Malaysia’s Najib: Long Political Career Ending in Disgrace?


May 22, 2018

Malaysia’s Najib: Long Political Career Ending in Disgrace?

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

When a dozen police cars showed up in front of the home of former Prime Minister Najib Razak late in the afternoon on May 16, it may have finally spelled the end of an audacious nine-year reign as premier and a political career that began in 1976 and now looks like ending in disgrace.  According to a Kuala Lumpur source,  the primary focus of the investigation is SRC International, a 1Malaysia Development Bhd. subsidiary established in 2011 by Najib to pursue strategic energy investments overseas. It ran into a river of red ink amid scandal. An arrest, the sources say, could be in days or perhaps weeks.

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Najib was elected to fill the seat of his late father, Prime Minister Razak Hussein, at the age of 23, becoming the youngest person ever elected to Malaysia’s parliament. Now 64, he has done a tightrope dance for decades away from accusations of a long string of crimes, not least of which is allegedly participating in the theft of a reported US$4.5 billion from the state-backed investment concern that he founded in 2009 with the help of the flamboyant Penang-born financier Low Taek Jho, who remains on the run somewhere on the planet.

In addition to that, however, there is the residue of a US$141.3 million kickback through Najib and his best friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, in the purchase of US$1 billion of French submarines that are virtually useless because Peninsular Malaysia’s waters are too shallow to allow them to be used effectively.  The death of 28-year old Mongolian beauty Altantuya Shaariibuu, reputed to have been a former Najib paramour, has never been properly solved.  Two executives of a subsidiary of the French munitions maker DCNS have been charged in Paris with bribing Najib and Razak Baginda has been charged as well.

Also, the family of the late Ambank founder Hussain Najadi, who was shot dead in a Kuala Lumpur parking lot in 2013, is demanding a proper investigation of the death. Pascal Najadi, Hussain’s son, has alleged that the slain banker was killed because he was complaining about irregularities in financial transactions at the bank. It is the same bank where US$681 million alleged to have been stolen from 1MDB ws deposited into Najib’s personal account in 2013.  Pascal Najadi has issued a formal plea to Mahathir to reopen the assassination via a royal commission.

With 1MDB, the deposed prime minister has kept investigations at bay in Washington, DC, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK and states in the Middle East, claiming the US$681 million in his Ambank account came from a grateful Saudi royal family grateful for Malaysia’s supposedly tough stance on jihadis. He

According to local news reports, four properties of Najib’s were raided including condominiums and the prime ministerial office from which he was ousted in a landslide election on May 9 despite a harsh redistricting designed to keep the opposition at bay.  In the end, the Barisan Nasional  led by his United Malays National Organization received only 31 percent of the vote, not enough to overcome the political traps he and his lieutenants had set for the Pakatan Harapan opposition headed by his implacable critic, the nonagenarian former premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib and his grasping, portly wife, Rosmah Mansor, have been placed on an immigration blacklist to prevent them from fleeing the country. Mohamed Apandi Ali, the attorney general he appointed hurriedly to forestall a threatened prosecution, has also been sacked.  A chartered airplane scheduled to take the Najibs out of the country was blocked. It is a long way down for a man who golfed with the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and did a grip-and-grin with Obama’s successor Donald Trump.

Image result for The lavish Rosmah Mansor

 

For three years, since the 1MDB scandal broke into the open, Najib has played whack-a-mole, putting out fire after fire to keep the scandal at bay. He kicked out prominent members of UMNO, including Muhyiddin Yassin, the party deputy leader and the country’s deputy prime minister. He delivered lavish bribes to top UMNO cadres to keep them from voting him out of power as party leader. He fired Abdul Gani Patail, the attorney general who headed a 2016 investigation into his crimes. A lead investigator in that case ended up in a cement-filled oil drum in a river. That case has never been properly investigated.

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Mahathir told local reporters he is working with both Switzerland and the United States, which is carrying out an extensive investigation by the US Justice Department’s kleptocracy unit into 1MDB, to seek the return of embezzled funds. So far, Justice Department officials have sequestered more than US$1 billion in assets that appear to have been stolen by Najib, Jho Low as he is universally known, and other parties.

It wasn’t just the theft, but the utter flamboyance of it. For several years, there were reports of partying on a vast scale by Jho Low, pouring Cristal champagne into a succession of blondes and escorting Rosmah in New York. Rosmah is said to have bought a pink diamond  bracelet worth more than US$25 million that the US is seeking to get back.  Money was used to produce the lurid Wolf of Wall Street,  starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Paintings by French masters, a Bombardier jet, the 300-foot yacht Equanimity that the US is still trying to get its hands on, condos in New York and homes in Beverly Hills were all part of the haul, much of it now in the hands of the US government although the justice department is still sleuthing in southern California for more.

 “The focus on corruption is important, because we need to get back money which is still in Switzerland, the US, Singapore and maybe Luxembourg. For this, we will contact the governments of the countries to recover the money there,” Mahathir told reporters.

 

In addition, there is a metaphorical time bomb awaiting Najib in the Villa wood Detention Center in Sydney in the form of Sirul Azhar Umar, one of Najib’s former bodyguards and one of the convicted killers of Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was central to the submarine scandal

Sirul has been in the detention center since 2015 after he was detained by Australian authorities following his flight from Malaysia while he was temporarily freed from prison there on appeal of his murder sentence. In 2013, as Asia Sentinel reported at the time, Sirul first talked to reporters and told them he could name the person or persons who offered him and his fellow elite police commando Azilah Hadri.

That was before Hasnal Reza Merican, an UMNO Youth division leader, and Hisham Kamaruddin, a former deputy prosecutor who represented Sirul during his original trial, rushed to Australia to shut him up, conjuring up the specter that lawyers for Malaysia’s biggest political party were advising a convicted murderer. Since that time, UMNO lawyers have been in regular contact with Sirul, who has stopped singing.

Now that UMNO has lost the election and the opposition has taken over, the question is whether those UMNO lawyers have any continuing hold on Sirul – especially since the new government is aggressively seeking to clean out the stables. Australian authorities now are expected to demand that Sirul prove he didn’t mastermind the killing if he is to be granted a protection visa to get him out of prison. UMNO lawyers once again met with Sirul shortly before the election to ask him to keep his mouth shut.

Altantuya, then the jilted mistress of Abdul Razak Baginda, Najib’s best friend and the person alleged by a now-dead private detective to have been her lover earlier, was believed to have been pregnant when she was killed and her body blown up with C4 explosive, possibly to hide the fact that she was pregnant.  Her father, Setev Shaariibuu, a Mongolian university professor, has long demanded justice for those who planned her death.

A full catalog of the misuses of Malaysian public funds and institutions would take more than there is time for.  Three contracts let when he was defense minister appear to have produced at least US$300 million and probably more, either for him or for his friends in UMNO. Opposition figures told Asia Sentinel previously that the three contracts were one for Russian Sukhoi jet fighters, a second for the submarines and a third for navy patrol boats.

That wasn’t all. According to a think tank at the time, the shopping list “included battle tanks from Poland, Russian and British surface-to-air missiles and mobile military bridges, Austrian Steyr assault rifles and Pakistani anti-tank missiles.” Given military contract overruns, it can easily be assumed that there was a sweetener involved with every one of them.

It is unknown if Malaysia has the time and effort to look at all of them. 1MDB, by itself, is spectacular enough.

 

What the Malaysian election (GE-14) means to me


May 22, 2018

What the Malaysian election (GE-14) means to me

By Firoz Abdul Hamid
Image result for Firoz Abdul Hamid
http://investvine.com/what-the-malaysian-election-means-to-me/

The year 2018, it was 9th May – I went into the day with much hope for the future of my country, Malaysia. I voted. I volunteered at the polling station and then I waited the whole night for the results with my brothers and friends. By 1am on the 10th of May I was knackered and I woke up again at 4am to learn we will most probably have a new Prime Minister and a new government. Yes! I exclaimed!

Why?

My heart went through the day hoping we will carve a moment in history with this transition, for there is a moment here where this country can make history and enter a transition and deal with its past – as painful as it may seem to some.

This election more than any other meant a lot to me because I saw my country descending into fear of our own elected leaders. We succumbed to hero worshiping to an extent that we were losing our own individual identities and seeking our validities through leaders around us – exemplary and otherwise.

Further we were being emotionally and psychologically divided on creed and race and not on values. As people, we were mostly grappling with the remits of right and wrong, norms of good and bad, and on each of these counts our extreme margins kept moving based on our sense of security and prosperity. Political debates tore friends and families alike. Whilst healthy, I would argue that these debates were not able to succinctly articulate the Malaysia that should be for anyone I have met – they just knew they no longer wanted what it is!

The state we were in was unsustainable and given time we would have lost our best brains and best people and suppressed the souls of good people for fear of rebuke and censure by the more privileged in authority. We would have disintegrated as a nation.

I have friends who had businesses here, who were simply fed up with the unhealthy bureaucracies and gate keeping to the powerful that they left taking their businesses to a less developed country. They are prospering there I must add.

What brought us here – I searched my own soul. How was I a part of this making – I asked. We make our leaders. We make our societies. We are the creators of the boundaries of our prejudices, our societal rights and wrongs. We deserve the fate we get and the leaders that reign us – my own faith has taught me. Our own hands do us wrong!

11th of May 2018 – when the new government was sworn in. Jubilation followed and cries for accountability from the past became louder. Many of my close friends – both here and abroad – were elated with the seemingly new landscape ahead. But to me the fear is that we were piling all this on one man, and one man alone. Our new Prime Minister – a great leader we are blessed to have again.

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“Our new Prime Minister – a great leader we are blessed to have again.But this is not about him. This is about us as peoples of this country called Malaysia”–Firoz

But this is not about him. This is about us as peoples of this country called Malaysia. We got to where we got to because we allowed and approved unhealthy behaviours and practices in our public sector and private sectors. We collectively allowed and practiced for our own personal benefits when it suited us the whole “ampu-bodek” ( i.e. sucking up, fawning) culture and not questioning authority in the name of culture. We turned a blind eye when our government-linked companies splashed our tax monies on exotic board meeting locations for as if having a board meeting in Bali or Perth would have one make better decisions than having it in your office canteens. We allowed gate-keepers to leaders and lapped and pandered to them as valuable contacts for our sustenance. We as a society allowed this. We were creators of this culture for way too long.

This is not a one person’s problem, this is a cultural problem. Sacking people will not solve a cultural problem. Transformation and transforming a company and imbuing culture is the toughest part of change. That requires time and resources. Requires patience. Having done transformation work in both public and private sectors, I can safely say sacking people and putting in YOUR people who root to your allegiances and loyalty is not the solution. It is not change. It is camouflaging change. It is actually the same thing with different faces. It is just doing what the other did and you are no different. Sacking those who were taking orders from their leaders and/or shareholders is not transformation. It is just a means to replace the old with the old with a tag of new as a disguise.

There is a real chance for these newly elected Malaysian leaders to carve their names in the global arena by bringing order back into this new chaos in Malaysia. Leadership with magnanimity is what we need now. Yes, for those who have clearly transgressed – prosecute but do not persecute. Rule of law should be the order of the day as our 7th prime minister has committed.

Why would those whose jobs were directed by greater powers be removed unless they have clearly erred by law? It is the culture that enabled an apolitical public sector. Removing persons will not solve the prevailing problem – and that is having leaders in the public sector who will say NO to their political masters. We had this once and of those the most recent who left us was Tan Sri Ishak Tadin who dared say no to powers when they erred.  Even central bank governors once put their foot down to political masters.

Why is Salahuddin Ayubi, the conqueror of Jerusalem deemed so great until today? It was not just how he brought the Muslim forces together in reconquering Jerusalem, but also how he treated his nemesis and foes and the Christians with such magnanimity post conquering Jerusalem. The same with Emir Abdul Qadir al-Jaziri of Algeria – he protected the French Christians in Algeria during a war – i.e. the very people who persecuted him and imprisoned him. What was the first things that our own Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) – did when he was freed from prison – he said “today there will be no account for you”  to his own siblings who betrayed him – the very thing our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said when he re-entered Mecca.

I am not calling for prophetic behaviour – but this country of mine and its people need reconciliation. I was blessed to have served Malaysia in transforming the public and private sector entities. Key to transformation is new culture and a leadership that will support it.  The time is now to bring the public sector back to where it should be – heads of government must have the guts to say NO when the answer should simply be NO. They must not fear persecution as a result. We need clear lines of authorities between public servants and politicians. We do not have many leaders in the public sector of Malaysia anymore who dare say NO to a political master. This has to stop.

When I served in the public sector of Malaysia, we had a breed of leaders who simply had the guts and credence to say NO to politicians – who come and go. That culture and quality of leaders have eroded. Do you blame the politicians? Or do you blame the public officials? Go figure!

When I served in the public sector of Malaysia, we had a breed of leaders who simply had the guts and credence to say NO to politicians – who come and go. That culture and quality of leaders have eroded. Do you blame the politicians? Or do you blame the public officials? Go figure!–Firoz

When the 5th Prime Minister won his first two thirds in 2003 there was jubilation yet five years down the line he was rebuked for failure. What went wrong? Culture. Then the 6th Prime Minister was sworn in with much hope and now we see a 7th Prime Minister who ran on the cards of much needed change. But the change remains unclear to many. It is clear in my mind having seen two transitions – the change is in the culture – not only people.

Great companies go through successful transformation not by putting in people who hold allegiances to the new leader, but rather they transform processes and cultures and retrain people from the past era as well. That is why many of the greatest countries in the world today are still great because they do not discard the old and out-of-favour, but rather embrace and bring them back into the folds of reconciliation – which my country desperately needs now.

We are at the cusp of great hope and victory in Malaysia with fantastic new leaders. But these leaders themselves must be accessible to public and not surround themselves with their own gate-keepers and advisors hence perpetuating the past cultures. In the haste of change for a somewhat jaded society, do not forget that a country is only as strong as its people and their values. You need to rebuild values – good ones from bottom right to the top. You need to make sure as a society we unlearn bad values and relearn good values and ensure these values are deeply inculcated in our souls for generations to come.

That is why this election means a lot to me – for if we cannot find it in us to change values in this society – we can never change no matter how many elections may pass us by.

(Firoz Abdul Hamid is an Investvine contributor. The opinions expressed are her own)

Restoring the nation’s confidence


May 22, 2018

Restoring the nation’s confidence

 www.themalaymailonline.com
 

If it’s one thing that the entire period of 2004-2018 taught me, it’s how it feels to have low expectations in one’s nation.

I grew up in the era of Mahathir 1.0 (except we did not know it was 1.0 then!) and there was an air of confidence. Of course, being kids in school, we were not able to see the problems but that’s besides the point.

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The point is, we had a great deal of confidence in his administration and this translated into national pride. This, I can tell you, was an exuberant feeling.

Then came the lost years. Abdullah Badawi, Pak Lah, came into office enjoying a high level of confidence. The 2004 general election was proof of that.

However, his unenergetic leadership soon floundered and he was made into a laughing stock. He was also unable to handle the Islamofascists who ruined any chance of an interfaith council.

Pak Lah was told to leave after Barisan’s relatively disastrous performance in the 2008 general election where Barisan lost five states, later reduced to four. The period of Najib Razak had begun.

In 2009, when Najib came in, I recall a high level of confidence, especially from the Malay professionals who believed that Najib’s eruditeness was proof that he was very clued in. I was quite hopeful myself although by this time, I was unreservedly anti-Barisan.

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Then came the scandals. 1MDB was the whale of them, at least until the FGV scandals came to light. I recalled the feelings of buoyancy from the 90s when I read about 1MDB.

How the tables had turned and how we were now the laughing stock of the world whereas once we were admired as the darling of developing nations. When the 1MDB so-called investigations came to nothing, no one was surprised.

Like all Malaysians, I was hopeful when Tun Dr Mahathir led Pakatan Harapan to victory. I am quite sure that without Tun, BN would still be in power today and we would be in the doldrums.

What did worry me slightly was the execution of justice by the Mahathir 2.0 administration. The slow-moving machinery of the government  may slow down this process.

This would mean that people being investigated would be able to haul stakes and seek asylum elsewhere. There are no shortages of countries providing this type of asylum. No less a dictator than Idi Amin himself was able to live out the rest of his life in luxury.

However, Tun dealt with the matter swiftly. Being Tun, he had already planned things several moves ahead. He placed a travel ban on Najib and effectively had him under surveillance at all times. At the time of writing, Najib’s own house had been raided and several items seized.

The Auditor General’s report on 1MDB has also been declassified and downloaded so many times, the server is said to have crashed!

And this is what I mean. Confidence has been restored. The rakyat is now actively rooting for the nation.

At the end of the Najib administration, their confidence in the administration had been so down that when UMNO’s own status was called into question (due to breaking its own by-laws), we rightly expected no action to be taken and true enough – the case has been thrown out.

I applaud Tun on his swift actions. While the rakyat are rejoicing at the abolishment of the GST, to show us that past misdeeds will not go unpunished was a major win.

Now we feel no longer alienated by active stakeholders in the future of the nation.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

Appointment of Maszlee Malik as Education Minister raises concern among Malaysians


May 20, 2018

Appointment of Maszlee Malik as  Education Minister raises concern among Malaysians

by FMT Reporters

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Ahmad Farouk Musa

Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa questions double standards by those who defend Zakir Naik’s freedom of speech but oppose the right of Muslims to practise their preferred school of thought.

PETALING JAYA: Prominent Muslim activist Dr. Ahmad Farouk Musa said he was not surprised by the storm of protests that greeted the appointment of Maszlee Malik as the Education Minister, but said a bigger worry was whether the Perlis fatwa committee member has the courage to press ahead with the concept of Bangsa Malaysia and resist pressures from extremists on Malaysia’s schooling system.

“The main issue here is whether he has the same courage as Dr Mahathir in facing the two extreme camps in this country, the Chinese educationist extremist and the conservative Malay educationist groups,” Farouk, who heads the outspoken Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), told FMT.

A debate has been raging over Maszlee’s suitability for the post since he was named by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Friday. Critics point to Maszlee’s defence of controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik, who is wanted in India over allegations of extremism and money laundering.

They are also concerned with Maszlee’s leaning towards Salafist Islam, and his close association with Perlis Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, who was recently summoned to a panel hearing on missing activist Amri Che Mat, who Asri had slammed for practising Shia Islam, which local Muslim bureaucrats label as “deviant”.

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Dr. Maszlee Malik–Minister of Education

Maszlee’s supporters have alluded to his academic background and social activities, with others saying his defence of Naik was based on his belief in free speech.

Farouk said the criticism was expected, and questioned Maszlee’s openness as claimed by his supporters.

“If one were to argue that his defense of Zakir Naik was based on freedom of expression, then this freedom also requires him to grant the same to the Shias,” said Farouk, adding that it was only natural to link Maszlee’s opposition to the second largest Muslim denomination to his “Salafist” leaning.

“There cannot be a double standard in preaching for freedom of expression.”

Salafist Islam refers to a movement within Sunni Islam, with roots going back to Wahhabism, the supposedly puritan form of Islam that is officially adopted in Saudi Arabia.

Opposition to PPSMI

Farouk, a medical lecturer at Monash University Malaysia, who was once active with the Muslim Professionals Forum that Maszlee is also part of, said the calls for Mahathir to hold the education portfolio was based on the public’s confidence that he could initiate radical reforms in the sector.

This, he said, included the call by the Chinese education group Dong Zong to recognise the Unified Examination Certificate, and the pressure from Malay groups seeking to abolish the study of Science and Mathematics in English.

“Only he (Mahathir) has the strength and determination in facing this highly debatable issue,” said Farouk, who has supported past government initiatives under Mahathir to emphasise the use of English in schools.

“How do we compete at the International arena when we forego the most important language of science and technology in the 21st century?” he asked.

A policy championed by Mahathir, the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English, or PPSMI, was aborted in 2011 by then education minister Muhyiddin Yassin, following protests from Malay groups.

The move was welcomed by Ikram, an umbrella organisation of Muslim groups, of which Maszlee is a committee member.

“We oppose any attempts to revive PPSMI because we are convinced that the decision by the education ministry is based on its internal findings,” the group had then said in a statement.

Maszlee, 44, who joined PPBM last March, won the Simpang Renggam parliamentary seat in Johor in the May 9 polls.

The former lecturer who taught subjects related to Islamic Jurisprudence at the International Islamic University was named as education minister after Mahathir changed his mind about holding the post himself.

Mahathir said he would abide by a Pakatan Harapan promise that the Prime Minister would not hold any other portfolio.

But within 24 hours of the announcement, over 60,000 signed an online petition urging Mahathir to return to the post, saying he “will bring much needed reforms to the education system in this country”.

Malaysia: Can Pakatan Harapan handle Change– Mixed Signals


May 20, 2018

Malaysia: Can Pakatan Harapan handle Change– Mixed Signals

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.asiasentinel.com

…a substantial coterie of Malay nationalists and religious zealots remains in place, with members of the defeated United Malays National Organization (UMNO) still machinating on how to thwart the new government.”–Mariam Mokhtar

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Changes of government –especially after six decades of misrule —  are usually followed by joy-filled, tearful scenes in the streets and mass gatherings eager to embrace a fresh start. A celebration of the throwing out the old, corrupt regime, and welcoming in the new administration.

As the dust settles, there appears fat chance of that happening in Malaysia, where a substantial coterie of Malay nationalists and religious zealots remains in place, with members of the defeated United Malays National Organization (UMNO) still machinating on how to thwart the new government.

One day after the polls, a subdued but delighted crowd gathered outside the palace until 11 pm, waiting several hours for the swearing-in of the seventh Prime Minister — Mahathir Mohamad, the 92-year combatant who had led a months-long, take-no-prisoners charge to rid the country of his onetime protège, Najib Razak, saying he had been personally betrayed.

Having secured victory, Mahathir has acted like a man possessed, trying to rebuild Malaysia and restore its reputation seemingly overnight.  He has wasted no time in getting his cabinet in order. This was the old Mahathir, methodical, meticulous and masterful at political machination. If members of his winning team thought they could have a well-deserved rest following the two public holidays that Mahathir had earlier declared after  winning the 14th General Election, they were sorely disappointed.

Having said in previous interviews that he had little time left to rebuild Malaysia, Mahathir held several meetings to form a credible government, appointed three Cabinet ministers, pushed for a royal pardon for his former adversary, Anwar, and still found time to meet the Sultan of Brunei, the Prime Minister of Singapore, and the Governor of Sarawak, Taib Mahmud.

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He blazed his way through matters of state, ordered travel bans on Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, and several prominent politicians and cronies including the former Inspector of Police. He ordered the Police to raid several apartments belonging to Najib’s family members and ordered the Attorney-General, an UMNO hack who had “cleared” Najib of complicity in the 1MDB scandal, to go on a long leave, while sealing his office to prevent important documents from being taken away, or shredded.

Police who raided Najib’s residences seized an amazing amount of loot in more than 350 boxes and bags containing cash, jewelry and designer handbags early Friday including 284 boxes of handbags and 72 pieces of luggage containing cash, jewelry, watches and other valuables, said Amar Singh, Chief of the Police commercial crimes unit. How much of that might be related to assets being seized by the US in its kleptocracy case against Najib, family members and others is unclear.

If Mahathir moved with blistering speed, ironing out what had to be done for the nation, one couldn’t say the same about individual states like Johor and Perak.

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The New Menteri Besar of Johor

Johoreans were furious to find that their new Chief Minister candidate from the winning Harapan coalition was acting like a thoroughbred UMNO politician. He nominated an UMNO officer as his adviser and told UMJNO members, now a minority in opposition, that they weren’t eligible for any state funding. Those actions, reminiscent of the former Barisan Nasional leadership, incurred the ire of the Johoreans.

The practice of party-hopping, which is picking up speed in East Malaysia, was condemned by the campaign reform organization Bersih and various politicians. People took to social media to vent their frustration, and one human rights NGO named ENGAGE penned an open letter to Pakatan Harapan leaders, saying  the nation doesn’t want to see the winning coalition become another “BN 2.0” after several parties affiliated with the Barisan broke ranks and said they planned to join Harapan.

The party-hopping, which was taking place in Sabah, Sarawak and Perak, has eroded voter confidence.

Up north, despite the promise by the new government to ensure press freedom, RSN Thayer, the Democratic Action Party MP for the Jelutong constituency, announced that the license for TV3, the publicly listed media company controlled by UMNO, should be revoked. He incurred the wrath of Malaysians who told him that they don’t want the new government to be a poor copy of the one just booted out. Thayer’s own party leaders distanced themselves from him.

When Rafizi Ramli, a Pakatan politician, whose whistle-blowing on UMNO’s activities had earned him a fine and jail term for violation of the bank secrecy laws, currently under appeal, criticized Mahathir for not discussing the appointment of the finance, home affairs and defense ministry, he too was slammed.

Rafizi said that PKR’s consultation was critical, and he opposed Mahathir’s bulldozing methods.  Upset that the Chinese Daily, Sin Chew had written that Rafizi was only vocal because he had been vying to be made the finance minister, Rafizi has said he would sue the paper. Some party members accused Rafizi of trying to derail Mahathir’s efforts to form a government, but others came to his defense and said change must include exposing any and all wrongdoings.

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Speaking out as he did didn’t please the lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan. She tweeted “PKR please stop your nonsense. I fully support the appointments by the Prime Minister. Please put country above all else. The rakyat (people) did!”

Rafizi merely rather sensibly criticized Mahathir’s lack of consultation among the four new government parties. In his 22 years as prime minister he often acted high-handedly and there were concerns that might be continuing. Elsewhere people who made what were deemed offensive remarks about Mahathir on social media found that police reports had been lodged against them.

Eric Paulsen, acting for the NGO Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), said that demanding police action against individuals who openly expressed criticism of the government, merely trivialized  police reports and disregarded the rights of people with differing views. Paulson himself had been charged with sedition by the previous government.

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Paulsen said that in the new Malaysia, people should be allowed to criticism unless they threatened public disorder and called for violence. He too urged the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to focus on their work and to stop wasting resources investigating these sorts of report.

The following day after the election, groups of UMNO Youth members gathered outside the party’s massive headquarters and starting fighting one another. It was the day the party would have celebrated its 72nd anniversary. Instead, they traded blows and insults while demanding the resignation of Najib, the UMNO president. For his part, Najib denies any wrongdoing, is making out that he is a victim while his party is in denial mode, with its leaders still scrambling after power, expressing regret and doing mock post mortems.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation was a Reuters interview of Anwar Ibrahim following his release from prison. The man Najib put behind bars said that a “shattered” Najib had called him twice, in prison, asking him what to do on the night he lost the elections. Anwar advised him to accept defeat and move on, advice Najib didn’t take.  Sources say he sought initially to round up army and police officials to declare martial law but both forces were split. He eventually had to concede.

As expected, few former Cabinet members came to Najib’s defense. The former Youth and Sports Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin claimed that he tried to help Najib in the campaign to no avail and apologized to party members for UMNO’s failure to cling on to power.

He neglected to apologize to the public for failing to acknowledge that Najib allegedly had stolen vast funds and corrupted the political system. Branded an opportunist by many, Khairy was regarded as vying for pole position to lead the leaderless and rudderless defeated party that had ruled Malaysia for six decades.

Initially, Khairy said that the party needs to reform and return to its original ideals, safeguard the honor of the Malays, take care of the other races, and fight for all communities. He then hinted that he was a possible leadership contender, saying the party needs someone who with the confidence of the grassroots supporters, to revive it.

The same Khairy had, in another report, claimed to have overlooked the clear signals that UMNO had a problem. He blamed the leaders for being detached from reality, for members having a feudal mindset that protected the leader and prevented them from asking tough questions. So says the man who barred reporters for Malaysiakini, almost the only independent media voice in the country, because he despised the questions they asked.

Khairy may have a battle on his hands. The former Home Minister, Zahid Hamidi, is a Malay nationalist and would not take kindly to Khairy’s suggestion for UMNO to accept members from other races. Two years ago, Zahid urged UMNO members to unite because “foreign enemies” were plotting to topple the government.

Zahid can take heart with the sentiments of the Malay nationalist NGO, Perkasa which has criticized the appointment of a non-Malay as Finance Minister.

Najib’s cousin, Hishammuddin Hussein, the usually clueless former Defence Minister, has also said that UMNO needs new leadership.

The irony is that Mahathir is trying to rebalance many of his previous pro-Malay and pro-Islamic policies. One reform that he promised to implement within 100 days of being in office, is the abolition of the deeply unpopular goods and services tax that played a major role in Najib’s defeat. That will now take place earlier than expected, on June 1.

Malay nationalists and religious zealots remain,fanned by years of official recognition of their cause by UMNO in the effort to keep minority races at bay. Although Mahathir and Pakatan Harapan may have won round one, they will have to navigate carefully, or the path to Malaysian reform will be long and rocky.

Mariam Mokhtar is a regular contributor to Asia Sentinel

 

Of Frogs in Malaysian Politics


May 20, 201

Of Frogs in Malaysian Politics

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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No-one should take the Malaysian people for granted.

 

We were patient for decades despite the injustices, the lack of opportunities for certain sections of society, and the discrimination, but we had faith in our fellow Malaysians.

There was no doubt about our desire for change. In the 14th general election, we gave it our all. The only doubt was on what former Prime Minister Najib Razak was prepared to do to secure a win. Remember the late night meeting at his house, the two-hour delay in the Election Commission’s announcement of results.

The Police handled their duties with the utmost professionalism, as did the Armed Forces. There were no major incidents, only a handful of youths caught with fireworks in Putrajaya because they wanted to celebrate the election results.

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For decades, Malaysians had been fed up with being treated like political football. We were appalled to see many prominent businessmen ingratiating themselves with the Najib administration. We observed with trepidation when government critics like cartoonist Zunar were harassed by the authorities.

By and large, Malaysians are peaceful and law-abiding. We are also a tolerant lot, and have remained so despite the various tricks designed to make us turn against one another.

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A few years ago, we might have had reservations about Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s willingness to team up with the opposition, doubting his intentions and fearing insincerity on his part. Eventually, however, he won the mandate to take charge of the opposition coalition.

Last Thursday, on May 10, we were rewarded for our persistence. The rest, as they say, is history. So why is the new government allowing so many UMNO-Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs and assemblymen to switch allegiance to Pakatan Harapan (PH)?

We won’t name individuals, but many who won their seats, allegedly through vote buying, are now trying to jump ship and join PH.

If PH allows them in, it would be a betrayal of trust. We voted for PH because PH translated our needs and aspirations into its policies.

The four component parties were prepared to forego their own logos for the greater good. They rallied together for the people.

So who are these desperate UMNO-BN frogs? They were prepared to support Najib. They were arguably aware of the corruption, the lies and the manipulation.\

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They cannot simply turn around and expect to be welcomed into PH with open arms. For years, they played a part in our suffering. They colluded with corrupt UMNO-BN leaders. They failed to realise the mood of the people.

Their desire now to desert the sinking UMNO-BN ship is damaging the fragile understanding and trust between the people and the PH leaders. These frogs are self-serving and do not have our interests at heart.

We do not believe that a person who, year in and year out, spewed venom at UMNO General assemblies, would suddenly fight corruption and get rid of discrimination.

We despair when UMNO frogs are not barred from joining PH. Look at the alarm caused in the Perak imbroglio over the choice of Menteri Besar. Nizar Jamaluddin, the candidate of choice for most people in Perak, had a proven track record in his short stint as Menteri Besar. However, his tenure came to an abrupt end thanks to an infestation of frogs in the state assembly.

Nizar is not a career politician, unlike many of those who are now jumping over to PH. On whose advice was the popular choice ignored? Who has their own personal agenda to keep?

These frogs could destroy PH’s reputation and allow the re-election of UMNO in the next general election. They will also hinder the rebuilding of Malaysia. People will think PH is no better than Umno-Baru.

We do not want PH to be contaminated and brought down like this, not in Perak and not anywhere else in the country.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

The views expressed by the writer are not necessarily those of FMT.