with any other offence.

Rosmah Exposed by Sarawak Report
For a leadership that has nothing to hide, silencing the media does nothing for its credibility. Instead, this suspension sends an indelible message to Malaysians that the government has indeed something big to hide.

Malaysiakini calls on the government to immediately lift the suspension of The Edge and the blocking of Sarawak Report. It must allow the media to do its job to hold power to account.

Watch out: Malaysian Big Brother is snooping on Us


July 13, 2015

Watch out: Malaysian Big Brother is snooping on Us

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

http://www.asiasentinel.com/society/asia-governments-spy-citizens/

john-berthelsenIf you live in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam and you are an activist, the government probably knows a lot more about the inside of your computer than you think, and more than you want it to.

On July 5, unknown hackers broke into the computers a shadowy company based in Italy that has become notorious across the world. With offices in Milan, Washington, DC and Singapore, its name is The Hacking Team, and it is one of a half-dozen such firms identified as “digital era mercenaries” because they sell products to governments to spy surreptitiously on their own citizens.

Najib in anxietyHe can go to sleep because he is using technology to snoop  and spinners to dupe Us

Top Asian clients among the countries using The Hacking Team’s services are Malaysia, the seventh-biggest spender, paying The Hacking Team US$1,861,131 for its assistance in spying on its citizens. Singapore is 10th, just behind the US, which is 9th. Singapore paid The Hacking Team US$1,209,963. Vietnam is 21st, at US$560,735, followed by Thailand at US$466,482.

According to the Massachusetts-based CSO cyber-security firm, the US Department of Defense apparently had a contract with The Hacking Team but no longer does. The FBI had an active maintenance contract until June 30 and the Drug Enforcement Agency has a renewal in progress.

The hackers, whoever they were, downloaded 400 gigabytes of internal documents, source codes and email communications with governments and dumped the haul onto the Internet. The documents tell a chilling story of helping some of the world’s most repressive countries including Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Azerbijan and Kazakhstan. In all, 38 countries are on the list of clients. According to other sources,  The Hacking Team also expressed the intention to go after Human Rights Watch and other such activist organizations. 

berthelsen-hackers

And what do they get for their money? Here is a presentation on the company’s website to entice governments to spy. It is well worth listening to:

“You have new challenges today. Sensitive data is transmitted over encrypted channels. Often the info you want is not transmitted at all. Your target may be outside your monitoring domain. Is passive monitoring enough?  You want more. You want to look through your target’s eyes. You have to hack your target.  You have to hit many different platforms. You have to overcome encryption and capture relevant data. Being stealthy and untraceable. Deployed all over your country. That is exactly what we do. Remote Control System Galileo. The hacking suite for governmental interception. Rely on us.”

Big Bro1

“Without advanced technology, authoritarian regimes would not be able to spy on their citizens,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They sell products that are used by authoritarian governments to commit violations of human rights and freedom of information. They are Gamma, Trovicor, Hacking Team, Amesys and Blue Coat.”

Bahrain’s royal family has used Trovicor’s surveillance and interception products to spy on news providers and arrest them, according to Reporters Without Borders. Blue Coat’s deep packet inspection products have made it possible for Syria to spy on dissidents and netizens throughout the country, and to arrest and torture them. Amesys provided products to the Libyan secret police during the late Muammar Gaddafi’s reign. The Hacking Team and Gamma have provided malware to capture the passwords of journalists and bloggers.

“Online surveillance is a growing danger for journalists, citizen-journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Regimes seeking to control news and information increasingly prefer to act discreetly. Rather than resort to content blocking that generates bad publicity and is early circumvented, they prefer subtle forms of censorship and surveillance that their targets are often unaware of.”

The contract with the Malaysian government apparently was routed through the Prime Minister’s Office, “Malaysian Intelligence,” both listed as “active,” and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, now listed as “expired” according to documents made public by CSO.  Thailand’s contract, with the country’s department of corrections, was listed as expired. A full list of curated documents made available by CSO can be found here.

The Singapore government’s Infocom Development Agency is the unit that apparently purchased the Galileo software. That agency, according to its website, “formulates and develops short- and medium-term infocomm-related policies, as well as standards, codes of practices and advisory guidelines – all of which are enforceable by IDA – pertaining to issues such as licensing, interconnection, resource and competition management, to name a few. IDA also monitors local and global infocomm market trends, developments and regulatory measures, while remaining technology-neutral, to ensure that the current infocomm policies and regulatory frameworks are effective and relevant.”

According to The Hacking Company’s website, “In today’s connected world, data is moving from private devices to the social cloud. Encryption is everywhere to protect the users’ privacy from prying eyes. In the same way, encryption is hiding criminal intents from you. Don’t you feel you are going blind? Sometimes relevant data are bound inside the device, never transmitted and kept well protected … unless you are right on that device.”

The government’s target, according to the website, “can be anywhere today, while your hands are tied as soon as he moves outside the country. You cannot stop your targets from moving. How can you keep chasing them? What you need is a way to bypass encryption, collect relevant data out of any device, and keep monitoring your targets wherever they are, even outside your monitoring domain. Remote Control System does exactly that.”

The system allows governments to take control of target computers and monitor them regardless of encryption and mobility. “It doesn’t matter if you are after an Android phone or a Windows computer: you can monitor all the devices. Remote Control System is invisible to the user, evades antivirus and firewalls, and doesn’t affect the devices’ performance or battery life. Hack into your targets with the most advanced infection vectors available. Enter his wireless network and tackle tactical operations with ad-hoc equipment designed to operate while on the move.

“Keep an eye on all your targets and manage them remotely, all from a single screen. Be alerted on incoming relevant data and have meaningful events automatically highlighted. Remote Control System: the hacking suite for governmental interception. Right at your fingertips.”

Malaysians feeling down with negativity in Local News and Politics


July 12, 2015

Malaysians feeling down with negativity in Local News and Politics

by Dina Zaman@www.themalaysianinsider.com

If Malaysians are feeling depressed with all the negativity in local news and politics, it could partly be their own doing as they are both consumers and producers of news, say media observers and academics.

For nine years, just before the watershed 2008 general election when the ruling Barisan Nasional lost its hold on two-thirds of seats in Parliament, Malaysians have been bombarded with almost daily headlines of negativity and divisive politics through numerous platforms.

Social media and instant messaging applications now take the Internet further and expand its reach faster as people make use of these tools to spread and share news and information, verified or not, about the country’s political and corporate players as well as the latest and on-going scandals.

Hooked

But long-term and high-tension exposure to online news and information can be negative. “Naturally that there would be a sense of tension in the air,” Lina Esa Osberg, a life coach said.While the media has a role in bringing information to the public, Osberg said, other realities also impacted people’s reactions to the news.

“Malaysia is no longer a prosperous country economically. This is not the fault of Malaysia alone. The world is going through an economic crisis. And Malaysia is a part of it. The middle class is diminishing. The working class is not getting enough to fulfill their daily needs.

“But at the same time, the rich seemed to be more extravagant in their ways of living, and have no qualms about flaunting it. Malaysians see more and more scandals about those in power, and those who were entrusted with public monies squandered the same monies without guilt, remorse, or adverse consequences,” Osberg said.

Throw Malaysian news and politics into the mix and people’s reactions can get more complex.But why is it so hard to disengage? Dr Tessa Houghton, Director at the Centre for the Study of Communications and Culture at University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, said Malaysians themselves were contributing to the 24 hour news cycle which has become “infinite”.

There is constant “supply and demand” of news and information, she said, as people respond to output by news organisations, which in turn respond to their readers.

“Digital media now mean that we have the means to effect a 24 hours news cycle – the news hole has become infinite. Most news organisations try to keep pushing out as much content as possible, as quickly as possible.Because this is what people respond to, they’re basing their decisions on web analytics of what their readers respond to. And social media is the same, the more you up date, the more attention you’re likely to get.Both the producers and consumers of information get easily sucked in to this endless stream of information,” she added.

It becomes addictive to receive and aggregate news – at the expense of the need to analyse, reflect and act on the information – and this can lead to a sense of feeling overwhelmed. Yet, it is not easy to disengage for some people who fear missing out.

Malaysians, however, are as capable of critical thinking as anyone else, Houghton said, but these are skills that have to be learned and practiced constantly. The barrage of news and politics daily may not help create room for such reflection.

A bigger problem, said another academic, is the weakness in national leadership and lack of information transparency.Zaharom Nain, Professor of Media and Communication Studies and Houghton’s colleague at the Nottingham campus, said the daily onslaught of information was due to little clarification by the powers that be that could potentially resolve many current issues.

Bad news is a constant, and the perpetrators are not punished.“Where justice is not done, where injustice is so evident and blatant, many Malaysians now despair and give up hope.  There is lack of leadership, there is (increasingly) less credibility,” he said.

Zaharom does not believe that the Internet played a huge role in disseminating information.“The Internet only conveys the bad news generated by Malaysians themselves… that has impacted the nation. It’s the lack, indeed failure, of leadership,” he said.

Amid the constant flow of negativity, Tariq Ismail, the grandson of Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s second Deputy Prime Minister, is worried that Malaysians have “lost the ability to read and the ability to understand one another”.

Tariq is active on social media with his views on politics. He founded Aura Merdeka Ikatan Sejagat (AMIS), a lively Facebook group that discusses everything and anything under the sun. But he feels that social media and the Internet cannot be wholly blamed for the hostility.  Instead, the root causes are the content creators themselves: the politicians and the elected representatives who have forgotten that they are representatives of the people.

“When idiotic statements are made and singling out a single community it will create distrust, and the lack of accountability regarding these statements has made the citizens of this land angry. This is not healthy,” Tariq said.

“A nation is not built in a day. It is a continuous process which requires dialogue and compromise. Fortunately, our basic foundation is still intact. We still have the federal constitution and various bodies that hold this nation together. We have a collective responsibility to not only to ourselves but to all the communities that make Malaysia.”

Malaysia’s Ms. Reformasi speaks her mind in OSLO


May 26, 2015

Phnom Penh

Malaysia’s Ms. Reformasi speaks her mind in OSLO

OSLO, May 26 — Five years ago my father, Anwar Ibrahim, delivered a speech right here on Nurul-Izzah-Anwarthis very stage entitled ‘Half A Century of One Party Rule’. He was talking about my country, Malaysia, which has been dominated by the same party for more than 50 years.

That same year here at the Oslo Freedom Forum my father spoke on the same stage as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who declared that: “When you meet Anwar, be careful.” During his visit to Malaysia, Julian was detained by secret police just hours after speaking to my father.

My father – a popular and unifying figure in my country’s history – is seen as a very dangerous man by the UMNO party regime. When he served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in the 1990s, he amended the corruption act to further strengthen it – which displeased the political elites – and by September 1998 his anti-corruption campaign led to his sacking from government, arrest, his beating under custody whilst blindfolded and handcuffed, and his eventual sentence and imprisonment in trials that were condemned by rights organisations and governments worldwide.

Initially, it was announced that at least 20 charges would be brought against my father; including treachery, being an American and Israeli agent, corruption and sodomy. They did forget to throw in the kitchen sink. They jailed him for six years, much of which he spent in solitary confinement.

Anwar’s trials earned Malaysia our own International Commission of Jurists report– the very same body that observed Nelson Mandela’s flawed trial. It was entitled: Justice in Jeopardy, Malaysia 2000.

As I speak to you today, Anwar, my father, and the former Opposition Leader of Malaysia, is behind bars again on his second trumped-up charges of sodomy.

I have been told that of the nearly 200 speakers in this conference’s history, only four are in jail right now: my father, Nayeel Rajab from Bahrain, Thulani Maseko from Swaziland, Leopoldo Lopez from Venezuela. The Malaysian regime keeps some very authoritarian company.

Malaysia without AnwarSpecifically, for my father, this is his third incarceration since 1998. He is now in urgent need of medical attention. My father was also a political prisoner in his youth; when he was about my age. Thankfully, he grew more handsome over the years but no less rebellious.

The year 1998 brought the historic Asian Financial Crisis and my father’s imprisonment to Malaysia. Equally important for me, it marked my own political awakening.

As a child I wanted to be an engineer, and I would have pursued that if it wasn’t for the events of 1998. Well, I owe the Malaysian government many thanks for getting me involved in politics. Really, I do.

If my government didn’t abuse institutions – influencing the Judiciary, rigging votes, controlling the media, if they didn’t use force to shut their opponents up – my father would be free, and I might be working for Shell or any other decent oil and gas company. Or maybe not – not with oil at 60 dollars a barrel.

Well, now it is not just Anwar who is Malaysia’s most wanted. It also includes me and the whole opposition, the movement for free and fair elections (Bersih), and many others demanding for a democratic and just Malaysia.

In our last national elections in 2013, Anwar Ibrahim led the opposition to victory, winning 52 per cent of the popular vote. But he was defeated by extreme gerrymandering, malapportionment and election fraud. The ruling coalition clung to power by holding on to 60 per cent of the seats.

The Electoral Integrity Project, based in Sydney and Harvard University recently rated Malaysia as having the worst electoral-district boundaries in the world and among the worst election rules. This places Malaysia alongside countries like Zimbabwe, Angola and Egypt.

The government’s gerrymandering was compounded by the abuse of postal votes. In fact, out of 222 seats we lost almost 30 to postal votes and early votes alone! And since those flawed elections in 2013; almost 20 Members of Parliament and state legislators have been charged, arrested, and locked up, along with 150 others including lecturers, students, journalists, even cartoonist and ordinary citizens.

So now you might be thinking, “What about you, Izzah?”

Growing up, I was a prefect, and like the rest of you here – never smoked pot in my entire life. I played by the rules. I was a model example of a compliant citizen who wanted to go along and get along.

But, mind you, thanks to the corruption, oppression and sheer injustice of the Malaysian government, this girl scout is now a second term Member of Parliament – defeating two sitting Ministers along the way – thanks to my electorate who voted in favour of reforms.

In March, I was recently arrested and locked up for a speech I made on behalf of my father in Parliament.

Yes, beautiful, sunny, twin towers-clad Malaysia. But Members of Parliament have zero parliamentary immunity and can be arrested for sedition.

The whole experience of being a political prisoner in Malaysia is quite bizarre. We have a draconian 67-year-old prison rules that forbid slippers, for example, as the government claims they could be used for suicide. The colonial British laws the Malaysian government loves to preserve.

So you spend the night sleeping on the floor only to be asked questions such as:“Who is this Devil you referred to in your speech made in parliament?”

You see, I had condemned the Federal Court judges in my father’s case for having sold their souls to the Devil. I said this because Malaysia needed judicial reform. Along with electoral reform and fighting for a multiracial Malaysia – where diversity is seen as a strength, not something that divides us.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (L) and his wife Rosmah Mansor (R) arrive at the airport in Tokyo on May 24, 2015. Najib is on a three day visit to Japan.   AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (L) and his wife Rosmah Mansor (R) arrive at the airport in Tokyo on May 24, 2015. Najib is on a three day visit to Japan. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO

Reformists in my country are the most wanted, and the most feared by our government. Why? Because we are the future – with a zeal for reforms.

Malaysia’s most wanted are those who clamour for an end to the unequal distribution of wealth and against corruption and extravagance of the men or women who govern over us.

Malaysia’s most wanted are those who despair that our children receive low international education rankings – at one point we were surpassed by Vietnam!

Malaysia’s most wanted are those, who reject the use of racial and religious extremism to scare indigenous Malays into voting for the status quo.

Malaysia’s most wanted are those, who realise anti-terrorism laws are often just guises to justify the detention of political dissenters in the name of ‘security and stability.’

Malaysia’s most wanted, who are sick to the bone with failed governance and mammoth financial scandals. Most recently is the controversial government investment fund, 1MDB has burdened Malaysia with a RM42 billion debt.

The Prime Minister also the Finance Minister is the chairman of 1MDB’s board of advisors. Dubious financial dealings now go hand in hand with the Malaysian government.

Shout out to Mr Tom Burgis – meet our very own Sam Pa.Malaysia’s most wanted are the young generation of Malaysia, who up to 88 per cent voted for my party in the recently concluded Permatang Pauh by-elections.

My father’s seat – which he lost upon his conviction – has been retained by our party, despite the enormous political and financial obstacles put in our way by the regime. Malaysia’s most wanted will not give up. Just last week, the Opposition Coalition chose my mother as Malaysia’s Opposition Leader. They can’t lock all of us up. The reformist might be behind bars but the reform agenda stays true.

We know that more of the world will see beyond the Petronas Twin Towers and give more attention to us, Malaysia’s most wanted, the rising dissidents and democrats who refuse to accept the current government.

So what of the future you ask? I’ll tell you. The future belongs and will be determined by Malaysia’s most wanted.

Long live reforms. Long live reformasi!And thank you Thor and the selfless team at Oslo Freedom Forum for allowing Malaysians to live in truth.

God bless you.

* The above is the text of the speech delivered by Nurul Izzah as the first speaker at the Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway.

– See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/malaysias-most-wanted-nurul-izzah#sthash.1LHXfjov.dpuf

Advice for Malaysian Politicians–Think Before You Speak


April 13, 2015

Advice for Malaysian Politicians–Think Before You Speak

by Scott Ng @www,freemalaysiatoday.com

Ahmad-Maslan-GST

There have lately been ministers who were “misquoted”, especially when their statements caused an uproar for – well, let’s face it – the sheer utter inanity of their own words. It’s become quite par for the course for a BN minister to make a statement and then realise that he has put his foot in his mouth after social media and civil society inevitably erupt with criticism. And then he would say he had been misquoted to make him look bad.

And these eminent people would be right to complain, had they actually not said those things. This makes me wonder about the quality of some of the biggest names in power. All claim to be highly educated or qualified in certain fields, and yet cannot seem to string together sentences in an inoffensive manner.

Perhaps this comes from not doing research on the matter at hand or not thinking long and hard before speaking. Nonetheless, you’d expect an elected representative to do better when addressing the public. After all, a politician lives and dies by his words, and mastery of public relations skills is a must for anyone who attempts to address a group of people, much less a nation.

It doesn’t matter that you spoke for X amount of hours on topic Y, because when you say something so undeniably ridiculous the people and the media cannot resist pouncing on such an easy target.

One example is Ahmad Maslan’s suggestion to university students to cook their own meals. Now, this would be a perfectly sensible suggestion, if one did not consider the extenuating circumstances around campus life. For one, you can cook only if one is in a kitchen, and rented house or not, universities tend to be some distance from a house, and classes are sometimes at odd hours. We also have to remember that whatever spare time a student has is usually put into studying.

Of course, there’s also the teensy, tiny little fact that you can’t cook on campus or in campus housing, where the other half of the student population stays.

Now, the brickbats hurled at such an ill-considered suggestion have led to Maslan complaining on television that we’re being unfair to him. To a certain extent, of course, trial by public opinion is often an unfair process. But can you blame people who are struggling to make ends meet for being frustrated with our ministers being so seemingly out of touch with the real world when what we need are men of the people who can give out well-reasoned advice and show sympathy with us in difficult times?

Don’t even get me started on how much ministers will protest about being misquoted when the GST inevitably causes horrible inflation.

It’s almost mind blowing, really, for our ministers to continually use the term “misquoted” in defending themselves. That speaks of a careless, laissez faire attitude that is endemic to being privileged and pampered, and our ministers and politicians ( of both sides of the political divide) really need to get in touch with the people if they want to have any hope of public approval. Until that fateful day, it is going to be a fact of life for our politicians that they will be castigated and reviled for failing to recognise the needs of the people.

Ismail Sabri on Najib

We’ve gone on time and time again on how we need a better class of politicians, and this is proof beyond proof that pampered elites need to get their shoes scuffed and soiled once in a while, or else they will forget how real life plays out for a normal person. One can only hope then that we won’t see the word “misquoted” bandied about by those who fail to properly consider the words coming out of their mouths.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s New Year Message


December 31, 2014

This is what the Prime Minister said in his New Year Message and I quote: “Our economy is on track to grow by 5.7% this year, and 4.7% in 2015. Our deficit is falling, our reserves are strong; we have trusted financial institutions, low unemployment, and record levels of foreign investment. Malaysia’s economy is well placed to weather any storms.” All I can say is that I hope our Prime Minister is right. For my part, I am less optimistic and so I urge Malaysians to be more realistic.  Let us be prepared since 2015 is likely to be a difficult year.  — Din Merican

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s New Year Message

Twelve months ago, in my New Year message, I looked forward to a ‘prosperous and united’ Malaysia. 2014 did bring prosperity for Malaysia – our economy grew strongly. But it was also the year we were united in grief.

In the space of a few months, we lost 93 Malaysians. And we found ourselves at the centre of the world’s attention – not once, but twice.

The disappearance of MH370, and the destruction of MH17, are part of our story now. My heart reaches out to those who lost loved ones; and I share their sorrow. Like so many Malaysians, my family too was touched by tragedy.

This has been the most challenging year of my career – and one of the most difficult years in Malaysia’s history. But I take heart from the way we came together, as one nation, to #prayforMH370 and #prayforMH17.

In mosques, churches and temples, in shopping malls and online, Malaysians responded to these tragedies as one. In the face of two unimaginable disasters, we found unity. I believe we will come out of these twin tragedies stronger and more determined. We have been tested by disaster, but the spirit of the nation remains strong.

I am proud of the way we responded to these crises. We did not get everything right, but when MH370 went missing, we were able to bring together 26 nations – including China and the US – in a search that spanned half the globe. When Malaysia asked, the world answered.

And a few months later, when we found ourselves in the middle of a conflict zone, Malaysia was able to get the breakthrough that no one else could – securing the return of the bodies and black boxes from MH17. Quiet diplomacy helped bring us closer to finding out what happened to MH17, and securing justice for those who died.

Najib and Obama in Hawaii

Najib: “We are used to floods in Malaysia. But I was shocked by how bad the situation became”.Really, Sir!

At the end of the year, we faced new challenges. Northern states suffered terrible flooding, with lives, homes and livelihoods lost to the rising waters.

We are used to floods in Malaysia. But I was shocked by how bad the situation became. The scale of the destruction was profound, with so many people going through intense personal suffering. The Government’s priority is to get help to people who need it now – with the supplies and assistance for those who are stranded or displaced – and financial support, so that people can get their lives back together.

An aerial view of flooded streets of the National Park in Kuala Tahan, Pahang

Next year, our priority is recovery: to rebuild the infrastructure, the businesses and the homes that were damaged or lost. We must ensure that the development we pursue is environmentally friendly, so that we are not making future floods more likely – or more damaging.

As we continue the rescue and rebuilding operations, I pray for those who are still at risk. And our thoughts are with our brothers and sisters in Indonesia, as they continue the recovery of Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501.

Yet amidst the tragedies, there were high points too. 2014 was also the year we celebrated the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations with China. In Beijing, I stood in the hall my father visited back in 1974, and pledged that China and Malaysia would remain ‘partners for prosperity; connected by history, and firm in our commitment to peace’.

We also welcomed a US President for the first time in five decades. Back in 1966, Lyndon B Johnson saw rubber plantations; President Obama met young Malaysian computer programmers and entrepreneurs. It is hard to think of a better example of Malaysia’s remarkable development.

Every year, our country grows in stature. And every year the outside world takes a greater interest in Malaysia – in our people, our history and our future. These trends are set to continue in 2015, as we assume a bigger role in our region, and the world.

Next year we will chair ASEAN, as we prepare to launch the ASEAN Community. This is a momentous time for ASEAN, for its member states, and for the people of South East Asia. In 2015, under Malaysia’s chairmanship, we will lay the foundations for deeper regional integration. For the people of ASEAN, this will mean more opportunities – with more jobs, and easier ways to do business.

In 2015, we will also hold a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Far from just a diplomatic badge of pride, this is a chance for Malaysia to state our support for key objectives – including a dignified and secure future for the Palestinian people – and make a real contribution to global security problems.

Clearly, Malaysia will play a much bigger part in world affairs in the year to come. It is important that we continue to be a positive player, pushing the issues that we care about, and representing our people, our interests and our businesses. That is the only way we can ensure that Malaysian and South East Asian voices are heard.

But despite all the global attention, my focus is on the rakyat. Next year, I hope we can build a safer, more prosperous, and more equal society. The starting point is security. My greatest responsibility as Prime Minister is to ensure the safety and security of the Malaysian people. In recent years we have seen increasing threats from terrorist groups within Malaysia. In addition to our existing programmes to combat terrorism, we have also introduced a new terrorism white paper.

We are also strengthening our co-operation with foreign intelligence agencies, because the threat of violent extremism goes way beyond our borders. The so-called Islamic State continues to try to tempt people to join their war. Although they have had most success recruiting from Western nations, some Malaysians have fallen victim to this propaganda.

Our position is quite clear. As I said at the UN General Assembly this year, ‘the actions of these militants… violate the teachings of Islam, the example set by the Prophet Mohammed, and the principles of Islamic law. We reject this so-called Islamic State. We reject this state defined by extremism. And we condemn the violence being committed in the name of Islam’.

Yet security for Malaysians is not just about protection from violence, but also about social and economic security. So in the year to come, I also want to focus on maintaining our economic record, and strengthening the bonds between our people.

In a globalised economy, risks can spread far and fast. No country is isolated from global events. We have already had a taste of the challenges that will come in 2015, with the falling oil price over the past few weeks affecting everything from the ringgit to rubber.

Cheaper oil is a double-edged sword. It makes some things cheaper for consumers, but it also reduces government revenues – money we spend on development and support for the people.

Other nations are facing the same challenges, and some are already under great stress. Yet Malaysia has been fortunate to escape the worst downsides – because the fundamentals of our economy are still strong.

Our economy is on track to grow by 5.7% this year, and 4.7% in 2015. Our deficit is falling, our reserves are strong; we have trusted financial institutions, low unemployment, and record levels of foreign investment. Malaysia’s economy is well placed to weather any storms.

In last year’s message, I talked about how we were getting our finances under control whilst the global economy was strong.I wrote that ‘by acting responsibly now, we will strengthen Malaysia’s economy in the long-term – and the benefits will be felt much more widely. By taking the steps needed to make Malaysia’s economy stronger, we are not only protecting our nation against financial crises, we are also opening up new jobs – and new opportunities’.

We need to be proactive, to build a resilient economy that is prepared for any eventuality. With global events causing problems for many countries, I am pleased that we have already taken measures to protect our economy. Just last week, the World Bank confirmed that Malaysia remains in a strong position precisely because we acted to rationalise subsidies.

But keeping economy resilient means constantly anticipating risks, and acting to strengthen the economy whenever possible. It is with this in mind that we are introducing the GST next year. The GST will replace, not add to, the existing sales tax – and many goods will be exempt. It will help strengthen the government finances, so that we can continue productive expenditure – on things like roads, schools and hospitals – for the benefit of the people. And alongside the GST, we will continue the reforms to make our economy more competitive, which will bring more opportunities for our businesses, and higher income for the people.

Although we are exposed to global risks, we have strong fundamentals, and clear and consistent government policy. So I am confident that Malaysia’s economy will continue to grow, and bring more jobs and a better standard of living.

Our challenge is to ensure that that applies for all Malaysians, not just a few. In the months and years ahead, I want us to focus not just on GDP growth figures, but on the lives and needs of the rakyat. Although Malaysia’s economic performance has been exceptional, I know that people do not always feel they are getting their piece of our national success.

So alongside our efforts to strengthen our economy – by raising incomes, reducing spending, and boosting productivity – we will also work to reduce inequality by narrowing the gap between the rich and poor.

Last year, I said I looked forward to a more prosperous and united Malaysia. Although this has been a difficult year, we have achieved both. In 2015, as we prepare to play a bigger role on the world stage, I want us to work together to build a safer, more prosperous, and more equal society. I wish you all the best for the year ahead.