Malaysia Blocks UK-Based Critic


July 22, 2015

Malaysia Blocks UK-Based Critic

by John Berthelsen

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/malaysia-blocks-uk-based-critic/

Claire BrownAfter months of devastating reportage by the UK-based Sarawak Report, the Malaysian government has had enough, attempting to block the internet site, edited and mostly reported by former BBC reporter Clare Rewcastle Brown.  However, almost immediately, social media have come alive with alternate routes to the site, making the government attempt look futile.

Readers attempting to access the site on July 19 were greeted with a notification in Malay and English by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission that “This website is not available in Malaysia as it violates the National Law.” As far as can be determined, it is the first time the government has closed down a website and it is reminiscent of an action by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in 1986 when, infuriated by detailed reporting on a variety of scandals, he ordered two Asian Wall Street Journal reporters out of the country within 72 hours.

Malaysia’s Center for Independent Journalism condemned the blockage, saying that “For any restriction on the guaranteed right of freedom of expression to be legitimate, it must firstly be authorized by a specific law. There must also be adequate provision for a website that has been blocked to appeal and challenge the decision of MCMC.  

The government’s action came at the end of a week during which it attempted to prove Brown had used documents allegedly doctored by Xavier Justo, a Swiss national now in jail in Thailand, to lay out detailed charges of massive fraud surrounding the scandal-ridden 1Malaysia Development Bhd. state-backed investment fund.  According to local media, Justo downloaded 2 million emails from PetroSaudi International, a Middle Eastern oil exploration company through which stolen funds are alleged to have passed. Justo was once an officer of the company but was paid the equivalent of US$5 million to leave. Apparently he sought to sell the documents to the highest bidder in Singapore. Brown did not pay for them.

Brown, on the Sarawak Report page,  called the commission’s action “a blatant attempt to censor our exposures of major corruption through the development fund 1MDB, including the information that nearly US$700 million of 1MDB-related money was paid into the Prime Minister of Malaysia’s personal AmBank account in KL just before the last election. This information has already long been disseminated and backed up by other major global news organizations, so we can only assume that the MCMC is fearful that we are about to bring out further revelations.”

The New Straits Times, owned by the United Malays National Organization, quoted a Thai Police lieutenant general as saying Justo had confessed to doctoring emails he had obtained from PetroSaudi International. But the Associated Press reported that Thai officials had refused to share any information on Justo with Malaysia.

In any case the allegations against Brown were almost immediately knocked down today [July 20] by an equally detailed report by The Edge Financial Daily, Malaysia’s leading business publication, titled “How Jho Low & PetroSaudi schemed to steal money from the people of Malaysia via 1Mdb.”  The article supports virtually every charge Brown has made against Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and the officials of 1MDB.

The 2,800 word article, complete with flow charts, describes in overwhelming detail the money trail by which US$1.83 billion was stolen from 1MDB by individuals connected PetroSaudi International and diverted into various accounts at banks in Singapore, New York, Switzerland and London by Jho Low, the young tycoon and family friend of Najib’s who was instrumental in setting up 1MDB in 2009, as well as two PetroSaudi officials and officers of 1MDB itself.

The government has threatened to pull the publishing licenses of both the financial daily and its affiliated publication The Edge Weekly over their aggressive reporting on 1MDB.

As the charges over 1MDB have continued to pile up – including one by Sarawak Report and the Wall Street Journal that US$680 million had been diverted from companies connected to the investment fund had ended up in Najib’s own account – Najib’s UMNO allies have pulled out all the stops, using the New Straits Times and other party-owned, Malay-language newspapers, radio and television and an army of bloggers to attempt to discredit the reports. 

Bloggers and government officials over the past three weeks have issued a barrage of charges against Brown, including one by a onetime employee of Radio Free Sarawak, also started in 2010 by Brown that the former employee had participated in faking evidence against the government.  But his charges have been largely discarded, partly because of an email he presented as “proof” had been doctored.  He has never written for or edited the Sarawak Report, Brown said. A picture of a man identified as Brown’s “mastermind” online forger of documents in the UK turned out to be the manager of a bus station in Norwich.

To most middle-class Malaysians, the government’s campaign against Brown and the international media including the New York Times and the Washington Post carries little weight. It is clear, especially since the stories have been backed up by local reporting on The Edge Financial Review, Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini and other websites, that 1MDB faces a huge financial crisis.  It has struggled to find the money to meet its loan obligations and a planned IPO looks dead for the foreseeable future.  It has dismissed its auditors twice after they refused to issue unqualified reports. 

But the question is how the scandal plays in the kampungs, the rural villages in the Malay heartland that provide UMNO with a reliable supply of votes.  UMNO’s support has been draining away in successive elections although now, with the opposition near collapse, and with an election three years away, it remains to be seen if UMNO can repair itself.  Its component parties in the Barisan Nasional, or ruling national coalition, have become irrelevant.  The next big test is the Sarawak state election, which must be held before August 2016.  At the moment, say political analysts in Kuala Lumpur, the Barisan holds a strong lead, if not an insurmountable one.

Malaysian Activists: Soldier on for Democracy, Freedom and Justice


June 1, 2015

Malaysian Activists: Soldier on for Democracy, Freedom and Justice

Tiananmen Square
Malaysian activists who appeared to suffer from political fatigue are told to embrace the never-give-up spirit in Hong Kong’s social movement. “What we should learn from Hong Kong activists? Persistence,” said political analyst Low Chee Chong at the ‘Remembering Tiananmen Square Massacre’ forum last night.

He related the emergence of Hong Kong’s social movement which was sparked by the infamous Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, where a Beijing student movement demanding for political reforms was brutally stamped out by Chinese troops.

According to Beijing, 200 were killed in the massacre, while the international media reported up to 3,000 deaths.

“The Hong Kongers commemorate the Tianamen massacre every year without fail. They have the July 1 rally as well as the recent 79-day Occupy movement,” said Low.

Likewise, Malaysians were inspired by politicians and activists who stood up against oppression, he added. The social movement here gained traction particularly after the 2008 general election, where hundreds of thousands of Malaysians poured into the streets of Kuala Lumpur to demand free and fair elections. However, the clamour for democracy seems to have died down after the 2013 general election.

Low, who is former PKR Deputy Treasurer, conceded that the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition has failed to live up to the people’s expectation.

But he argued Malaysians who want to see a two-party system should continue to back Pakatan as an alternative to the ruling BN.

“Bear in mind, political change is a long-term struggle. You will not see all your targets achieved at the various stages of the movement,” he said.

The ‘Remembering Tiananmen’ forum, which was attended by 300 people, saw Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong and lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung sharing their experience on video after they were deported on arrival in Malaysia earlier this week.

Hong Kong teen’s advice

Wong, who rose to fame at the tender age of 14 for protesting against changes to the education system imposed by Beijing, urged Malaysians to continue to fight for democracy through his pre-recorded video message.

“While I am not familiar with Malaysian politics, I want to encourage you to continue to fight, (just like) Hong Kong is fighting to uphold its core values of justice and democracy,” said the ‘Umbrella revolution’ activist.

Malaysians can reclaim their democratic rights if they persist in their struggle despite facing suppression by the government, he said.

Wong also shared the difficulties faced by youth activists, which include the likelihood of being banned by local universities, defamed by pro-Beijing media and being rebuffed by the older generation, who prefer not to rock the boat.

Meanwhile, Wong Ji-yuet, a 17-year-old Hong Kong student activist, admitted they made some mistakes in the Occupy movement, dubbed the ‘Umbrella revolution’, which saw thousands of protesters setting up camps in the territory’s business district for weeks last year.

“We tend to go to the streets, but forget to go back to the community and do advocacy work. This needs to be strengthened,” said Ji-yuet, who is spokesperson for student movement Scholarism. Unlike Joshua and Leung, Ji-yuet was allowed to enter Malaysia to attend the forum.

Malaysia–End of Freedom of Speech


May 16, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

Malaysia–End of Freedom of Speech

Prime Minister Najib Razak has chosen to go back to the politics of race and religion and use draconian laws to suppress political opposition and people’s dissent. You can expect more as Najib struggles to survive politically. As Prime Minister, he has let the nation down by flip-flopping on policy,  and by pandering to the demands of extremist elements in his party and ultra nationalist NGOs like PERKASA and ISMA. The evidence is clear and that is Malaysia in heading towards being a failed state headed by a weak leader who is no longer trusted by a majority of Malaysians.

najib-n-obamajpgObama and his Malaysian Poodle–TPPA Agenda

What surprises me is that the Obama Administration has chosen to ignore this reality because Najib has become their poodle. The United States, the so-called champion of democracy, freedom and justice, remains muted in its criticisms of the UMNO-Barisan Nasional regime. As someone who was educated in the United States and is an admirer of the sterling qualities of the American people including their generosity,I can understand what is happening because the politics in Washington  DC which is driven by corporate vested interests and strong lobby groups does not necessarily represent the feelings and views of Americans.

Malaysia without AnwarThe Obama Administration knows that Malaysia is no longer a moderate Muslim country; yet it chooses to ignore the views of the Malaysian people  as depicted in the Al-Jazeera video (below). Najib’s Coalition of the Moderates is a hoax. The country is being led by thieves of state (kleptocrats) who can act with impunity. This is because our institutions of governance has been destroyed by UMNO and its complicit partners, which has ruled Malaysia for nearly 60 years. –Din Merican

The Ugly Face of the Malay psyche on display


March 25, 2015

The Ugly Face of the Malay psyche on display

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

It takes a brave Malay woman to say what the whole nation is thinking, and it is amazing how many Malay men cannot wait to show the world the ugly face of the Malay psyche.

The threats of physical violence and rape on BFM host Aisyah Tajudin, for her satirical take on the Kelantan hudud law, have proven that despite receiving the ‘best education in the world’, many Malays remain shallow, servile and seriously stupid. Only insecure, egotistical Malay men would feel threatened, not just by the truth, but by a woman, and worse still, a Malay woman.

The rakyat’s problem is that Malaysia’s religious men aspire to become politicians, and its politicians pretend to be religious men.

The latest hudud debacle has very little to do with religion. It is about power. Power over the Malays in Malaysia. Power to overcome any non-Malay resistance. And power to crush any opposition, especially from progressive Malays, who represent the biggest threat.

Aisyah (above) wanted to liberate Malay minds, not conquer their bodies. Her video was for people to reflect and to ponder. She did not force her message on others, if they did not wish to accept them.

Aisyah discussed important issues, so we may understand some of our country’s problems. If she didn’t care for her country, she would have chosen to remain quiet, like 97 percent of the population.

The Malays are creative and in the olden days, songs, sajak (poems) or bangsawan (opera/plays) would relay any messages, from rulers to their subjects. Aisyah is merely continuing a rich Malay tradition. The Malays who reacted badly to her satire, are an uncultured lot.

Aisyah appealed to the Muslims’ faith and their compassion. The Malays who threatened her, revealed everything that Islam does not represent.The BFM host used ingenuity to drive home a message about hudud, in Kelantan. The bigots revealed their stupidity and inability to use their intellect, to counter her point of view. Their threats, to rape and kill, will force more moderate, but silent Muslims, to speak out. These bigots have also stained the moderate face of Malay Muslims.

BFM should not have apologised for making and airing the satirical video. The company probably had no choice. The government issues permits, and can shut down companies. In the past, companies had their computers seized, their editors harassed, their Muslim writers accused of being lesbian, gay, apostate or atheist, and issued with death threats, violence or legal action.

In the Charlie Hebdo massacre of January 7, terrorists used Islam as their excuse to mow down several people, including a Muslim Policeman. Disagreeing with the cartoonists, does not give the men a licence to kill. The terrorists’ actions further tarnished the image of Islam and gave the impression that Muslims lacked the ability to enter into intelligent discussion.

Silencing freedom of expression

The day after the Paris carnage, Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar said that Malaysia needed the Sedition Law to prevent such attacks on Malaysian soil. The terrorists used bullets, in Paris, to silence freedom of expression, but Khalid uses the Sedition Law, to curb freedom of speech.

The IGP claimed that his role of policing Twitter, was to act like the referee of social media, and stop troublemakers. So, why are tweets from extremist and racist UMNO Baru politicians not censured? Khalid should leave Aisyah alone, and arrest the men who threatened her.

NIK RAINA INTERVIEW Using a slew of laws like sedition and blasphemy to condemn Aisyah, just shows his desperation. The IGP is mimicking the Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department’s (JAWI) relentless pursuit of the Borders manager, Nik Raina Abdul Aziz (above).

Malays brought up on UMNO Baru’s diet of race, religion and royalty, have had their brains sucked dry. They have long forgotten how to think, to rationalise and to analyse.

By all means, blame UMNO Baru, but do not forget their new partners in crime, PAS. Both parties are desperate to take control of the Malay mind, but more importantly, their votes. It is all about power. Sadly, the late Nik Aziz Nik Mat’s experience of both him and PAS being betrayed by UMNO/Umno Baru, have already been forgotten by the PAS ulama.

PAS President Hadi Awang is desperate to force hudud through Parliament. This is about power. When it comes to absolute power, religion becomes a pawn, and a means to an end.

Hadi has fallen into UMNO Baru’s trap, and we are now being distracted by hudud, instead of tackling major issues like 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), corruption, the goods and services tax (GST) and the flood victims.

Malays can still be pious without having to become wannabe Arabs. Malays are in danger of losing their history and their culture, which go back several centuries, long before Parameswara was born.

If Malays do not reclaim their true identity, the only reference to Malay culture will appear at cultural shows, for the benefit of tourists, and at Tourism Malaysia performances worldwide. The religious indoctrination by power-hungry Malay men, has reduced Malays to a poor imitation of Arabs, and turned multi-cultural Malaysia to a ghetto-nation.

Hudud does not belong in multicultural Malaysia. Aisyah’s video made us think, and that is what the bigots fear most.

In campaign to defend democracy, U.S. should start with Malaysia


Najib and ObamaThis Big Talker engages in Empty Rhetoric, and in Barack Obama he finds a willing Partner to hoodwink the Malaysian People

Najib wants to have his cake and eat it too. He serenades President Barack Obama and promises to be all sorts of moderation. Najib is manifestly dishonest in the press conference standing next to Obama when asked about the Anwar case. He talks about making Malaysia competitive in the 21st century in speeches to the Council on Foreign Relations and to business leaders around the world. But at home he’s doing the same old same old thing – persecuting political opponents, stifling debate on campus and suffocating academic freedom. He cannot have it both ways.He must stop the bull and get down serious business of governance.

While President Obama is unlikely and incapable of doing anything publicly, this type of negative press undermines countless man hours of Najib’s PR machine that has been at work since 2009. They will have to start working on another scope of work at the cost of 20 or 30 MM to repair the damage. Send the bill the the Rakyat! – Rusman

 From the Washington Post

AT THE United Nations in September, President Obama, citing “relentless crackdowns” around the world against dissent and civil society, promised“an even stronger campaign to defend democracy.”Even when it was “uncomfortable” or “causes friction,” he pledged, his administration would step up to defend persecuted activists and “oppose efforts by foreign governments to restrict freedoms of peaceful assembly and association and expression.” So far we haven’t seen much follow-up on that promise, but the opportunities to do so are abundant.

One of the most urgent lies in Malaysia, a U.S. ally (can we say a poodle!) that has launched an extraordinary crackdown on opposition leaders, academics and journalists. In the past two months, the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak has charged nearly two dozen activists under an outdated colonial-era sedition law, that mandates three years in prison for acts that “excite dissatisfaction” with the government. Mr. Najib promised as recently as 2012 to repeal the law; instead, the government is prosecuting critics merely for speaking out, publishing articles or uploading videos.

At the same time, the government has revived an odious criminal case against Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the Opposition and one of the Muslim world’s foremost liberal democrats. Mr. Anwar was charged in 2008 with homosexual sodomy, which Malaysia shamefully still treats as a crime. Though he denied the charge and was acquitted in a 2012 trial, an appeals court this year reversed the verdict and handed him a five-year prison sentence. This week his final appeal is being heard by Malaysia’s highest court. If he loses, the 67-year-old Mr. Anwar will be imprisoned and banned from politics. Even if he wins, he, too, faces prosecution under the sedition law.

It’s not hard to guess why Mr. Najib might have broken his pledge to repeal the statute and reversed what was previously a cautious march toward greater freedom in his majority Muslim country. Last year, his ruling party for the first time lost the popular vote in a general election, to a coalition led by Mr. Anwar.

Gerrymandering preserved the government’s parliamentary majority, but the ruling establishment Mr. Najib leads appears to have set out to crush the opposition before the next election, due in 2017. The campaign is particularly destructive because Malaysia, unlike many other majority Muslim countries, does not currently face an internal terrorist challenge, though some Malaysians are known to have traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State. By eliminating peaceful means of opposition, Mr. Najib risks making extremist options more attractive.

Mr. Obama has made a point of cultivating Mr. Najib and his government as part of his policy of “rebalancing” toward Asia, and so far the administration has had little to say about the political crackdown. Perhaps, Obama wants to ensure that Malaysia sign the one sided and much criticised TPPA In March, it cautiously expressed concern about Mr. Anwar’s prosecution. But as Mr. Anwar has argued his appeal this week there’s been no sign of the “stronger campaign” Mr. Obama promised. The verdict is expected next week; if Mr. Obama is genuinely willing to incur “friction” with allies in defense of human rights, now is the time to do it in Malaysia.

Malaysia’s Growing Climate of Repression Gets Ignored


October 24, 2014

Malaysia’s Growing Climate of Repression gets Ignored

by Joshua Kurlantzick

http://blogs.cfr.org/asia/author/jkurlantzick/

malaysia lawyer protest march

Malaysian lawyers march during a protest calling for the repeal of the Sedition Act in Kuala Lumpur on October 16, 2014. The Sedition Act has been used to arrest at least 30 people since last March, local media reported (Olivia Harris/Courtesy: Reuters).

Amidst the gushing over the inauguration of new Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the first outsider, non-elite President in Indonesia’s democratic era, there is a significant void of international interest in neighboring Malaysia, where the climate for freedom of expression and assembly has deteriorated badly in the past year. Over the past year, the government of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, which in Najib’s first term had promised to improve the climate for civil liberties and abolish long-hated laws that allowed detention without trial, has shifted course. The government has pursued a sodomy case against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim that, next week, almost surely will end with Anwar being sentenced to jail, though the case was a comedy of ridiculous “evidence” and coached witnesses. (To be clear—I don’t think sodomy should be a crime, but it is in Malaysia; even so, there was no verifiable evidence Anwar actually engaged in this “crime.”)

In addition, over the past year the Malaysian government has investigated and/or charged at least thirty people with sedition, under an archaic law it had promised to eliminate, according to the Malaysian Bar Council. Most of those investigated and charged have been journalists, opposition politicians, and prominent civil society activists. The situation has gotten so dangerous for Malaysian civil society that last week hundreds of Malaysian lawyers, who normally are relatively passive in the political arena, marched through the capital to protest the government’s use of sedition laws to stifle dissent.

Why has this crackdown occurred? Najib has had to satisfy hard-line voices within his ruling coalition, and to fend off increasingly public criticism from former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. To satisfy hard-liners and Mahathir supporters—often the same people within the ruling coalition—Najib apparently has acceded to this harder-line policy against civil society and opposition politicians, whether or not he actually supports the crackdown.

In many ways, Najib seems increasingly divorced from the business of governing at all, taking long overseas trips while the country stagnates economically, state carrier Malaysian Airlines faces severe trouble, and the political environment becomes increasingly partisan and dangerous.

Although the Obama administration made improving relations with Malaysia aanwar-ibrahim-recent policy priority, it has mostly ignored the deteriorating climate for human rights and democracy in the country. When President Obama visited Malaysia earlier this year, he declined to meet with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (right) and held a brief grip-and-grin with a few Malaysian civil society activists. Other than that, Obama spent most of his time praising the Najib government. The White House has released just a perfunctory statement about Anwar’s trial and likely sentencing next week.

Ignoring the crackdown in Malaysia will eventually have long-term repercussions for the United States. Young Malaysians overwhelmingly support Anwar’s opposition PKR coalition, which won the popular vote in national parliamentary elections in 2013 but did not take control of parliament due to fraud and massive gerrymandering. They also tend to voice support for the civil society activists and journalists who have recently been targeted by the government in Kuala Lumpur.

Many reform-minded young Malaysians have been mystified when the United States, which a decade ago had been so vocal about democracy in Southeast Asia, and which still has significant influence in the region, has said almost nothing about the regression from freedom in Malaysia. In previous eras, American rhetorical support for democracy, American pressure against authoritarian leaders, and American linkage of aid and investment to political change had played a critical role in fostering democratization in East Asia.

In the 1980s, concerted American pressure on the governments of the Philippines and South Korea—after years of American tolerance of Ferdinand Marcos and a series of South Korean dictators—was a major reason why democracy prevailed in Manila and Seoul. A decade after Marcos gave way to the original “People Power” movement, sustained foreign pressure on governments in Cambodia and Indonesia and Thailand, in addition to many other domestic factors within these countries, helped precipitate political reform in these nations. Unfortunately, that type of pressure is absent today.