Lessons from the Brexit Debacle — All very British Bulldog


July 16, 2017

Lessons from the Brexit Debacle– All very British Bulldog

by Dr. Munir Majid@www.thestar.com.my

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FORMER British Prime Minister David Cameron went for the Brexit referendum to strengthen his position in the Conservative party and end the warring among the Tories over the European Union, thinking the Brexiteers would lose.

His complacent and cavalier approach to the referendum in the British system of representative (not direct) democracy, without a robust presentation of the facts, resulted in a campaign driven by passion, emotion, prejudice and lies – and the vote by a whisker a year ago to get out of the EU.

How that was to happen was hardly touched upon. What was exposed instead were the deep divisions that exist in Britain.

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Cameron left the Brexit fiasco to Theresa May whose “Hard Brexit” campaign rhetoric was a typical British Bulldog mess

Cameron resigned and left the mess with his successor Theresa May. Her contribution to the momentous decision was: Brexit means Brexit. Indeed, as a former Remainer, she bent over backwards to go for a “Hard Brexit”, rather like converts to a new religion who become extreme to show how true they are to the faith.

Indeed, she called an early general election to consolidate her position in the party and to strengthen her hand in the Brexit negotiations. Her “Hard Brexit” campaign rhetoric was: no deal was better than a bad deal. All very British Bulldog.

In the event, the Conservatives lost their majority in Parliament, Theresa May’s position in the party is threatened and her hand in the Brexit negotiations weakened. She and her party stay in power through an unsavoury arrangement with the Democratic Ulster Unionists (DUP, who have an abhorrent set of beliefs – one of which is the Pope is the Anti-Christ – and who were able to extract £1.5bil from the prime minister who had famously said there was no “magic money tree” when nurses in the National Health Service sought a pay rise).

After the election last month, the Institute of Directors found a negative swing of 34 points in confidence in the British economy from its last survey in May.

Many epithets have been attached to Theresa May since. She has become rather like “Calamity Jane”. There is an appropriate Malay word that could be applied: kelam kabut. At sixes and sevens. Shooting every which way.

Meanwhile, the much-maligned leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who did so much better in the election than expected, has been elevated to being, as described by a commentator, “a cross between zen master and Star Wars character Obi-Wan Kenobi”.

This is a romantic notion, of course. The Labour Party is as divided as the Conservative Party, on Brexit as on anything else. Corbyn represents the far left, whose economic management for sometimes laudable social policies has many a time led Britain to a fiscal and monetary dead end.

The swing of support for the Labour Party came largely from young voters attracted to Corbyn’s promise to abolish university fees – although May’s political gymnastics and calamitous proposal to put a cap on state support for the old in retirement homes did not help the Tories.

At the first Prime Minister’s Question time after the election, Corbyn was straining at the leash to push his advantage, especially as the Grenfell Tower fire in London has exposed incompetence and division in British society yet again.

He was well armed with facts and figures and had May on the back foot. However, he was not able to put her to the sword. When the British Prime Minister cleverly turned the argument against him by saying it was the last Labour argument that had presided over the housing regulations that allowed the cladding that caused the Grenfell Tower fire to become an inferno, he did not get back at her.

He should have argued any government in power – and May certainly wanted to be in power – has no right to refer to the past (it was a Conservative government that got Britain into Europe) when its duty is to govern with responsibility here and now. Really not very Star Wars of Corbyn.

Britain divided

Be that as it may, both leaders are polarising figures. Britain is deeply divided along the lines of class, income, race, region and age. There is not a whiff of an Emmanuel Macron figure to try and unify recalcitrant constituencies, to find a new belief and a centre to move Britain forward.

Instead it looks as if Britain is going through a death by a thousand cuts. What are the lessons from all this – the sad tragedy that is being played out in Britain – that can be learned for our country and region?

The most important lesson is the threat of division in a country and society that builds up from a long period of neglect which is always exploited in politics.

United Kingdom Independence Party exploited xenophobic instincts among both the British upper class and the underclass, by playing on their fears, whether driven by racism and dislike of foreigners or by perceived rule from Brussels (the new Rome). These emotive references are easy points from which to get support.

Facts can also be twisted, as was evident from the many false numbers that were given on the cost of EU membership. Once a base is founded on base instincts, it is not difficult to whip up falsehoods as self-evident truths.

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In Indonesia and Malaysia, many positions are being taken on race and religion which divide society and cause minorities to become victims. This has been happening for some time and these countries should be mindful of destabilising eruptions.

In Britain, destabilising developments have been caused through the vote. The rule of law holds back the ugliest ramifications of deep social division. One wonders how they might be expressed in less developed political systems in ASEAN.

The other division is in income. We applaud ad nauseam the splendid economic growth rates in the region, and how ASEAN as a whole is the seventh or sixth largest economy in the world, and could become the fourth largest in 2050 or whenever, but do we give enough attention to income disparities and maldistribution of wealth?

They are increasing in ASEAN, within and between member states. Together with other divisive factors, the crunch time in Britain came in the form of Brexit and a hung parliament. In the United States, in the form of Trump. What form could it take in ASEAN countries where the ballot box is not always the preferred means of securing change?

Even with the economy, even as it grows, disruptions are now happening with digitisation, which displaces employment.

Employment for cheap manufacturing cost is increasingly becoming an attraction of the past. What are ASEAN countries like Indonesia and Myanmar doing about training and education, and retraining, for the digital economy? What will happen to micro-, small and medium enterprises and employment levels?

There is much research which shows, and empirical evidence that confirms it, that those at the lowest rung of education and skill level are the most exposed to this fourth industrial revolution.

Displacement of employment, with the already large income disparity, is going to divide society again.

Disruptions and fissures must be anticipated and filled. Otherwise, divisions in society will cause severe problems later on. And sometimes even earlier rather than later on.

We can become smug in Asia, or ASEAN – indeed, in individual countries – at how well we are doing. Even superior, when looking at the travails of other countries. We must resist this. We must learn lessons and understand we are so very far from perfect.

Dr. Munir Majid, Chairman of Bank Muamalat and Visiting Senior Fellow at LSE Ideas (Centre for International Affairs, Diplomacy and Strategy), is also chairman of CIMB ASEAN Research Institute.

Singapore–Smart City Smart State


July 15, 2017

Singapore –Smart City Smart State

I am in the process of completing my read of Kent E. Calder’s excellent book, Singapore, Smart City Smart State. I must admit upfront that I am an admirer of Singapore and the city state’s leadership going back to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and his team of brilliant men to  Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his colleagues.

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Calder’s book, therefore, intrigues me. In it,  Professor  Calder provides clear answers why Singapore  can serve as a model of unique governance for other advanced  economic economies and  the emerging world.

He believes “…its sustainable state and urban policy model, leveraged by the Digital Revolution and the Internet of Things, provides such a fresh and apt perspective on governance in today’s world.It shows how to tackle the challenges of transnational importance in a world where markets are almost completely globalized, but governance is not. As Singapore is an economically advanced  and technically sophisticated city-state, in the heart of the developing world, its example is not only timely but also broadly relevant. It provides insights for dealing with both G-7 welfare- state crises and also the epic rural-to-urban transition under way in the developing world, in an era of historic technological change” (p.163 of the book).–Din Merican

Malaysians–Rise up against toxic racism


July 14, 2017

Malaysians–Rise up against toxic racism

by Farouk A. Peru@www.themalaymailonline.com

There is something so counter-intuitive about racism. Even when racism was the norm, racists found a need to explain themselves.

They would come up with different theories as to why some races were superior to others. They would feel the need to explain why segregation was important. Think about it — do we ever have to explain why being united and transcending racism is important? No, because these attitudes are intuitively good.

There is something about them which we know, deep down, is correct and we gravitate towards them. Yesterday, I read a very disturbing news report about Astro and how it treated one of its customers.

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A woman by the name of Madhavi Rai was told by Astro’s customer service that ethnic Indians and foreigners were only allowed to use auto-debit service as their payment option.

Rai, who is of Malaysian Nepali and ethnic Chinese parentage, had complained that her application was rejected as she did not choose the auto-debit payment option after she was allegedly informed it was her only payment option as she is “an Indian.” How did they know she was an Indian? They simply guessed from her name!

It is true that my outlook on these matters may be out of touch with reality in Malaysia but I refuse to believe that this incident is acceptable where ever you are.

In the UK, even where the majority population is overwhelmingly white, an incident such as this would receive condemnation from the entire population except a marginal one or two per cent (who are the far right, neo-Nazi types!).

Racism is simply not acceptable and I learnt that from my earliest days here. A police chief commissioner at the time made the mistake of calling a convicted criminal a “black bas***.”

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An UMNO Racist Leader and Najib Razak’s Cheerleader

Had he just used the second word, it would have been ok but the first word made it racist. He then lost his job. No ifs, no buts. That incident left a lasting impression upon me.

Since Astro has not denied this incident—but have apologised unreservedly—it is safe to assume that this policy must have been known to its management.

There is certainly no way lower level management, let alone the employees themselves, could have put such a policy into operation.  The strange thing is, according to Ms Rai’s account, they simply offered no explanation at all.

A customer service representative even admitted that the policy sounds racist but “has nothing to do with it.” Quite a puerile explanation, if you ask me. Sounds more like a denial even though the facts are clear.

Worse still, Ms Rai’s Chinese heritage was invoked. She was told that if she were to register as a Chinese, she would be able to choose other payment options. How utterly demeaning to our Indian brethren!

In Malaysia, we are relatively lax about these things, especially when they happen to non-Malays. We simply see them as realities in 21st century Malaysia but even so, we forget that realities are not made without our consent. It is because we tolerated incidents such as these that they have become the norm.

Imagine the humiliation Ms Rai must have gone through! However she chooses to define herself, racially speaking, it should not have any bearing on her being able to choose any particular payment option.

Pegging payment options to race only says one thing — that some races are either economically disadvantaged or worse still, morally inept.

Either way, this is extremely insulting and all right thinking Malaysians cannot afford to ignore this deeply troubling incident. It is not enough for Astro to apologise. They need to give compensation to Ms Rai for her mental anguish.

If not cash, then free Astro service for an extended period. Even so, that is getting off lightly.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

All Roads led to Jared Kushner


July 13, 2017

by Nicholas Kristof@www.nytimes.com

For a year, the refrain from the Trump camp has been a defiant mix of “Lock her up,” “but the emails” and “fake news.”

Now it turns out that what was fake wasn’t the news but the Trump denials, that the truly scandalous emails were in the Trumps’ own servers and that the person who may have committed a felony is actually Donald J. Trump Jr.

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Two of a Kind–The Holy Father and Son

 

The writer Stephen King put it this way: “The news is real. The President is fake.”

The question is where this goes next. I suggest two directions.  First, look beyond Donald Trump Jr. to Jared Kushner and to President Trump himself. Second, explore how Trump Jr.’s attempt at collusion with Russians may relate to the bizarre effort by Kushner to set up a secret communication channel with the Kremlin.

To back up, just in case you’ve been stuck on a desert island, here’s what you missed this week. Donald J. Trump Jr. received an email in June 2016, eight days after his father clinched the Republican nomination for President, that said the Kremlin had “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary. … This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.

In 1960, the Kremlin made a similar offer to support the candidacy of John F. Kennedy against Richard Nixon, but the Kennedy campaign rebuffed it. Likewise, when the Al Gore campaign in 2000 received confidential materials relating to the George W. Bush campaign, it called the F.B.I.

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Paul Manafort–Ops Research Heck

Trump Jr. didn’t call the F.B.I.; instead, he responded, “I love it.” He apparently arranged a phone call to discuss the material (we don’t know that the call happened or, if it did, its content), and then set up a meeting for him, Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort to meet with a person described in the emails as a “Russian government attorney.”

In other words, informed of a secret Kremlin effort to use highly sensitive information about a former secretary of state (presumably obtained by espionage, for how else?) to manipulate an American election, Trump Jr. signaled, “We’re in!”

“This was an attempt at collusion,” noted Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. It may or may not have amounted to a felony, for soliciting a foreigner to contribute something “of value” in connection with an American election. The Predict-It betting website now lists gambling odds about whether Trump Jr. will be indicted.

The Trumps’ defense is that the meeting was a “nothingburger” with no follow-up. That would be more compelling if the Trumps hadn’t previously denied at least 20 times that such a meeting had ever taken place. Their credibility is in tatters. Crucially, this is bigger than Donald Trump Jr.

The Trumps insist that the President himself was unaware of the Russian offer. Yet the day after Trump Jr. received the first email and presumably had his phone conversation about the supposedly incriminating material, his father promised to give “a major speech” in which “we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.”

That speech targeting Hillary Clinton didn’t take place. But on June 15, the first leak of stolen Democratic materials did.

Then there’s Kushner. Trump Jr. forwarded the emails to Kushner, whose response was to attend the meeting, although he apparently left within 10 minutes. Kushner later neglected to report the meeting and others with Russians on his SF-86 forms to receive national security clearance (intentional omission is a felony).

The meeting gave the Kremlin potential blackmail material against the Trumps, and thus possibly leverage over them.

In addition, McClatchy reports that investigators in Congress and the Justice Department are exploring whether the Trump campaign digital operation — supervised by Kushner — helped guide Russia’s remarkably sophisticated efforts to use internet bots to target voters with fake news attacking Hillary Clinton.

Then there was the extraordinary initiative by Kushner in the transition period to set up the secret communications channel. There’s no indication that the channel was actually established, and the assumption has been that the communications would have required visits to Russian consulates — which would be bizarre.

But Barton Gellman, a careful national security writer, has another theory. He notes that James Comey, the ousted F.B.I. Director, in testimony to Congress referred to the risk that this channel could “capture all of your conversations.” Gellman suggests that this may mean that Kushner sought mobile Russian scrambling equipment to take to Trump Tower.

Look, this is a murky, complicated issue. But this much we know: Kushner attended a secret meeting whose stated purpose was to advance a Kremlin effort to interfere in the U.S. election, he then failed to report it, and finally he sought a secret channel to communicate with the Kremlin.

One next step is clear: Take away Jared Kushner’s security clearance immediately.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on July 13, 2017, on Page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: All Roads Now Lead To Kushner.

Muzzling Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad


July 12, 2017

Muzzling Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

“The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.”

– John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton

COMMENT | So now we have proof that UMNO members “cover” for their president. We have proof that the corruption of UMNO Presidents are covered up by UMNO members. We have proof that UMNO members will overlook any kind of malfeasances to keep their leader in power.

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All UMNO Leaders are filthy rich

We have this proof because UMNO Vice-President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is now acting Deputy President of the party, admitted as much when he told former Prime Minister and de facto opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad to shut up or recite Quranic verses to Allah, whichever comes more easily.

This is what Zahid said: “He unveils the flaws of the present leaders, don’t forget we also used to cover his flaws. Don’t let it be our turn to show his shame and ‘scabs’. There is so much that we can reveal.”

Let us unpack this statement. We can discern three important facts from it.

1) Zahid does not dispute that the current UMNO leader and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has “flaws” and in this case, the only flaws that the current de facto opposition leader Mahathir is unveiling are the numerous corruption scandals that are plaguing this regime. You would note that the UMNO acting Deputy President is not disputing those flaws, indeed he acknowledges them as human “weakness” that every UMNO politician (leader) has.

2) He acknowledges that UMNO members “cover” the flaws of their leaders. So, as an UMNO member, he is admitting that over the years Umno has engaged in acts to cover the possibly criminal or unconstitutional acts of their leaders to safeguard the position of Umno and the position of the President of UMNO and the office of Prime Minister of this country.

3) That by claiming “there is so much we can reveal”, Zahid is admitting that UMNO members have evidence of wrongdoing and have purposely concealed these alleged criminal acts from the state security apparatus, the Judiciary, the Press but more importantly, the public.

So, let me be clear. What Zahid’s statements reveal is that (1) UMNO members know that their leaders are corrupt (flaws); (2) that UMNO members cover for their leaders; and (3) UMNO members have evidence of the wrongdoings of their leaders.

How do UMNO members cover for their leaders? Now, I am just spitballing here, but they would have to ensure that their leaders are insulated from the banalities of accountability. This would mean that independent institutions that are meant to investigate and prosecute the “flaws” of politicians would have to be accountable to members of UMNO, whose primary goal is to cover for their leaders.

This would mean that the security apparatus, the judiciary and the press would have to answer to UMNO because these would be the institutions that the UMNO leader and Prime Minister would need “covering” from.

In other words, UMNO members, like Zahid and every other UMNO member who are covering for their dear leader, are collaborators and/or accomplices to the crimes committed by their President. I am merely clarifying what the acting UMNO Deputy President said.

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Partners in Power or Rivals for Power?

So, when UMNO members defend the indefensible, when they claim that their leaders have done no wrong, when every state apparatus clears UMNO leaders of wrongdoing, what we are left with is the knowledge, articulated by the UMNO deputy president, that all this was done because UMNO members cover for their leaders.

So, this means that the so-called Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the foreign exchange market (forex) issue of the past is merely an attempt by UMNO members to “reveal” the wrongdoings of Mahathir? This would also mean that this RCI is indeed politically motivated in defence of the current UMNO President and Malaysian Prime Minster because Zahid publicly threatened to “reveal” the “shame” and “scabs” of the former Prime Minister.

And why was Salleh shocked?

So, let’s take this issue of the “appointments as additional judges to the Federal Court”, which has received a fair amount of justified criticism from members of the Bar and former judges. Former Chief Justice (CJ) Abdul Hamid Mohamad had warned that “an extension of a CJ’s tenure beyond the 66 years and six months may compromise the independence of the Judiciary”.

In other words, what the Najib regime is doing may affect the independence of the Judiciary. This brings us to Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak’s shocking revelation that Mahathir, in his interview with The Guardian implied that jailed political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim “was fixed up by a corrupt Judiciary and the Judges were dishonest”.

Here is the problem. If UMNO members cover for their leaders and the only way they can do this is if they control the apparatus of the state, then why is it shocking that a former Prime Minister implies that the state, through the Judiciary, covered up a political problem for an UMNO President?

If UMNO members cover for their leaders, and the only way they can cover for their leaders is by controlling the apparatus of the state and concealing evidence (as articulated by Zahid), then why is it a surprise to the Communications and Multimedia Minister that the former Prime Minister implies a conspiracy by the state (during his tenure) to imprison a political opponent?

If by stacking the Judiciary in favour of UMNO politicians means that it would be easier to “cover” the flaws of UMNO Presidents, then why should we be surprised by the fears and warnings that this would lead to an unnatural relationship between the executive and the Judiciary as articulated by former CJ Abdul Hamid?

With this in mind, how can we not believe that this move by the Registrar of Societies (ROS) to compel the DAP to hold a further round of its central executive committee (CEC) elections is anything but a political gambit by the UMNO state to neutralise a political opponent of a compromised UMNO President before the upcoming general election?

Concerning this crippling of the DAP, this quote from Lim Kit Siang’s blog needs to be addressed.

“In fact, it has led even independent observers to swallow hook, line and sinker to believe in these fake news and false information. For instance, one independent commentator described the whole ROS fiasco as ‘a ticking time bomb of DAP’s own design’ that should have been addressed a long time ago in a transparent manner. How is the ROS fiasco ‘DAP’s own design’?”

Which is the more plausible proposition?

1) That I have swallowed hook, line and sinker the fake news and false information of this regime and its propagandists.

Or

2) That I was sincerely questioning the strategies (as it were) of an opposition political party that is in the cross hairs of this regime, the state apparatus that they control and the propagandists who serve them.

I will leave rational readers to decide which they think is more plausible. Ultimately, muzzling Mahathir says more of the collective guilt and complicity of UMNO members, rather than the agenda of the former Prime Minister turned de facto opposition leader.

Father of Modern Malaysia backs jailed former Deputy in attempt to oust PM Najib Razak


July 12, 2017

Father of Modern Malaysia backs jailed former Deputy in attempt to oust PM Najib Razak

by Randeep Ramesh

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/06/father-of-modern-malaysia-backs-jailed-former-pm-in-attempt-to-oust-incumbent

Mahathir Mohamad, the former prime minister
Mahathir Mohamad, the former Prime Minister, said his former protege Anwar Ibrahim is the victim of a political vendetta. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Mahathir Mohamad says former Deputy Anwar Ibrahim, jailed on charges of sodomy, should be freed to contest election against scandal-ridden Najib.

In a remarkable political U-turn ahead of a general election next year, Mahathir now says that his former protege Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s most famous political prisoner and its most charismatic public figure, ought to be released from jail and allowed to contest parliamentary elections.

Human rights groups have long said the allegations against Anwar are politically motivated attempts by his opponents, including Mahathir and the current Prime Minister Najib Razak, to silence him.

Speaking to the Guardian on a visit to London, Mahathir, who in power was accused of being an autocrat, said Anwar is a victim of a political vendetta and that a new administration would seek a royal pardon to allow him to re-enter politics.

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Najib Razak will be singing the Blues as the Day of Reckoning is coming soon. He is bad news for Malaysia, says Dr. Mahathir

Anwar’s lawyers are currently seeking to get him released after evidence emerged that suggested an impartial government-appointed prosecutor was paid a sum equivalent to £2m from a bank account controlled by the Prime Minister.

“In the case of Anwar we can make a case that he was unfairly treated. The decision of the court was obviously influenced by the government and I think the incoming government would be able to persuade the King to give a full pardon for Anwar,” Mahathir said. “In which case he would be able to participate in politics and become PM. I can have no objection to that.”

Malaysia’s opposition has gained ground in recent years, and nearly toppled the governing party in 2013, winning the popular vote in the general election.

Since then prosecutors have filed a multitude of cases against government critics, including opposition figures, a professor and a cartoonist. A national security act, widely criticised by rights campaigners, came into force last year which gives the army and police sweeping powers for seizure and arrest, and does away with inquests into the deaths of anyone killed in zones declared under a “state of emergency”

Mahathir stepped down in 2003 after 22 years in office, with no heir apparent. He brooked little dissent during his time in office, and ousted Anwar – seen by many as his natural successor – during a power struggle, ostensibly over an argument over the use of capital controls, in 1998.

A few weeks later Anwar was arrested, beaten by Police, then charged with sodomy and corruption. After a trial widely considered to have been politically rigged, he was given a six-year jail term for abuse of power, sparking widespread protests.

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 Time to set Anwar Ibrahim Free

Following his release in 2004 he became a leading opposition figure, before returning to prison in 2015 when a court upheld a five-year sentence on another sodomy charge.

Mahathir now accepts he made a mistake by not allowing Anwar to “succeed him”, and that he held on to power for too long, only to anoint two men who subsequently disappointed him, especially the current PM Najib, who is embroiled in one of the world’s largest kleptocracy cases.

According to lawsuits filed by the United States Department of Justice (DoJ), at least $4.5bn has been stolen from a state investment fund 1MDB. The purpose of the fund, which was set up by Najib as Prime Minister in 2009, was to promote economic development in a country where the median income stands at approximately £300 per month.

Instead, the DoJ alleged that stolen money from 1MDB found its way to numerous associates of Najib, who subsequently went on a lavish spending spree across the world. It also accused Najib of receiving $681m of cash from 1MDB. Najib has denied that claim, and all other allegations of wrongdoing.

Money from 1MDB, the US also claimed, helped to purchase luxury apartments in Manhattan, mansions in Los Angeles, paintings by Monet, a corporate jet, and even financed the Wolf of Wall St, a major Hollywood movie. Last week Australian model and actress Miranda Kerr handed over $8m of jewelry she received as a gift but which US authorities say was paid for by money linked to a Malaysian money laundering scheme.

“Najib is bad news for Malaysia. For the PM to be accused of stealing huge sums of money, I think that is something we don’t expect of any other PM. Certainly not in Malaysia. The money he is said to have taken is mind boggling,” said Mahathir.

Mahathir remains hugely popular with a broad swath of rural Malay voters who remember the boom years of his rule. He has registered a new party and is in talks to join the opposition coalition led by Anwar’s party. He now accepts that the authoritarian turn Malaysia took under his rule – including the use of the colonial-era Internal Security Act to jail troublesome opponents and tighten laws covering protests and the press – needs to be reversed.

Mahathir said he never foresaw a Prime Minister like Najib who was willing to “implement laws in a much more oppressive way than during my time”.

“Are the checks and balances not good enough? I agree to a certain extent they are not. We in Malaysia live in a multi-racial society and cannot be ever as liberal I think as the USA or Britain. But we should allow free expression in the press. Najib has a new security act that allows him to declare any territory under a state of emergency and detain people without any reason. I inherited and used the law. I did not abolish it and make another one even worse.”