Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak dodging anti-corruption spotlight

Lindsay Murdoch
South-East Asia correspondent for Fairfax Media
Sydney Morning Herald
August 28, 2015

Bangkok: Embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has cancelled a speech at the world’s top anti-corruption conference as he refuses to explain $US700 million ($982 million) in his personal bank account.

Mr Najib was listed as a speaker to the up to 2000 delegates from more than 100 countries attending the International Anti-Corruption Conference in Kuala Lumpur next week.

But the Prime Minister’s photograph and biography have been removed from the website of the conference which the Malaysian government is hosting. Read the rest of this entry »

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No more Mr Nice Guy

Economist
Aug 29th 2015 | KUALA LUMPUR

Beset by scandal, Malaysia’s prime minister cracks down on dissent

DOWN a quiet lane in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, campaigners at trestle tables are doing a roaring trade in yellow T-shirts. The volunteers have already flogged more than 30,000 of the garments, which are becoming de rigueur for Malaysians planning to attend protests on August 29th-30th to demand the resignation of the country’s prime minister, Najib Razak. The protests are being organised by Bersih (meaning “clean” in Malay), a loose union of non-government groups calling for electoral reform. In 2012 police dispersed thousands of Bersih protesters with tear gas and water cannons and arrested about 500. This weekend’s rally in Kuala Lumpur, which authorities say is illegal, could yet go the same way. Maria Chin Abdullah of Bersih hopes that at least 200,000 Malaysians will protest in three cities. Malaysia’s political system, she says, “has really become quite rotten”.

The planned protests are the latest turn in a wild saga which has gathered pace since early July, when the Wall Street Journal reported that nearly $700m had found its way into bank accounts owned by Mr Najib shortly before a close-fought general election in 2013. Much has been made of the suggestion that the money is somehow linked to 1MDB, a state investment firm struggling to service debts of around $11 billion. Its dealings are now the subject of an investigation in Switzerland, through which some of its cash may have passed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Marching for my beloved country Malaysia during Bersih 4.0 this weekend

By Lim K.H.
Yahoo! News
27th August 2015

The villagers lined the street on both sides patiently waiting, hands behind their back holding a stone in each. It would be a matter of time that the Federal Reserve Units (FRU) or ‘Ang Thou Peng’ would arrive. They did. The FRU contingent arrived in their red trucks, and started marching in formation fully geared. The situation was tense. They marched down the road along Kampong Pulau or ‘Tua Lor Au’, as our village is called in Penang, within arms length of the people. It was a show of strength. Everyone waited patiently until one decided to release his stone with a good aim. Then all hell broke loose.

Villagers scrambled in all directions chased by the well-equipped police, who beat down anyone they could catch.

It got more violent by the day, as they introduced tear gas and eventually curfews to keep the villagers in their houses. Through the riot several canisters of tear gas fell through our atap rooftops into our kitchen when they were randomly fired from the street towards the village houses, forcing our family to take shelter.

What wrong have we done to deserve that treatment? The market strike in 1967 was a result of the currency devaluation. The weeks following the strike were fearful. Racial riots followed but how were they related? It was always easy to put the blame on race to stir up emotions and forget the real reason behind the events, in this case currency devaluation. The riots led to 24-hour curfews with short breaks for the purchase of food but shop shelves were empty. As an 11-year-old then, I could not fully understand the event or the implications of it, but living through the experience brought many lessons. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia: Why 1MDB Scandal Won’t Topple Najib

By Shuli Ren
Barron’s Asia
August 26, 2015

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak turned to the 1998 currency peg “old guards” to stabilize the sliding ringgit, while thousands are expected to turn up in a rally this coming weekend to protest against his role in the 1MDB scandal.

The Malaysian ringgit stabilized this morning after Bill Dudley, the New York Fed president, said overnight that a September rate hike was looking less likely. The ringgit has fallen from 3.60 in May to 4.23 recently.

Najib seems to be taking a page out of former premier Mahathir Mohamad‘s playbook. He appointed former Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop, who helped Mahathir design Malaysia’s now-abandoned capital controls and currency peg.

Meanwhile, large “Bersih 4.0″ rallies in Kuala Lumpur, Kinabalu and Kuching will likely hit global headlines this weekend. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia PM Najib Razak ‘has to go’, says ex-leader Mahathir

David Pilling in Kuala Lumpur
Financial Times
August 26, 2015

Behind the political crisis engulfing Najib Razak, prime minister of Malaysia, lies nearly $700m that somehow made its way into his personal bank account. Behind that, according to leaked documents, lies a state development fund with $11bn in debts. Behind everything, however, sits a 90-year-old, for two decades the unassailable leader of this erstwhile Southeast Asian success story, who is doing all in his power to topple the present prime minister.

That at least is the claim of those around Mr Najib, who accuse Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s forceful former prime minister, of mounting what they describe as a coup d’état. “He has abused his position and done everything he can to undermine his successors just because his list of personal demands is not being met,” says a person close to government.

Mr Najib strenuously denies any wrongdoing or accepting money for personal gain. The funds in his account, he says, came from an unnamed Middle Eastern benefactor — an explanation endorsed by the country’s anti-corruption commission. Read the rest of this entry »

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Remembering the Merdeka narrative

Netusha Naidu
The Malaysian Insider
27 August 2015

During a recent trip to Sri Lanka, I had the opportunity to observe the country’s general election. Local and international commentary suggested that this was their “most peaceful election” as it celebrated the notorious “warrior king’s” failed return to politics – a strong indication that the Ceylonese community had a solid stand against the anti-democratic culture of the Rajapaksa regime.

Intriguingly, one could clearly observe the nation’s drive to rebuild from the rubble of armed violence by the regime and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (more popularly known as the Tamil Tigers).

Many citizens were aware of their political rights as voters as shops were closed – whether in the city of Colombo or the rural town of Dambulla, they had gone to the polling stations to cast their ideals for a better Sri Lanka. Best of all was to see the “tuk-tuk” drivers proudly showing their ink-stained fingers when I asked them how the voting had gone!

To a foreigner, the land’s political landscape appears on a track of optimistic progress as there is a strengthening civil society movement for institutional reforms that strives for greater check and balance, promoting the independence and integrity of democratic politics – such as the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption which I saw on the way to the ancient city of Sigiriya, where I could not help but lament at the state of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) due to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) debacle. Read the rest of this entry »

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Salleh should not only ensure no jamming of phone signals but ensure that the telcos expand their capacity by at least 20-fold in anticipation of at least half-a-million people with cell phones for the Bersih 4 rally

The Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Datuk Seri Said Keruak has said Putrajaya will not jam telecommunication towers during the Bersih 4 rally in order to block communication amongst the participants.

The Malaysian public will hold him to his promise as in the previous Bersih 3 rally, the public have found their cellphone signals jammed which could only happen as a result of the directives from the powers-that-be to the telecommunication providers (telcos).

In an Internet and information era, Malaysians expect Salleh not only to ensure that cellphone signals during the Bersih 4 rally are not jammed and rendered unserviceable, but for the telecos to greatly increase their capacities many fold to cope with the increased traffic caused by hundreds of thousands Malaysians pouring into the Federal capital, likely to be larger crowds than Bersih 1, 2 and 3.

In this connection, it is most regrettable that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is already violating his public pledge that there will no interference or interruption of the free flow of information in connection with the 34-hour long Bersih 4 overnight rally. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia will be condemned as an instant rogue and failed state if police authorities allow agent-provocateurs to sabotage Bersih 4 and create chaos

I welcome and applaud the stern warning from the Inspector-general of police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar to all quarters not to promote violence, including the red-shirts – the anti-Bersih group.

Khalid said the police would not tolerate acts of criminal intimidation by anyone against those who participate in Bersih 4 rally, although the police regard it as illegal.

Referring to news reports that the anti-Bersih group would be training with machetes and swords as preparation to counter the overnight rally slated for Aug 29-30, Khalid said: “Nobody should take the law into their own hands.”

Khalid said such acts could be construed as criminal intimidation, and the police would not hesitate to take action against those who gather on the streets with weapons.

I particularly welcome prompt police action, with Dang Wangi district police asking the leaders of the Red-Shirt group to record their statements later today.

The Inspector-General of Police, the Home Minister and the Prime Minister should be forewarned that the whole world is watching Malaysia on August 29 and 30.

Malaysia will be condemned as an instant rogue and failed state if the police authorities allow agent provocateurs and anti-national elements to sabotage the peaceful holding of Bersih 4 rally by creating chaos and mayhem. Read the rest of this entry »

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In spirit of putting aside political differences to celebrate Merdeka, call on three million UMNO members and all members of BN parties to participate in Bersih 4 as an expression of patriotism and commitment to freedom, justice and national unity

I have just read on the news portals of the call by the Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak on Malaysians to set aside their political differences and celebrate Merdeka.

He said Malaysians claim they are loyal Malaysians but we seem to have lost the spirit of nationalism.

He lamented that unlike in sports, where Malaysians have discarded ethnicity in favour of nationalism and the Malaysian spirit, this is sadly not the case with Merdeka celebrations.

He said the impression being given is that there are going to be two Merdeka celebrations, one for those who support the government and another for the opposition.

Salleh cannot be more wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

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Breaking all the rules of democracy

Mariam Mokhtar
Malaysiakini
Aug 25th, 2015

“The tremendous support I get from Malaysians, enables me to continue our struggle,” said Ambiga Sreenevasan at a talk called ‘Why Bersih 4?’, in London, on Sunday Aug 23.

The lawyer may be slight in stature, but is brimming over with humility and gratitude. Despite the abuse hurled by Malay extremists, she said, “The good times are amazing. People come up to me on the streets, to shake my hand and say ‘thank you’, for what I am doing for Malaysia.

“The little acts by Malaysians make a lot of difference. Nameless strangers paying my bill when I eat in a restaurant. The bouquets of flowers delivered to my house, and the messages of support from people I do not know, all keep me going,” she added.

Ambiga was responding to a question about the trigger which introduced her into activism and why she continues to inspire people, despite the death threats and insults against her faith. Read the rest of this entry »

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Choice of words, and the shaping of opinions

Hafiz Noor Shams
Malay Mail Online
August 25, 2015

AUGUST 25 — When I think of the terms “coup d’état”, “overthrow”, “topple” and the like, I would think of a violent change in government. The revolutions in Egypt and Ukraine would come to my mind. Closer to home, having tanks rolling through the streets of Bangkok is another excellent example.

In contrast, when I think of the case of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi — backstabbed by his Umno colleagues and pressured to resign what seems ages ago — the whole episode falls under the realm of peaceful power transfer.

It lacks the violence or coerciveness that colours the words “coup d’état”, “overthrow” and “topple” so thickly. The events in 2008-2009 were messy but democracy is always unruly. It is never as clean as an autocrat dressed in a democrat costume would like. These autocrats think modern democracy is about having regular elections only while ignoring other prerequisites that are just as important.

I do not think the definition of “topple” I have outlined exists only in my mind. The violent undertone it brings falls within the everyday understanding of the word. If “topple” had been used to describe the end of the Abdullah-led administration, then I would think the term has been abused grossly. Read the rest of this entry »

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Where were you when this song was #1?

Greg Lopez
Malay Mail Online
August 24, 2015

AUG 24 — It was 1991.

I was 19. I was having a wonderful time at the legendary Setapak High (a high school in Kuala Lumpur) as an Upper Six student when (Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced his bold vision for Malaysia.

His vision for Malaysia was laid out in a speech titled, “The Way Forward” to the Malaysian Business Council. This vision would soon become official policy. Wawasan 2020 or Vision 2020 remains Malaysia’s primary aspiration.

I remember Wawasan 2020 for very practical reasons at school and at university. At school, it was “spotted” as a hot topic for both Pengajian Am and Bahasa Malaysia; papers that I was taking in my Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM, the Malaysian equivalent to the High School Certificate/HSC). At university, Wawasan 2020 was a big deal as seminars and workshops were organised to discuss Wawasan 2020. Beyond the lively discussions, there was always great kuih-muih and teh tarik, and a chance to get up-close and personal with “prominent” people – as politicians were highly regarded then.

The Malaysian government was full of confidence. In 1994, for the first time since 1974, opposition members were allowed to speak at University of Malaya. Lively banter and criticism of the government were welcomed both inside and outside of parliament. Read the rest of this entry »

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Choosing sides: Days ahead in Malaysia

— Rebecca Khoo
Malay Mail Online
August 26, 2015

AUG 26 —To some, patriotism simply means ‘love for country’ which is a very valid way of looking at it. Patriotism means different thing to different people. It is rather subjective as patriotism exists on many— and different— levels. Hence, what is patriotism to you? Maybe you believe that it partly is about voting for the candidates of political parties that you pledge support for. However, have you ever contemplated that giving mandate to candidates of political parties alone is not equivalent to love for the country. That is just exercising your right to vote, which includes the right to abstain from voting.

You may still think that you love the country in your heart, but is that so? Of course, placing your hand on your heart will not instill or fire up love for the country. Neither will singing patriotic songs, nor following the national theme for the National Day. Many Malaysians who have high political awareness support either the Barisan Nasional (BN) or the Opposition. The one-eyed partisanship is very clear. More often than not, people lose their rationality when it comes to politics. Staunch supporters from both sides of the political divide will come to their leaders’ defence-at all cost, never mind if the leaders are just as wrong as their opponents on the other side of the House. Read the rest of this entry »

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Come heal Malaysia at Bersih 4

– J.D. Lovrenciear
The Malaysian Insider
26 August 2015

Indeed the lyrics of the late Michael Jackson’s song “Heal the World” is most apt as Malaysians all across the country and in many locations across the world prepare to stand and walk tall for a better Malaysia.

“Heal the world (Malaysia), make it a better place, for you and for me, and the entire human race (all Malaysians)…” is what encapsulates the five demands of Bersih 4.

The quest for reforms in the electoral system, governance, freedom to protest, parliamentary democracy and the nation’s economy cannot be wrong or sinful. In fact it is truly an attempt to “Heal” Malaysia. Read the rest of this entry »

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Shifting the paradigm on Aug 29

Eric Loo
Malaysiakini
Aug 26th, 2015

We’re currently walking into a political minefield with not so much as a map to guide us through. When a prime minister can openly spew alarmist racial statements and denies any malfeasance despite the leaked documents without any fear of recourse, we are headed for worsening times.

As a people, we’re still divided along sectarian lines. Umno’s racialised politics would see to it that we remain divided in order to stay in power. The prime minister’s rant that Malays would be disempowered without Umno is politically desperate beyond belief.

Deluding the Malays that they can only prosper under Umno, that a non-Malay government will not hesitate to abolish affirmative action is taking the Malay grassroots for fools.And, the wider public should take such alarmist racial polemics for what it is – nutty gibberish.

Politico-economic crises fuelled by the 1MDB scandal and an increasingly fractious ruling party with the party president in denial should offer up new opportunities to mass-mobilise for fundamental reforms in the system and transformational change in how we engage with the political process. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bersih 4 Merdeka

KJ John
Malaysiakini
Aug 25th, 2015

I think it was about 10 years ago that I decided to stop flying the Merdeka Flag on Aug 31; and only flew it on Malaysia day instead, i.e. Sept 16. My reasons were simple. I realised that the Aug 31 Merdeka day had particular meaning only to the Malayans; but the Malaysia Day had a special meaning for all Malaysians.

Therefore, surely and practically, I moved my Merdeka Day celebrations and all it has meant for me, to the Malaysia Day; the day Malaysia was formed by the remaining three entities, after Singapore left.

Therefore, this year when the Bersih organising committee fixed Aug 29 and 30 for the Bersih 4 to walk the talk; it was easy for me to see and understand all the reasons for doing the same. The goal of ‘membersihkan negara kita’ is an on-going agenda towards achieving clean and fair elections so that we can form a government of our choice and based on our election and selection.

Nobody else can and should dictate that, even with the gerrymandering tolerated and moderated by the Election Commission.

Consequently also, when one former minister asked the Bersih 4 organising committee to march with Malaysian flags to celebrate Malaysia’s Merdeka; it was an easy and natural thing for all true-blue Malaysians. Therefore, this year with Bersih 4, we will also carry little Malaysian flags to celebrate this nation that we uphold and love but nevertheless also want to see things cleaned up. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bersih 4 Rally – The whole world is watching and Malaysia must not fail the global test of human rights, democracy and good governance so as not to head towards a rogue and failed state

The whole world is watching Malaysia on August 29 and 30.

Malaysia must not fail the global best of human rights, democracy and good governance so as not to head towards a rogue and failed state.

Malaysians should have had enough of bad news in the past weeks and months, with the Malaysian ringgit becoming “shringgit”, sinking to a 17-year-low to 4.2680 to a US dollar at 10.17 am today, and taken off notice boards of money-changers overseas with the notation “P.O.A.” or “price on application” because of its extreme volatility.

Malaysia’s foreign exchange reserves fell 19% since the start of the year, dipping below the US$100 billion for the first time last month since 2010, falling to US$94.5 billion on August 14 from US$96.7 billion on July 31.

The Kuala Lumpur stock market has also crashed.

Capital outflows from the country are accelerating, to three times the size of capital investments in the country in Q1.

These are not the only woes Malaysia is facing, as there is a multiple crisis of confidence affecting not just the economy, but also about good governance and democracy in Malaysia.

The Police should end all the semantics about the legality or otherwise of Bersih 4 overnight rally on August 29/30, and be guided by Suhakam which had stressed that the police have no power to ban any peaceful gathering and must instead protect the participants. Read the rest of this entry »

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Call for emergency Parliament in first week of September on three issues: (I) Economic, Political and Governance Crisis; (ii) fill PAC vacancies; and (iii) whether nation needs new PM and new Government

More and more voices are being raised expressing grave concern about the state of Malaysian economy, governance and democracy.

Today, among those who have spoken range from the Sultan of Johor; the nation’s top banker and brother of the Prime Minister, CIMB group chairman Datuk Nazir Razak and former Cabinet Minster who was Minister for Trade and Industry for more than two decades from 1987-2008, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.

Sultan Ibrahim Ismail Iskandar of Johor called on the federal government to resolve the instability facing the country as well as the falling ringgit.

He said that the “unstable political and economic situation“ the country is in now is a major issue which has to be dealt with immediately.
He said Putrajaya should not fool the rakyat by whitewashing the problems faced by the country.

Nazir voiced concern over the economy due to the ringgit freefall and said “people in power should stop saying ‘stupid things’ in order to help the economy”.

Rafidah questioned whether Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s acceptance of RM2.6 billion, said to be from a Middle Eastern donor, has opened Umno to being manipulated by foreigners. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Unfortunate Case of Malaysia’s Prime Minister

Greg Lopez
Forbes
Aug 25, 2015

The feeling that Malaysia is now in an abyss is real. Malaysians fear terrible things are happening to them and their country because of poor leadership. The man who – rightly or wrongly – will be blamed for all of Malaysia’s woes will unfortunately be the current prime minister.

In June this year, the minister responsible for transforming the Malaysian economy – Idris Jala – in an open letter to Bloomberg , complained that he hardly recognised the country that Bloomberg columnist William Pesek was writing about. In the open letter, Idris Jala provided a robust rebuttal to William Pesek’s derisive commentary on Malaysia.

Last week, Prime Minister Najib Razak was compelled to assert that Malaysia is not a failed state as public outrage reached a crescendo. Some even suggested that Malaysia is heading towards both a dictatorship and a failed state. Najib Razak countered with statistics and examples. Read the rest of this entry »

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Acknowledgement by IGP Khalid that “no confidence” move against Najib is neither criminal nor police concern will allow a proper and less inhibited discussion of alternatives to the present Najib administration

The country is sick and in crisis.

Today sees the rout of the Malaysian ringgit which fell to a record 17-year low of 4.26 to a US dollar and another record low of 3.08 against the Singapore dollar.

Malaysia’s foreign exchange reserves fell 19% since the start of the year, dipping below the US$100 billion for the first time last month since 2010, fueling speculation that Bank Negara is digging into the reserves to shore up the currency.

It has fallen to US$94.5 billion on August 14 from US$96.7 billion on July 31.

The lower a country’s forex reserves, the less it is able to do to shore up a sinking currency.

Meanwhile, capital outflows from the country are accelerating, to three times the size of capital investments in the country in Q1.

The reserves slid four times as fast as Indonesia, whose rupiah is the second worst-performing currency in the region. Read the rest of this entry »

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