After Mat Tyson’s return to UMNO, Mahathir could be next?


September 20, 2017

After Mat Tyson’s return to UMNO, Mahathir could be next?

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Malaysian politics has witnessed numerous twists and turns over the past years with mentors and protégés turning on each other, adversaries becoming allies and allies becoming adversaries.

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Anything is possible with this enigmatic politician. After all, UMNO Baru which Prime Minister Najib Razak inherited was created by Dr. Mahathir in 1987. If it were to happen,( and I won’t dismiss it outright), that would be a slap in the face people like activists like Ambiga  Sreenevasan and her associates. People like Anwar Ibrahim, Mat Sabu, Lim Kit Siang and others would also be badly let down.–Din Merican

No political pundit’s crystal ball in the past foresaw Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Lim Kit Siang forming an alliance or Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim burying the hatchet.

On September 17, Muhammad Muhammad Taib ( aka Mat Tyson) was the latest to make a political twist, his third since quitting UMNO.

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From a PAS grasshopper elevated to an UMNO katak

After UMNO, the former Selangor Menteri Besar went to PAS and then later to PKR. Yesterday, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announced that Muhammad, after seeing the light, had returned to UMNO.

An article published in PAS organ Harakah Daily stated it is possible that other former UMNO leaders, who are now in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), would return to UMNO as well.

In fact, the article said it would not be impossible for Bersatu chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself to return to UMNO.

“As it is known, Mahathir has served well in creating a mess in the opposition and at the same time has been able to give UMNO credit to hold (on to power) in GE14.

“It is clear this is an old script. In the end, the people are cheated with UMNO’s tricks and at the same time, issues like 1MDB, fuel price hikes, increase in cost of living and others will be confined to history when Mahathir returns to UMNO,” it stated.

Mahathir, 92, has denied that he would return to the party which he had helmed for more than two decades, claiming that UMNO is no longer the UMNO he believed in.

Meanwhile, the Harakah Daily article described Najib’s announcement yesterday regarding Muhammad’s return as an anti-climax to the hype which had been building up since morning.

Speculations were aplenty when news broke that the Prime Minister would make a special announcement and all UMNO leaders were ordered to be present, forcing Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to cut his trip to Perlis short.

There were those who speculated that Najib would announce the dissolution of Parliament to pave the way for the next general election, or that some top gun from the opposition had switched camps.

However, the Prime Minister drew flak and ridicule when he announced Muhammad’s return, with detractors claiming that the latter did not warrant such fanfare.

Following this, new theories surfaced that Najib was supposed to announce something bigger but this did not materialise. Some have linked it to a possible coup of the opposition-helmed Selangor government.

The Harakah Daily article, on the other hand, claimed that the announcement was part of Najib’s attempt to divert public attention.

At the same time, it claimed, the move is to give the impression that former UMNO leaders have repented and come to understand that only UMNO can defend the Malays and Malaysia.

 

The article claimed that the move was aimed at diverting attention from the concerns arising from Najib’s disclosure that EPF and Khazanah Nasional would invest in the US.

“It is common knowledge that the people, especially workers contributing to EPF, are livid. They are worried if the investment would end up a liability like 1MDB.

“This is what Najib wanted to silence and did a ‘market test’ by announcing Muhammad’s return to UMNO,” it stated.

Najib Razak: The Donald called me “my friend”


September 6, 2017

Malaysia’s Statesman who gave away our Kitchen sink to gain the endorsement from The Donald.  That is no great shakes.

At the same time, he goes to China with a begging bowl to save 1MDB and obtain concessional loans to develop our infrastructure. En route home, he drops by in London for a photo op with Britain Brexit Prime Minister Theresa May at No. 10 Downing Street. Why does not he need external endorsement? Y The answer is very obvious–he is unpopular back home.–Din Merican

Najib Razak: The Donald called me my friend’

by Zikri Kamarulzaman

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said US President Donald Trump was so honoured to host the Malaysian delegation at the White House on Tuesday that the latter personally saw them off.

Recalling the end of his meeting at the White House Cabinet Room, Najib said one of Trump’s aides had wanted to arrange a handshake photo-op outside the president’s office.

“Trump said ‘No, I want to send him to the car.’

“The officer then said, ‘But sir, the car is right down at the basement.’

“What did Trump say? He said ‘never mind, he is my friend’,” Najib told some 1,000 supporters at the Bunga Raya Complex, next to KLIA, tonight. He said this was a sign of respect, even though his critics mocked his US visit.

Najib visited Trump on Tuesday, on invitation of the White House.

Unlike Trump’s meetings with other heads of governments, there was no handshake photo-op with Najib before news agencies in the Oval Office.

The only images of Najib in the US President’s office appear to be from the official White House media team.

 

Likewise, the duo also opted not to have a customary joint press conference at either the East Room or the Rose Garden, which is the norm for leaders visiting the US president at the White House.

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Instead, a joint press statement was issued after their meeting in the Cabinet Room, and journalists were not allowed to ask questions.

It is believed that the lack of media access was to prevent uncomfortable questions about the US Department of Justice’s investigations into the 1MDB scandal.

 

Malaysia’s Grand Poobah’s Chequebook Diplomacy in Washington DC


September 15, 2017

Malaysia’s Grand Poobah’s Chequebook Diplomacy in Washington can be strategic, admits Ambassador Emeritus Dennis Ignatius

www,malaysiakini.com

 

COMMENT | Prime Minister Najib Razak’s recent White House soirée has brought Malaysia an unprecedented level of scrutiny and negative publicity. All major US newspapers, for example, unanimously panned the visit, highlighting the inappropriateness of inviting someone linked to an ongoing Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation (into 1MDB-related money-laundering charges).

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Najib’s Chequebook Diplomacy–Helping America Great Again impresses Donald J. Trump

It is a measure of just how far his reputation has fallen internationally after once having been feted everywhere as a reformist and moderate Muslim democrat. It is also a reminder of how little all of this really matters in a world dominated by realpolitik and the pursuit of strategic advantage.

Certainly, Najib himself didn’t appear to lose too much sleep over all the bad press. For him, the visit was clearly about positioning himself for the next elections and burnishing his credentials as a well-respected international leader able to run with some of the most powerful leaders in the world.

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Taken together with earlier high-profile meetings with President Xi Jinping, King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the meeting with Trump, as well as Britain’s Theresa May, lends credence to Najib’s narrative that under his stewardship, Malaysia has become “a rising star” and a “global player.”

While the urban crowd and opposition supporters will no doubt shake their heads in disbelief, it will play well with Najib’s rural base, effectively neutralising the 1MDB issue, arguably Najib’s most troublesome political challenge.

Najib’s grand strategy

Beyond the optics and the controversy over 1MDB, the visit also revealed a side to Najib that will surely drive the opposition to further despair: he is proving to be a far better strategist than he’s been given credit for.

He has parlayed the powers of his office and all the levers of state control at his disposal to successfully play off both China and the US to his advantage.

It might be recalled that he deliberately pivoted to China after his falling-out with the Obama Administration.

In Beijing, last year, he complained about foreign meddling, of being treated unfairly, of being lectured to by Western powers. In not so many words, he went on to contemptuously dismiss the US and other Western powers as has-beens with no future in Asia and hinted about a new strategic partnership with China.

It appears that Washington, already alarmed at China’s growing clout in the region, quickly got the message. Washington will now play along to get along.

Furthermore, with a more amoral (some would say unscrupulous) occupant in the White House to do business with, and with Beijing beginning to get too demanding (as witnessed by the unravelling of the Bandar Malaysia deal), Najib might have also seen the need to recalibrate the balance between the US and China.

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Playing the China-US Hedging Game

Better relations with Washington will now give Najib more room to manoeuvre. It will also allow Najib to undercut opposition criticism that he is too close to China.

He has thus put both Washington and Beijing on notice: be nice to me and I’ll be nice to you. It is, in fact, the global application of his domestic political approach: as he once told Chinese Malaysians, “If you show support [for UMNO-BN] we have no problem giving more… if not, difficult lah.”

Though it is still too early to predict how all this will turn out, no other prime minister has displayed such a flair for big power gamesmanship as he.

Buying his way to respectability

In order to demonstrate to both the US and China that they have much to gain both strategically and economically by being supportive of his administration, Najib has resorted to a form of chequebook diplomacy hitherto only used by rich and powerful countries – promising contracts, investments and big-ticket purchases in exchange for support and endorsement.

With China, Najib generously granted PRC corporations billions of ringgit in infrastructure contracts, even favouring PRC contractors over our own.

He has also earned the undying gratitude of President Xi by wholeheartedly embracing the latter’s One Belt One Road (Obor) initiative, dismissing concerns about the viability and lack of transparency of many Obor projects.

And under his watch, Malaysia made its first purchase of defence equipment from China.

In Washington, Najib opened his chequebook once again promising to buy more than RM42 billion in new aircraft for Malaysian Airlines (MAS), RM300 million in fighter jets for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), and to direct RM12 billion to RM16 billion in new investments from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Kazanah Nasional to US infrastructure projects.

He also promised to “persuade” AirAsia to switch from British-made Rolls Royce engines to American-made GE engines.

No doubt, this was all music to Trump’s ears, a small contribution to making American great again.

American officials, of course, deny the visit will have any impact on the DOJ investigations but does anybody really believe that Najib would have made all those expensive promises simply to make Trump feel good?

After this, expect European and Japanese salesmen-politicians to come knocking at our doors with hat in hand and high praise for Najib on their lips. For so long as there’s money to be made, inconvenient issues like human rights and good governance will not be allowed to get in the way.

Cost of Najib’s generosity

The downside, however, is that Malaysia’s already beleaguered opposition, as well as its human rights defenders, can now expect no sympathy or moral support from the US and other democracies.

Najib has neatly turned the tables on his detractors; far from isolating him internationally, he has now marginalised them at home.

Worse still, the nation will have to pay a heavy price for Najib’s extravagant chequebook diplomacy.  We are already heavily indebted to China; now we will be driven into even greater debt with billions of new borrowing to pay for Najib’s Washington promises.That the government of a cash-strapped developing country, which has had to impose a new tax (GST) on its own hard-pressed and long-suffering populace just to stay afloat, would offer such an extravagant economic boost to one of the richest economies in the world is both unprecedented and mind-boggling.

DENNIS IGNATIUS, a former Malaysian ambassador, firmly believes that we should put our trust not in the leadership of politicians but in the sanctity of great institutions – our secular and democratic constitution, a democratically-elected parliament, an independent judiciary, a free press and a government fully accountable to the people. He blogs here.

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When Two Grand Poobahs Meet, there are Fireworks–Of Najib and Donald


September 15,2017

Note: Malaysia’s Grand Poobah cum Corrupter Numero Uno,Najib Razak, will make his triumphant appearance at The Bunga Raya VIP complex at around 8 pm today to a hero’s welcome after a “successful visit”  to The Trump White House. A hero? Well, I am aghast at our lack of understanding of the concept of hero. To his supporters in UMNO and Barisan Nasional, one has to a robber and also an unconvicted felon to qualify.

Image result for Najin Razak and Rosmah Mansor

Welcome Home Wira Negara from The United States

A reader of this blog from Silicon Valley with a Masters Degree from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California and former Malaysian and Vietnam War Veteran wrote this about Najib’s taxpayer funded trip:

“One crook playing host to another crook. Nothing new here. Donald Trump is turning the White House into a Club House for criminals, kleptocrats and dictators, where they exchange tips on how to tap into different government assets to transfer directly into their bank accounts. Kleptocrat Najib is Trump’s kind of guy. Trump is figuring out how to scam him out of the money he criminally stole from the Malaysian people.

And oh ya, Najib has paid a lot of money coming to pay homage at this Club House. It’s called Pay For Play… yeah, I didn’t invent the phrase, I plagiarized it. No red carpet. No state dinner. And, of course, no press conference because there’re plenty of something to hide. Najib just needed a pat on his head from Trump, so that he can return home to brag and boast and lie to his people that he’s the blessings from Trump to screw them up more.

Sure, all these criminal politicians,dictators and kleptocrats, when booking rooms for coming to pay homage at the Club House, have to pretend not knowing that the “Trump International Hotel” belongs to Donald Trump. Of course they know they’re lining Trump’s pockets by staying at his hotel, and easy enough to leave “something extra for the proprietor” without it going through official channels. It’s a bribe that isn’t officially a bribe. In country like Malaysia where bribes and cronyism are extensively common, Najib is the Grand Poobah who knows how to do it.”

I am now posting Dr. Lim Teck Ghee’s article on Najib’s pilgrimage to The White House to pay homage to America’s Grand Poobah to welcome Yang Amat Berhormat Dato’ Seri and  Yang Amat DiKasihi Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor home.

At that brief meeting, our Prime Minister pledged to help the United States economically with a value proposition comprising  Malaysia Airlines’ purchase of Boeings and investments by EPF and Khazanah Nasional Berhad plus expenses incurred at Trump International Hotel which are underwritten by Malaysian taxpayers.–Din Merican

When Two Grand Poobahs Meet, there are Fireworks–Of Najib and Donald

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Observers of the recent meeting of the US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Najib Razak may have underestimated the admiration that the two leaders have for each other and their shared ideological leanings, besides their common interest in spending time with golf buddies.

Image result for Najin Razak and trump

Trump has gone on record during his recent Republican Presidential campaign to famously declare:

My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy. I’ve grabbed all the money I could get. I’m so greedy. But now I want to be greedy for the United States. I want to grab all that money. I’m going to be greedy for the United States.

The first part of his declaration no one should have any doubt about.

As to the second part, let history judge if Trump is able to protect the interest of the United States through his principle of greed and me-first and last. For now, he has severe problems with his home audience, recording the lowest rating of any president since approval rating polls on US Presidents started in the 1940s.

In the last few days there has been a slight uptick in Trump’s approval rating. But this cannot be attributed to Najib’s visit.

The visit of our esteemed Prime Minister – Trump’s “favourite Prime Minister” according to a signed photo apparently prominently displaced in Najib’s office – may be trumpeted by the local media as a triumph and coup. The New Straits Times, for example, has given pride of place to an article by the foreign affairs magazine, The Diplomat, which noted that it was the second visit by a Southeast Asian leader to Trump’s White House (after Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam) and assessed the visit as “a feat within the context of the bilateral relationship”.

Visit An Own Goal?

However, more astute Malaysia watchers are wondering if the Prime Minister’s side may have kicked an own goal in pushing for the visit which appears planned to boost Najib’s image and the Barisan Nasional’s prospects in the coming 14th General election.

The feedback of respected media in the United States and internationally has not only been unanimously critical. It has also put the spotlight again on the United States Department of Justice’s (DOJ) probe – its largest kleptocracy investigation ever – into potential fraud surrounding the 1MDB fund and, among other alleged crimes, as to whether the prime minister – indirectly referred to as “Malaysian Official 1” diverted more than $1billion to his own bank account.

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In a stinging op-ed on  September 6, the widely read and influential, The Wall Street Journal urged Trump to cancel the meeting using domestic concerns as a pretext. Assessing it a mistake to accord Najib a visit, the paper identified him as an authoritarian who may be implicated in the money-laundering scandal involving 1MDB.

“Any embarrassment is better than giving a scandal-tainted leader a White House photo-op,” the editorial concluded.

Now that the visit is over, follow up news reports have focused on whether it was appropriate for the Prime Minister and his entourage to stay at the Trump International Hotel – a move seen as injudicious, if not unethical, in view of the President’s personal interest in the hotel. Cynical reports have described stays by foreign delegations at the hotel, which is managed by Trump’s children, as creating opportunities for special interests to enrich the President as well as attempts at currying favour with him.

So what did the Prime Minister actually bring home from the visit, assuming like Trump, he was greedy for Malaysia. The visit ostensibly was to mark 60 years of bilateral relations of the two countries so there was no new breakthrough in relationship to pursue. All that was achieved was the reaffirmation of the US as a strategic partner in trade and ally in regional and security issues against ISIS and North Korea.

But Najib did bring a shopping list to help Trump “in strengthening the US economy”. Included in this list was the purchase of Boeing planes estimated at more than US10 billion in value and a possible similar sum to be invested in the US by Khazanah Nasional and EPF.

In return for this generous contribution from our fund strapped national treasury to the world’s strongest economy, Najib did not return empty handed. Trump praised Najib for his “major role in not allowing Islamic State and others (terror groups) to exist”. And apparently that was all that Najib was able to squeeze out of his “greedy for the United States” golfing partner.

Will his visit derail the ongoing DOJ investigation into the 1MDB scandal? According to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders when asked if Trump would address the DOJ investigation:

“We’re not going to comment on an ongoing investigation being led by DOJ, and that investigation is apolitical and certainly independent of anything taking place [during the meeting of the two leaders]”.

Whether the visit will influence the DOJ in any way is a big unknown. But it must be clear to the Prime Minister’s backroom boys assessing the outcome that the Prime Ministers’s position on domestic issues such as human rights violations, religious extremism and political abuses remain subject to international scrutiny and that the Prime Minister will have even less wriggle room in the event of another controversy or crisis.

Another page of Malaysian pulp fiction


September 10, 2017

Another page of Malaysian pulp fiction

IFR Asia 1008  – September 9, 2017

By Jonathan Rogers

Image result for Trump and Najib

A Bull Session in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington–September 12, 2017

The latest iteration in the drawn-out epic of alleged financial malfeasance at Malaysia’s 1MDB seems straight out of a pulp fiction potboiler. That comes as no surprise, given what has come before, but it is a chilling example of a mindset of fear which has come to grip the citizens of that country.

I’m referring to a court filing made last week in a Los Angeles court by the FBI, which seeks anonymity for its informants in the 1MDB case on the basis that they fear reprisals should it emerge that they have testified in connection with the case to the US authorities.

Special agent Robert Heuchling stated that these individuals were afraid that they might “place the safety and security of both themselves and their families at serious risk” should it emerge that they had provided evidence to a Department of Justice criminal case in connection with more than US$1bn said to have been siphoned from 1MDB.

Heuchling referred to the August 30 shooting in broad daylight on a Kuala Lumpur street of the chauffeur of Malaysia’s former Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail as a possible warning to those who might testify in the 1MDB case to US investigators.

You might imagine the agent’s statement read in the cynical, matter-of-fact tones of Humphrey Bogart’s Philip Marlowe (even though Marlowe never got to investigate a case involving the alleged embezzlement of a sum estimated at close to US$6bn, even taking inflation into account).

It might just be that the paranoia simmering in Malaysia has reached fever pitch and that the shooting was simply an event disconnected from the government-owned investment agency. Or it might mean that the latest act in the 1MDB drama is about fear and desperation.

After all, the DoJ last month put on hold its civil action against US assets said to have been looted from 1MDB – a now infamous US$1.7bn roster of items ranging from Beverly Hills mansions and Picasso paintings to a super-yacht – to avoid hampering an ongoing criminal investigation.

And that means the seemingly inevitable issuance of international arrest warrants against the alleged perpetrators of the scam, some of whom have been named in the DoJ civil case, some perhaps who have not.

The arrest of these individuals or their becoming fugitives is only a matter of time, unless the criminal case is dropped. It might not be that a shooting in broad daylight in KL signals that the saga has entered its endgame phase, but you could be forgiven for thinking that it has.

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Malaysia’s No.1 Crook and Corrupter is being welcomed by The Trump White House on September 12, 2017. My American friends, what does that make Donald Trump? It could be a case of birds of the same feather embracing each other. If given a chance,  the White Press crops should give the Malaysian leader a proper roasting.–Din Merican

MEANWHILE WE HAVE the prospect of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visiting Washington this week on an official visit – his first to the US in his decade in power.

We can only watch as that visit pans out, but it seems unlikely that Najib will be able to escape a grilling over 1MDB at press conferences with President Trump, unless the latter declares a moratorium on the issue – something which is not entirely far-fetched.

But if the pending visit is indeed the PR triumph which Najib is likely to be hoping for, it comes at an awkward time with regard to a matter of foreign policy which dwarfs the goings on at 1MDB: North Korea.

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After a week during which Trump threatened sanctions against any country which traded with North Korea, it is apposite that Malaysia is one of the few countries to have maintained friendly relations with Pyongyang in the past, with embassies in each respective capital and even visa-free access for tourists. Reuters reported in February about a Malaysia-based company called Glocom which was described in a UN report as a front for North Korea.

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Every Member of the Malaysian Cabinet is tainted with the 1MDB scandal

Relations have deteriorated since the killing of Kim Jong-nam in Kuala Lumpur airport earlier this year. Still, amid the current hysteria surrounding trade sanctions, this week’s trip carries a somewhat exquisite aura of embarrassment – even leaving aside 1MDB.

Of course from Trump’s viewpoint it could all simply add up to another photo opportunity on one of his golf courses. But at a time when Malaysia increasingly looks to China for infrastructure investment, and indeed in the eyes of many observers is cast as the latter’s client, it will be interesting to see quite whether Najib can straddle the demands of the big power to the East and that to the West.

In the meantime, those with little skin in the game can sit back and enjoy the latest episode of a piece of pulp fiction brought to life.

Malaysia at 60: The Promise Fades


September 2, 2017

Note: I informed John Berthelsen that I could not access http://www.asiasentinel.com over  the last 48 hours. I never had problem going to this web-paper in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. So John was kind enough to send his article to me via my email so that I can share it with you. — Din Merican

Malaysia at 60: The Promise Fades

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

Pro-government ethnic Malay hardliners wave flags and shout slogans during a demonstration in Kuala Lumpur on September 16, 2015.

 

On August 31, Malaysia celebrated – if that is the proper word – the 60th anniversary of its founding with its people subdued and with a government widely regarded as a kleptocacy.

It is wracked with a continuing scandal that has robbed the exchequer of an estimated US$11.4 billion lost to fraud and mismanagement of its state-backed 1Malaysia Development Fund, its top government leaders being investigated in six countries including the United States.

It is the second big scandal wrapped around Prime Minister Najib Razak. Two executives with a subsidiary of the French munitions giant DCN have been indicted in France specifically for bribing him in the purchase of submarines during the previous decade, and his close friend and associate, Abdul Razak Baginda, was recently indicted in the same scandal.

It is a country whose every institution that exists in a normal democracy to protect its people is broken – the parliament, whose leaders exist on bribes from the Prime Minister to keep him in office. The courts function to repress the opposition and to exculpate the guilty among the leadership. The Police investigate only the opposition on political matters. The mainstream press is in the hands of the government-aligned political parties and uses its monopoly to clout the opposition and protect the establishment.

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The religious establishment – the leaders of Islam, the major religion in the country — are there to back the leadership when needed, loading onto the people a fundamentalism that most do not espouse. The opposition has been emasculated by sedition charges, police pressure, intimidation, hammering by a kept press, and gerrymandering.

“Perhaps the biggest travesty or paradox is that many of the troubled elite and urban class are now looking towards the man who actually started the decay as their savior – Mahathir Mohamad,” said an increasingly jaded source.

Indeed, the man many hold responsible is former Prime Minister Mahathir, who in 2001 declared that Malaysia was an Islamic state despite the presence of minorities who made up at that point nearly half the population. It was Mahathir who, in 1988, took away the power of the judiciary, firing the Supreme Court and replacing it with appointees aligned with his United Malays National Organization. It was Mahathir who broke the power of the Sultans as the nation’s highest power in the 1980s.

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It was Mahathir who emasculated the Parliament in 1987, jailing 106 people under the colonial-era Internal Security Act in what was called Operation Lalang, including the leaders of the opposition and members of civil societies, and shutting down the press. In 1999, he engineered the trumped-up trial on sodomy charges that put his onetime acolyte, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, in jail.

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Today it is Mahathir, at age 92, who is a reformer that as much as anybody is the victim of those limitations on democracy and free speech. Now probably fervently wishing the democratic institutions were in place, Mahathir has cobbled together Pakatan Harapan (Pact of Hope) in a long-shot attempt to win back power after 14 years in outraged retirement. He is the head of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, or the Malaysian Indigenous Party, which has taken over the leadership of the opposition coalition formerly headed by Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

There are two radically different views of Mahathir’s tenure. “If everything failed under Mahathir how did Malaysia modernize, itself dubbed the Asian Tiger, host a smooth Commonwealth games with race relations pretty good and Islamists in check?” said a Malay lawyer. “Mahathir turned Malaysia from a backwater country into a modern prosperous nation. This is the very reason why Pakatan Harapan and much of the country today pin their hopes on Tun to solve Malaysia’s crisis. As soon as Mahathir retired voluntarily 13 years ago, Badawi then Najib smashed our prosperity, preferring to focus on enriching themselves and their families. Najib lost the Barisan’s two-thirds majority and the popular vote.”

As a measure of the opposition’s desperation for change, Anwar, whom Mahathir fired as Deputy Prime Minister and jailed – and who is in prison again on trumped up charges – has endorsed his leadership. So has Lim Kit Siang, the leader of the Democratic Action Party, who spent 17 months in prison after Mahathir implemented Operation Lalang,

Whether the coalition can have much of an impact on elections which must be held before August 24, 2018 is questionable. Anwar, the country’s most charismatic figure, will remain in prison to serve out his five-year term while privately the country’s leaders look for reasons to keep him there forever. Parti Islam seMalaysia, the rural-based Islamic party, has been resisting Mahathir’s blandishments to pull together with Harapan and is instead flirting with the idea of contesting at least 100 seats on its own in the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat, or lower house of parliament, a death-knell for the opposition.

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How did the country get there? In 2007, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz could write that Malaysia “invested in education and technology, pushed a high savings rate, enacted a strong and effective affirmative action program and adopted sound macroeconomic policies. [It] also recognized that success required an active role for government. It eschewed ideology, following or rejecting outsiders’ advice on a pragmatic basis. Most tellingly, during the financial crisis of 1997, it did not adopt IMF policies – and as a result had the shortest and shallowest downturn of any of the afflicted countries. When it re-emerged, it was not burdened with debt and bankrupt firms like so many of its neighbors.”

The country’s success, Stiglitz wrote, “should be studied both by those looking for economic prosperity and those seeking to understand how our world can live together, not just with toleration, but also with respect, sharing their common humanity and working together to achieve common goals.”

But, said a Malaysian political analyst, “In the past decade or so, Malaysia has undergone political turmoil and changes to the political backdrop that have had far-reaching effects on its future. In fact, in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society like Malaysia where the nightmarish memories of the racial riots of 1969 still linger, the events of the last decade have brought it down a slippery slope that many Malaysians fear may take it a long time to recover, if at all.”

Many of the changes to the socio-political fabric have been exacerbated during the past eight years of rule under Najib. In January 2010, shortly after he became Prime Minister, a series of arsons and desecrations took place against 10 churches and two mosques. It continued with the emergence of belligerent right-wing groups, like Perkasa, an extreme Malays-first NGO of which Mahathir was patron, and continued incidences of intolerance and bullying of minorities, and the kind of race-baiting, chauvinism and racism not seen since 1969.

“In any other country, the 60th anniversary would be a landmark celebration. But in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, there are hardly any banners, billboards or signs that this is an occasion to be celebrated,” the political analyst said: “The misguided policies, corruption, a deteriorating education system, rise in crime, a tarnished judiciary and legislature and incessant political bickering and infighting have taken their toll. A cynical population has tired of promises and as Malaysia goes to 2018, when general elections must be called by June, there is more uncertainty than there ever was in the last 60 years.”

Will Malaysia succeed? The brain drain, the outflow of capital, the increased applications for permanent residence by minorities bailing out for countries such as Singapore and Australia, all dictate that a solution is urgently required.

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Malaysia is on track to be a high-income economy, said  Najib Razak. Do you agree? Dr Bruce Gale agrees and has published a book on Najibeconomics.

“The politics of old will only ensure that the future is bleak,” the source said. “Najib’s administration has failed to implement and execute reforms and workable economic programs. It has failed to silence the racists and bigots and in effect has abetted them. It has failed to curb corruption and nepotism. In fact it is a very bleak report card where red ink dominates almost every box that needs to be ticked. Malaysia is teetering on the brink of failure.”