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 In the past two months, the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak has charged nearly two dozen activists under an outdated colonial-era sedition law, that mandates three years in prison for acts that “excite dissatisfaction” with the government.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.