Lightning Strike Against Enemies in UMNO and Public Officials may yet save Najib


July 30, 2015

Malaysia: Lightning Strike Against Enemies in UMNO and Public Officials may yet save Najib

by P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

najib-low-yat2

Whichever way one looks at the changing of the Attorney-General, the appointment of a new Special Branch head and the cabinet reshuffle, they have everything to do with that self-styled strategic development company that isn’t – 1MDB. Just what is the Prime Minister trying to achieve with the 1MDB reshuffle?

Yes, it is the Prime Minister’s prerogative to reshuffle the cabinet and perhaps even to change the attorney-general and the Special Branch head. But if he hopes by this to show his strength, then he is mistaken. He exposes his weakness instead.

The cabinet reshuffle yesterday afternoon was preceded by the change of the attorney-general. Effectively Abdul Gani Patail was removed in an announcement by the Chief Secretary to the government, Ali Hamsa – the reason, health. But Abdul Gani himself was in the dark about the announcement and refused any comment to reporters.

So why was Abdul Gani so unceremoniously removed after his many years of service dating back to the time of Dr Mahathir Mohamad when he was Prime Minister? He was lead prosecutor in Anwar Ibrahim’s first sodomy case and became Attorney-General in 2002. He has served under three Prime Ministers.

More recently he became head of the task force investigating 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). As attorney-general, he had the sole authority to decide on prosecution in the country. Others in the task force are Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia, the Inspector-General of Police Abdul Khalid Abu Bakar, and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Chief Commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamad.

Right now the Prime Minister is facing allegations, not properly denied by him or his office, that some RM2.7 billion was deposited into his accounts at AMIslamic Bank. This was reported by The Wall Street Journal which has unambiguously stood by its story. Perhaps the Prime Minister thinks that Abdul Gani is too close to Mahathir, a constant critic of him in recent times and especially over 1MDB, and therefore cannot be trusted.

The new Attorney-General is an UMNO loyalist and a former Federal Court judge. A change at this stage must raise questions as to whether it is being done to ensure that there is no prosecution of the Prime Minister in investigations related to him and 1MDB.

The change in heads at the Special Branch, which does a lot of undercover investigations, acts as the eyes and ears of the government and provides it with intelligence of what is happening on the ground, will raise similar questions especially about why the changes are taking place now.

And then there is the cabinet reshuffle which is related entirely to the 1MDB issue. First out was Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to be replaced by Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. And out was also another Minister, Shafie Apdal. Their only ‘crimes’ were to question the way the Prime Minister was handling the multi-faceted 1MDB problems.

Echoing the feelings of a section of the public

Muhyiddin had at the UMNO Cheras meeting come out strongly against 1MDB. Admitting that he read the suspended The Edge for some of his information on 1MDB, he was merely echoing the feelings of a wide section of the Malaysian public when he reiterated strongly that 1MDB has to be answered, putting the onus squarely on the prime minister. Presumably, as a member of the cabinet, he was not getting enough information on 1MDB.

The Prime Minister’s response was that Muhyiddin and others have to stand behind the concept of collective responsibility of the cabinet and therefore since they could not, they had to go. It was generally expected that this would happen if there was a cabinet reshuffle and it should not have come as a surprise for either Muhyiddin or Shafie and the general public, too.

If Muhyiddin and Shafie expected this, then surely they have some other plans. One could be to force an extraordinary general meeting of UMNO, and the other to move a vote of no-confidence against the Prime Minister in Parliament. Both don’t seem that likely to succeed considering that few have broken ranks and gone against the Prime Minister.

Insiders are reading some things into Muhyiddin’s remarks post the reshuffle. “What you know about 1MDB, I would know a little more than that,” he told a press conference at his residence in Kuala Lumpur this afternoon.

If that implies there will be more information coming out about 1MDB, it is not certain if it will be enough to significantly affect the Prime Minister’s position. But one can expect the playing out of a game plan by those opposed to the Prime Minister although it is not visible yet.

The general expectation was that Ahmad Zahid would replace Muhyiddin and he did, which is not to say that his appointment would be widely welcomed. It helps that he has wide grassroots support in UMNO but not that he is considered a hardliner who as Home Minister  was directly responsible for suspending The Edge.

Much more surprising than Muhyiddin’s ouster was the appointment into the government of four members of the parliamentary public accounts committee (PAC) investigation into 1MDB, including its chairperson Nur Jazlan Mohamed who was appointed deputy home minister. This leaves four Barisan MPs out of eight still remaining as PAC members.

Nur Jazlan himself said that the PAC investigations have been stopped pending the appointment of new members which can take place only after Parliament sits again in October. That means PAC’s interview of, among others, 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda next week will have to be postponed. However, opposition MPs, including DAP’s Lim Kit Siang, have commented that investigations can still go on despite some PAC members joining the government.

Observers feel that the Prime Minister’s appointment of four PAC members into the government was deliberate and aimed at postponing the investigations into 1MDB, buying time for 1MDB and for himself.

Yes, it is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to make cabinet changes and perhaps even to change the attorney-general midstream, although legal opinion is divided on this, as well as the head of the Special Branch. But it certainly does not indicate strength.

It is because the Prime Minister’s position is weak that he has to resort to such strong-arm tactics to keep people supporting him. It is because his position is weak that he has to demonstrate that those who do not support him will have to be prepared to pay the price. It is because he is weak that he has to muzzle the press and stop them from reporting legitimately on 1MDB.

Emulating Mahathir

What he is doing emulates what Mahathir did in a bigger way in 1987 with Operation Lalang, when scores of people were detained under the Internal Security Act and The Star had its licence revoked. Mahathir even pushed members of the old UMNO out of his UMNO Baru, which he set up following a judicial decision against the old UMNO. He moved decisively against the judiciary the following year, raising questions of its independence till today.

He made numerous constitutional changes to the new UMNO, making it all but impossible for a candidate to challenge an incumbent president. Mahathir won very narrowly against Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in 1987 in the closest battle for presidency in UMNO ever.

Razaleigh eventually set up the opposition Semangat 46 to challenge UMNO and Barisan Nasional but had little success except in Kelantan.

For now, the Prime Minister and UMNO President Najib Abdul Razak has the upper hand, and thanks ironically to Mahathir, his most vocal critic, it does not look like he will be dislodged anytime soon. Few who call themselves politicians will be foolhardy enough to go against Najib when they don’t see a viable game plan that can, well, overthrow him. Najib is certainly not popular in the court of public opinion right now but that does not mean that he will be exiting anytime soon.

Indeed despite the tide of public opinion against him, like Mahathir before him, he is likely to prevail. And then he will have to hope that people will forget or at least forgive, like they did Mahathir before him.

Kleptocracy, Corruption and Media Control


July 30, 2015

Malaysia: Kleptocracy, Corruption and Media Control

by Dr Syed Farid Alatas

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

Syed FaridThe recent reports in the Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report alleging massive corruption involving the upper echelons of the political and corporate elite of Malaysia have once again raised the question of whether or not Malaysia is a kleptocracy. The term is derived from the words ‘klepto’ — (thief) and — cracy’ (rule) and refers to a government dominated by those who use their office to seek personal financial gain, power and status at the expense of the governed. The impact of kleptocratic rulers and officials on a country is devastating. They rule with unscrupulousness and hypocrisy, and distort development planning and policy. Such rulers do not seem to have any interest in the rights, opinions or sentiments of the people they govern. Under their watch a country would undergo large-scale resource depletion and experience a loss of talented human resources. Kleptocratic rule also has dire consequences for the freedom of expression in a country.

A vital means of combating corruption and preventing the emergence of a kleptocratic state is the maintenance of a free press. Although it is true that the irresponsible exercise of the freedom of the press and freedom of expression in general can be harmful to the stability and security of a country, the muzzling of voices of conscience pose a greater danger. Excessive media control is a symptom of authoritarianism. The gradual imposition of high-handed governmental controls over the media takes place as rulers feel more and more insecure and vulnerable as a result of their misdeeds being publicised and debated by academics, activists and the population in general.

The kleptocrats impose restrictions and controls over the media in order to shield themselves from criticism, minimise public information and debate about their misadventures, and eventually prevent voters from acting against them at the polls. It is obvious that the freer people are to obtain information, analyse government decisions and actions, and criticise the perpetrators of illegal and despicable acts, the stronger those people become vis à vis their government. Is that not how things should be? After all, elected polit In fact, there is evidence from cross-country research to show that “a free press is bad news for corruption”.

In a study published in 2003, Aymo Brunetti and Beatrice Weber showed that having free media was positively correlated with better governance (A Free Press is Bad News for Corruption, Journal of Public Economics, 87). This is because press freedom allows for more information to be available to people which in turn enables citizens to exert more pressure on their governments.

Some days ago, the Malaysian Home Ministry suspended the publishing permit of The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily for three months starting from July 27, 2015. The reason given by the Home Ministry is that the reports of the two publications on 1MDB were “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interest”.

This is a claim that few thinking Malaysians would accept. Most Malaysians would also agree that the real danger to the nation is corruption. Furthermore, most people in Malaysia who support free reporting and public discourse on corruption would not condone the spread of rumours to destabilise our country. Those who do act in this irresponsible manner should be dealt with by the law. But, the media should not be gagged. This is because the media have a vital role to play in preventing instability.

Research has shown that it is corruption that results in instability. Sarah Chayes, in her book entitled Thieves of State: Why Corruption threatens global security (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015), investigates how kleptocratic governance results in civil unrest and even provokes violent extremism. To the extent that a free media results in pressures on the government to clean up or at least minimise the incidence of corruption, it can be said that freedom of the press, far from being prejudicial to public interest, is necessary for the stability of the nation.  The probability that kleptocracy would be publicly debated and kleptocrats investigated, exposed and prosecuted, is higher in a country with a free press than in one with a controlled and irresponsible press.

In Islam, as in all the great religious traditions that make up Malaysia, there is the universal value of attachment to the truth. It is regarded as sinful to provide false information, particularly about events that one has personally witnessed. Equally sinful is the withholding of the truth. The Qur’an frequently exhorts humans to avoid concealing testimony and refrain from confounding the truth by lacing it with falsehood.

If it cannot be proven that The Edge reported falsehoods and violated journalistic norms or broke the law, the suspension is against both the standards of universal values as well as Islamic tradition. Islam is the religion of state in Malaysia. Therefore, Malaysians expect the politicians and civil servants to rule with justice and integrity.

The Qur’an commands those entrusted with public and professional duties to carry out their rule with justice and fairness (4:58-59). The vizier and scholar of the eleventh century Seljuq Empire, Nizam al-Mulk, in his famous treatise, the Siyasatnameh or Book of Government, advised his sultan that he should listen to the grievances of his subjects directly, without intermediaries.  A thousand years later, this is still what we want from our leaders.

The fourteenth century Muslim social theorist, Abdul Rahman Ibn Khaldun, believed that government decisions were as a rule unjust. This was based on his study of West Asian and North African polities as well as his experience with the vicissitudes of political life. More than five hundred years later, the Spanish philosopher and intellectual leader of the Spanish Republican government, José Ortega y Gasset, referred to the state as the greatest danger. He believed that state intervention was the greatest danger that threatened civilisation. Malaysians want a strong state that can establish and maintain public order and run an efficient administration. But we do not want a dangerous state, one with disproportionate power such that its intervention results in rule by thieves.

* Dr. Syed Farid Alatas is the Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, in the National University of Singapore.

Malaysia: Can Najib remain Prime Minister?


July 30, 2015

Malaysia: Can Najib remain Prime Minister?

by Greg Lopez

http://www.forbes.com/sites/greglopez/2015/07/29/can-malaysias-prime-minister-survive/

Rosmah and Najib nowThe  Staying Power behind the Prime Minister

It is one thing for the Prime Minister of Malaysia and President of UMNO to pick off his rivals within or without UMNO one at a time. But it is altogether a different ball game when the Rakyat, the opposition parties and significant segments of UMNO are united in scalping the Prime Minister’s head.

The President of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) is always the Prime Minister of Malaysia. It is UMNO who decides who becomes the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Leadership crisis in UMNO always has serious implications to national leadership and Malaysia.

The leadership crisis within UMNO occurs almost every decade. The outcomes of these leadership crisis are balanced as the context is important in determining the survival of the incumbent.

The first leadership crisis happened almost as soon as UMNO was established. Leaders from UMNO’s Islamic Department left in 1951 to form the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party of Tanah Melayu, now known as the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party or PAS. Then, this group argued for the centralisation of Islamic affairs, something that the then leaders of UMNO were not prepared to do. The incumbent was not challenged directly and survived. 

The second leadership crisis was the resignation of Dato’ Onn Jaafar (Father of Malaysia’s Third Prime Minister and Grandfather to Hishammuddin Hussein Onn, a potential future prime minister), the prime mover behind the formation of UMNO and its first president. He resigned as president when his attempts to promote greater inter-racial cooperation to gain independence from the British were opposed by certain key leaders in UMNO. Tunku Abdul Rahman stepped in and led UMNO to greater heights albeit with the principle of UMNO as first among equals. The incumbent was not challenged directly but chose to resign. 

The third leadership crisis was the “palace coup” within UMNO. A poor showing by UMNO in the 1969 elections lead to a pogrom against Malaysian Chinese as segments of the Malay community vented their anger at the Malaysian Chinese minority in selected locations. The numbers are disputed but at least some 6,000 Chinese homes and business were destroyed and 184 were killed. Tun Abdul Razak (the father of the current prime minister) took over as prime minister replacing the liberal Tunku Abdul Rahman. A new “more assertive” Malay leadership group replaced the old “more accommodating” one. This “new leadership” included Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Musa Hitam and Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, launched the New Economic Policy (NEP) – an extensive affirmative action policy which covered all aspects of the Malaysian economy and society – aimed at reducing socioeconomic disparity between the ethnic Chinese minority and the Malay majority on the Peninsula as well as the indigenous communities of Sabah and Sarawak collectively termed Bumiputera (“sons of the soil”). The incumbent was forcefully removed. 

The fourth leadership crisis came about when a rival faction – led by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Musa Hitam – almost succeeded in toppling then incumbent President of UMNO and Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad in the 1988 party elections. Mahathir Mohamad then purged the leadership of the government and party of his challengers which included more than half the cabinet members (including Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysia’s fifth prime minister. Anwar Ibrahim, Najib Razak and Muhyiddin Yassin sided with Mahathir). In the post party election tussle, the High Court declared UMNO to be an “unlawful society” following irregularities in the party elections that Dr Mahathir had just won narrowly. Dr Mahathir then founded a new party called UMNO Baru (New UMNO) with all the institutional resources of the old UMNO. The purged members would form a new political party called Semangat 46 in 1989.  In 1990, at the 8th general election, for the first time in Malaysian history, two formal opposition coalitions would be formed to take on the BN. Members of Semangat 46 disbanded in 1996 to return to UMNO. But the idea of opposition parties collaborating with dissidents from the ruling party and receiving strong support from the electorate was now a reality. The incumbent was challenged directly and survived. 

In 1998, Dr Mahathir had his deputy, and heir apparent, Anwar Ibrahim put on trial for sodomy and corruption creating the fifth leadership crisis. This action, together with other social, economic and political development would polarise Malaysian society further between supporters of UMNO and supporters of Anwar Ibrahim. It would also give birth to the Reformasi movement that would catalyse the engagement of large swaths of Malaysians in politics for the first time.  Although short-lived, once again, opposition parties would collaborate through Barisan Alternatif. This collaboration between civil society, opposition parties, dissidents from UMNO and ordinary Malaysians would lay the groundwork for UMNO’s greatest challenge a decade later. The incumbent pre-empted a direct challenge and survived.

Keep Calm

Dr Mahathir resigned on 31 October 2003. There were growing signs that UMNO – let alone vast segments of Malays and Malaysians – were not happy with Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He accepted this signal and paved the way for his deputy, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to take took over, thus averting a leadership crisis and revitalising UMNO’s fortunes. The incumbent averted a direct challenge by resigning.

Prime Minister Badawi performed well in the 2004 election. UMNO alone had 109 out of 219 parliamentary, just one seat shy of being able to govern in their own right. Badawi’s popularity and UMNO’s and the ruling coalition’s might did not go towards greater societal outcomes, as perceived by Malaysians. Instead corruption at the highest levels, rising religious and racial tensions, and other issues (such as crime, rising cost of living, etc.) began to erode Badawi’s support from the electorate. Also, after the 2004 elections, Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction for sodomy was surprisingly overturned in attempts to mend fences. However, upon his release from prison, Anwar launched a political campaign that saw the opposition coalition registering its best ever performance. At one point, he claimed that he had the numbers to form government in 2008. After Badawi’s dismal showing at GE12, he accepted the signals coming from UMNO and society. The incumbent averted a direct challenge by resigning.

At GE13 in 2013, Anwar Ibrahim’s coalition secured the majority popular votes but was unable to secure government due to systemic gerrymandering and what now appears to be widespread fraud.

UMNO’s current and sixth major leadership crisis – where Prime Minister Najib Razak has sacked his Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin – is likely to be its last. A key issue appears to be the inability of Prime Minister Najib Razak to “listen, hear, read or see” the signals.

DPM Zahid HamidiA Brutus –The New Deputy Prime Minister and Beleaguered Boss

Despite spending more than MYR58 billion (US$15 billion) , with the support of an electoral system designed to keep the ruling party in power against an opposition that various administrations have hounded since independence, and against an opposition leader that UMNO had sought to destroy for more than decade, 51% of the electorate voted against Prime Minister Najib Razak. He was unable to listen, hear, read or see this signal coming from the Rakyat.

More importantly, he is also unable to listen, hear, read or see the signals coming from within UMNO. This could be fatal. Powerful segments within UMNO are genuinely concerned that Prime Minister Najib is condemning UMNO to oblivion.

The alleged scandals linked to the current UMNO President and Malaysia’s current Prime Minister are simply too many and too large to ignore. That may be the primary reason why the Prime Minister is unwilling to go.

The opposition, the  Pakatan Rakyat, or segments of UMNO are no match for the office of the Malaysian Prime Minister. The Prime Minister’s office is simply too powerful for any one group to challenge on its own. However, when united, it is a different story altogether.

The doors within UMNO also appear to be closing down for a direct challenge against the incumbent. This means the challenge will be taken outside the UMNO general assembly. This could be potentially disastrous for Malaysia.

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.

Figuring out the Day of the Long Knives


July 29, 2015

Malaysia:: Figuring out the Day of the Long Knives

by Kim Quek@www.malaysiakini.com

PM and Former DPM

It is all too apparent that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s lightning move to remove the Attorney-General and reshuffle his cabinet on July 28 was done for the singular purpose of neutering criminal investigations and impending prosecution arising from the 1MDB scandal and the RM2.6 billion in Najib’s personal bank accounts.

By removing A-G Gani Patail and offering cabinet positions to members of the parliamentary accounts committee (PAC), Najib hopes to avert impending prosecution and postpone imminent PAC hearings on key players in 1MDB, which in all certainty, will expose the alleged multi-billion heist that will grievously hurt Najib.

Sacking of AG highly dubious

The so-called sacking of Gani is heavily tainted with unconstitutionality, illegality, deceit and malicious intent. The circumstances of the announcement immediately aroused suspicion. It was announced on July 28 by national news agency Bernama through a one-sentence  tweet stating that Gani’s services as A-G were terminated on July 27 due to health reasons, quoting the Chief Secretary of the Government. When  he was asked on July 28, Gani said he had no idea that he had been sacked.

ganipatail

Questions galore: Why wasn’t Gani (photo above) informed? Why wasn’t there a letter of termination from the Head of State Agong, who is the only authority to appoint or to remove the A-G? If Gani had to stop work due to health reasons, why were we told that Gani would still continue to serve as a legal staff till his statutory retirement date in coming October? And why had Gani never complained of ill-health?  And why didn’t PM Najib announce that he had ‘sacked’ Gani?

As the A-G is designated by the constitution (Artiicle 145) as the sole decision-maker as to whether a person should be prosecuted, the independence of his position is guaranteed by mandating his termination through a tribunal appointed by the Agong. Hence, the currently unceremonious ‘dumping’ of Gani is obviously an unconstitutional move.

Sabotaging investigations and prosecutions

Conspiracy theories abound as to why Najib had to act like a desperado. Is it to avert an immediate prosecution which only the AG had the power to execute – keeping in mind that there have been a series of arrests arising from the investigations of the special task force probing the twin scandals of Najib’s RM2.6 billion and the 1MDB fiasco? The task force is made up of the Chiefs of Police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and Bank Negara, co-ordinated by the A-G.

Nur Jazlan and PAC Politics of Betrayal

Another body hot on the heels of these scandals is the Public Accounts Committee, which is due to grill the current and former CEOs of 1MDB starting from August 4, and also to hear two former directors of 1MDB who resigned in indignation over the theft of US$700 million immediately after signing an allegedly bogus joint venture agreement with PetroSaudi in September 2009.

Nur JazlanPAC Chairman sold out to Najib

Immediately after the cabinet reshuffle on July 28, where PAC chairperson Nur Jazlan Mohamed (photo) and three other members were offered positions in the cabinet, Nur Jazlan announced a suspension of PAC hearings pending appointment of new members in the next parliamentary session commencing in October.

Thus in one lightning swoop, Najib had apparently incapacitated the pursuers of the scandals and immunise himself from harm, and perhaps hopefully, to bury these scandals.

If Najib succeeds, Malaysians will have to bury their heads in shame, and the credibility of this country will suffer a grievous and irreparable blow.

Who would still trust a country where the Prime Minister can escape unscathed with RM2.6 billion allegedly unaccounted for in his bank accounts and tens of billions of ringgit of public funds evaporated into thin air through a so-called sovereign wealth fund, of which he is allegedly personally responsible?

Can our institutions – the Police Force, MACC (the anti-corruption commission), Central Bank and the Attorney-General’s Chambers – stand the shame of being cowed and neutered by a tyrannical hand in contempt of our constitution and law?

We must defend against authoritarianism

No, we must not allow this to happen, because we have too much to lose and too much to defend. The special task force must continue to discharge its sacrosanct duties honourably and diligently until the whole truth is uncovered and the culprits punished – with or without Gani Patail as A-G. They owe this to themselves and to the future generations of Malaysians.

As for the PAC, it should immediately resume hearings under the leadership of deputy chairperson Dr Tan Seng Giaw who shall act as chairperson in the absence of Nur Jazlan. With nine remaining members in PAC (out of a total of 13), there are more than enough members to make up a quorum (minimum is three).

This is the hour when all Malaysians must stand up to defend themselves against an onslaught, which if not repulsed, will turn the country into a failed state of corrupt dictatorship.

KIM QUEK is the author of banned book ‘The March to Putrajaya’.

 

Malaysia: Muhyiddin pays the price for misplaced Loyalty


July 29, 2015

Malaysia: Muhyiddin pays the price for misplaced Loyalty

by Scott Ng@www.freemalaysuatoday.com

KUALA LUMPUR 29 NOVEMBER 2012 - PRESIDEN UMNO, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak tersenyum melihat Timbalan Presiden UMNO, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin yang mempamerkan sepanduk `Saya Sayangkan PM' semasa Majlis Perasmian Perhimpunan Agung UMNO 2012 di Dewan Merdeka PWTC di sini hari ini. Gambar: MOHD NAIM AZIZ Pemberita: TEAM UMNO UTUSAN/KOSMO!Outfoxed by the Boss

And so the curtain comes down on Muhyiddin Yassin. Prime Minister Najib Razak’s decision to replace him with Zahid Hamidi comes as an act of retaliation for his aggressive speech to the Cheras division of UMNO, in which he disclosed that not only had he advised Najib to resign from the 1MDB Advisory Board, but also that none of the cabinet ministers had the faintest idea of what was going on in the scandal-ridden government-owned company.

Actually, a cabinet reshuffle has been an oft-whispered rumour for quite some time now. Najib has been looking to consolidate his power by surrounding himself with loyalists who will not question his actions and will defend him from the attacks of former PM Mahathir Mohamad and from the rakyat’s anger, particularly over the high cost of living.

Pundits had long suspected that Muhyiddin had his own agenda. Even before Sunday’s fate-sealing speech, he had already given less than subtle indications of his dissatisfaction with the way the 1MDB issue was being handled. At the height of Mahathir’s attacks on Najib, when it seemed like he was about to jump ship and pledge allegiance to the elder statesman, many were the voices that egged him on. Whether he expected to be sacked, or indeed was waiting to be sacked, only he can tell. But it is unlikely that he expected it to happen so suddenly.

What was underestimated was just how hard Najib would cling to power. Despite the scandals, despite the exposes, the Prime Minister has struck a stubborn, confrontational stance that is at odds with his famous silence.

After postponing the UMNO party elections, Najib probably sees his removal of dissent from his cabinet as the culmination of his master plan to leave his authority unchallenged, at least till the 14th general election, which must be held by 2018. He has chosen to surround himself with loyalists who have been defending him against attacks over the 1MDB scandal. So now we can no longer expect dissent from within the cabinet, at least not in public. It appears that there will no longer be any check and balance or any offer of a different perspective to Najib as he attempts to play the dangerous game of managing the 1MDB scandal while trying to pacify the rakyat, who are restless not only over the rising cost of living but also over his decision to brook no dissent from the media and from UMNO itself.

The real question now is how the Malay community will accept all this. The Malays have seldom taken kindly to the removal of one of their leaders in so stark a manner over a political dispute. The last time a Deputy Prime Minister was forced out abruptly, the Reformasi movement was born. Furthermore, it’s not as if the Malays don’t know a weakened leader when they see one. Najib’s move for political survival sends the message that he is not only ruthless, but also desperate to improve his situation. And desperation is weakness.

Najib’s latest actions are not those of a cold mastermind, but the flailing of a desperate man who realises the waters have risen so high that he is close to drowning. Nevertheless, his sacking of Muhyiddin does look like a sound political move given the disorganisation of the opposition and the lack of a unified front for the movement to oust him. But it is sound only for the time being, and probably a short time. Continuing in this high-handed manner will not do him any good in the way of gaining support from the rakyat. In fact, he is mistaken if he thinks that his reshuffled cabinet will be seen by the rakyat as more competent than the previous one.

Najib may have won the battle for now. He has wiped out dissent in his cabinet, fortified his position as Prime Minister, and taken steps to ensure he cannot be removed from office outside of a no-confidence vote in Parliament. He has used all the tools at his disposal in a way reminiscent of Mahathir, albeit with much less finesse. But he has a long way to go, and with this latest move, he may have given the anti-Najib movement something that it desperately needs – a figure to rally around who can step in to replace him.