The world is closing in on Malaysia’s insular ruling elite

by Greg Earl
Australian Financial Review
Feb 3 2016

There was a time when a Malaysian leader only had to slug it out in the opaque but tough forum of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) to remain in power.

And tough it certainly has been, with a leader or rising deputy ruthlessly shoved aside usually amid outbreaks of Malay chauvinism about once a decade during the almost 60 years UMNO has been in power.

Prime Minister Najib Razak produced a masterful performance at the party conference late last year drawing on Malay feudal notions of loyalty and more modernist Islamic principles to fend off a corruption scandal, a weak economy and criticism by his deputy.

Last week the Attorney-General Apandi Ali seemed to take his cue from the conference and declare that there was nothing more to investigate about one of the world’s most amazing political funding sagas in which the Saudi royal family put US$680 million in Najib’s private bank accounts in the run-up to the 2013 election. And after a budget adjustment to cope with the emerging market uncertainty, the attorney-general appeared to clear the way for the prime minister to celebrate his 40 years in politics. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal: You Couldn’t Make It Up

By WILLIAM PESEK
Barron’s Asia
February 3, 2016

While Swiss and Singapore officials turn up the heat, Prime Minister Najib Razak hides his head in the sand.

I don’t know who Najib Razak’s friends are in Saudi Arabia, but I sure want a few.

Who wouldn’t covet a pal or two willing to toss you $700 million as a “gift,” no strings attached? That’s at least the Malaysian prime minister’s story, and he’s sticking to it. Politicians overseas, meanwhile, would sure love to have Najib’s electorate. Since the Wall Street Journal broke news of his good fortune, Najib has displayed a fatalistic willingness to take an entire economy down so he can stay in office. And his party harbors little fear of losing power.

There’s the “Twilight Zone” and there’s the “Malaysia Zone,” and just try discerning the difference. Najib-gate grew even more surreal last week when Malaysia’s attorney general suddenly cleared him of criminal or corruption charges. In a hastily-arranged press conference, Mohamed Apandi Ali said Najib had returned all but $61 million of that “donation” from the Saudi royal family. Somehow, Apandi kept a straight face as he declared the matter closed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chinese New Year medley (A Cappella)

Pleasantly surprised to receive a video by very passionate Malaysians and musicians who produced a Chinese New Year: A Cappella Medley, by Kong Xian Ming and Colour of Voices (A Malay cappella group).

What a great and creative way to usher in the celebration of Chinese New Year the Malaysian way.

This is what makes Malaysia different.

We are a nation with a confluence of different races, languages, cultures and religions, where Malaysians celebrate the diverse ethnic and religious festivities not in an exclusive but in an inclusive Malaysian manner.

Just as Chinese in Malaysia celebrate the Chinese New Year together with Malays, Indians, Kadazans and Ibans; Muslims celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri together with non-Muslims; Hindus celebrate Deepavali and Thaipusam with non-Hindus and Christians celebrate Christmas with non-Christians – without fear of losing our respective ethnic or religious identities.

This make Malaysians unique and distinct from other peoples in the world!

Let us continue to celebrate Malaysia’s diversity, an asset which could lead to Malaysia’s greater achievements as a people and a nation.

Kudos to Xian Ming and Colour of Voices for blazing the way

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Cabinet today must take cognisance and act on the government failure to resolve Najib’s twin mega scandals by end of last year and the national and international firestorm over Apandi’s decision to exonerate Najib

The Cabinet at its meeting today must take cognisance and act on the government’s failure to resolve Najib’s twin world-class mega scandals by the end of last year and the national and international firestorm over Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamad Apandi Ali’s decision to exonerate Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak of any wrongdoing or crime and that no charges would be brought against him in both the RM2.6 billion donation and RM42 million SRC International scandals.

Far from Najib’s upbeat forecast in his 2016 New Year Message that his twin world-class mega scandals had been resolved and no more issues in the country, the very opposite occurred as his RM2.6 billion “donation” and RM55 billion 1MDB twin mega scandals have in the month of January 2016 mushroomed to unprecedented levels.

As a result, both Najib and Malaysia’s credibility and image have never suffered such serious dent, both nationally and internationally.

Four months ago, in a historic statement on Oct. 6, the Malay Rulers directed Putrajaya to ensure that 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal was thoroughly investigated and for those found guilty of wrongdoing to be punished.

The Malay Rulers also said that investigations must be made public in order to show that nothing was being hidden in the probe on the state-owned investment firm.

The Malay Rulers joint statement said: “The findings of the investigation must be reported comprehensively and in a transparent manner so that the people will be convinced of the sincerity of the government which shall not at all conceal facts and the truth.”

But none of the Malay Rulers’ concerns has been addressed, and not a single person had been punished for the world-class twin mega scandals which have given Malaysia the ignominious third ranking in the world’s “worst corruption scandals in 2015” and caused Malaysia’s ranking in the Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perception Index to plunge four places to No. 54 from No. 50 last year.

And nothing has been revealed to Malaysians about the investigations into the twin mega scandals “so that the people will be convinced of the sincerity of the government which shall not at all conceal facts and the truth”!

The promise by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi, who responded to the Malay Rulers’ Statement with the pledge that Putrajaya was taking proactive measures to address concerns raised by the Malay Rulers over 1MDB, have come to nought.

Hence the national and international firestorm over Attorney-General Apandi’s decision. Read the rest of this entry »

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Twists and turns of Najib’s RM2.6 billion

BY ANISAH SHUKRY
Published: 31 January 2016 7:00 AM
The Malaysian Insider

When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the RM2.6 billion donation controversy has been “comprehensively put to rest”, the Internet promptly responded with memes ridiculing the attorney-general’s (A-G) decision to close the case.

From comedians to artists, local blogs to international news wires, many found it hard to believe that it was okay for a leader of a democratic country to accept billions of ringgit from an unidentified foreign funder.

Najib urged Malaysians to “move on” from the issue but questions still abound despite the A-G’s findings that there was insufficient evidence to implicate Najib.

The Malaysian Insider revisits what is known so far about the billions in his account, since July 2 last year when The Wall Street Journal first broke the news that RM2.6 billion was channelled into Najib’s private bank accounts.
Read the rest of this entry »

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The Amman Message and intra-Muslim peace

— Syed Farid Alatas
Malay Mail Online
February 1, 2016

FEBRUARY 1 — Hostility between Sunnis and Shiites has become a dominant feature of intra-Muslim relations today. Indeed, the first decades of the 21st century will be known as a period of protracted conflict between these two major denominations of Islam.

Twelver Shiites, who form up to 29 per cent of the global Muslim population, are in the majority in Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Iran and Iraq. They also constitute important minorities in countries such as Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

The history of Islam is characterised by numerous instances of violence and hostility between Sunnis and Shiites. The confrontations were often initiated by Sunni rulers and, sometimes, by the religious elite who were co-opted by the state. Read the rest of this entry »

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Swiss 1MDB probe holds fat tail risks for Malaysia

By Una Galani
Reuters Breakingviews
February 1, 2016

It’s hard to bury a big scandal. That is the awkward lesson that Najib Razak is learning. The Malaysian prime minister is attempting to draw a line under a multi-pronged financial controversy that almost toppled him. But initial findings from Switzerland’s attorney general that around $4 billion may have been misappropriated from Malaysian state firms is a sharp reminder of the lingering threat posed by foreign investigations.

Even by the standards of Malaysian politics, it has been an extraordinary few days. On Jan. 26, the country’s chief prosecutor concluded that $681 million that was transferred into the Prime Minister’s personal account in 2013 was a donation from the royal family in Saudi Arabia, not money from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, an indebted fund he championed. Najib was cleared of graft. Three days later, however, Swiss authorities published preliminary conclusions from its own probe into 1MDB which found that billions may have been squirreled away between 2009 and 2013. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia stifles dissent as public unrest grows

Jeevan Vasagar and Michael Peel
Financial Times
February 2, 2016

Malaysia’s government has been battered by international allegations of corruption on a grand scale — yet at home prime minister Najib Razak appears as secure as ever.

While Kuala Lumpur is under pressure from global regulators, with both Switzerland and Singapore shining a light on alleged misconduct, the prime minister’s tightened grip on power has raised concern about growing authoritarianism.

Over the past six months, as controversy raged over $680m transfers into his bank account, Mr Najib has replaced the country’s attorney-general and sacked a critical deputy prime minister. Meanwhile, his administration has imposed travel bans on opponents and rushed through legislation Malaysia’s bar council describes as a “lurch towards an authoritarian government”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Foreign governments pile pressure on Malaysia over financial scandals

The Malaysian Insider
2 February 2016

Malaysia may have absolved its prime minister in a huge corruption scandal, but foreign authorities investigating suspicious global fund flows are making clear the affair is far from over and that the net may be tightening.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali last week cleared Datuk Seri Najib Razak of wrongdoing in accepting a mysterious US$681 million payment (RM2.6 billion) from overseas, sparking accusations of a cover-up in a case that has shaken Najib’s government to its core.

But within days, authorities in Switzerland and Singapore upped the pressure, pointedly responding that investigations into an array of Malaysian money movements were forging ahead and releasing new information. Read the rest of this entry »

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More images of ‘clown-faced’ Najib emerge online

Malaysiakini
Feb 2, 2016

Kita semua penghasut

Graphic artists are fighting back against the police warning issued to artist Fahmi Reza, by posting their own version of his sketch of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak with a clown face.

Fahmi received the warning that he is under police surveillance, after he posted a sketch of Najib, with the face looking like a clown, for an anti-Sedition Act campaign.
Read the rest of this entry »

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A simple and straightforward answer of “Yes” or “No” from Apandi whether he tried to persuade Swiss Attorney-General to drop 1MDB-related investigations last September

The Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamad Apandi Ali should give a simple and straightforward answer of “Yes” or “No” whether he had tried to persuade the Swiss Attorney-General Michael Lauber to drop 1MDB-related investigations, and if so, the reasons for his request and whether he had the sanction of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet for such a request to his Swiss counterpart.

The attempt by the Malaysian authorities to get the Swiss Attorney-General’s Office to drop 1MDB-related investigations came to light in the Reuters report entitled “Swiss AG suspects US$4 billion (RM16.6 billion) misappropriated, seeks Malaysia’s help” last Friday which referred to a meeting in Zurich in September last year where Lauber had discussed the 1MDB case with his Malaysian counterpart.

The Reuters report stated:

“Sources familiar with the September discussion between the two law enforcement officials said that the Malaysian official strongly urged Lauber to abandon his 1MDB-related investigation.”

If Apandi had tried to persuade the Swiss authorities to drop its 1MDB-related investigations, then his recent statement that he will co-operate with his Swiss counterparts regarding 1MDB-related investigations will have to be taken with a huge pinch of salt. Read the rest of this entry »

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Najib Razak puts Malaysia’s reputation at risk over mind-boggling donations scandal

EDITORIAL
Sydney Morning Herald
February 2, 2016

It’s almost a year since Malaysia’s highest court upheld the five-year jail sentence of former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on a dubious charge of sodomy.

So, from the spartan jail cell with a squat toilet and a thin foam mattress on the floor as described by his lawyers, Mr Anwar is not in a position to comment on the deteriorating state of democracy in his country.

We can’t know whether he shares the dismay and despair of many ordinary Malaysians at the wave of repression that has occurred since his jailing. We don’t know what he thinks about the government’s attempts to keep a lid on the mind-boggling scandal in which a $US681 million no-strings-attached gift attributed to the Saudi royal family found its way into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal bank account. But we could guess.

This week Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali issued a “move along, nothing to see” order to anyone worried about the donation of such a princely sum to a sitting Prime Minister’s personal bank account in a country claiming to be a representative democracy. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Observer view on corruption in Malaysia

Observer editorial
Sunday 31 January 2016

There is, rightly, widespread concern over Najib and a democratic deficit

Dato’ Sri Mohamed Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak was born to rule. Son of Malaysia’s second post-independence prime minister and nephew of its third, he entered parliament at the age of 23, inheriting his father’s seat and was handed several senior portfolios before being appointed prime minister himself in 2009.

Najib heads the powerful United Malays National Organisation (Umno), the pre-eminent political force. His national and personal dominance symbolises the bumiputera (ethnic Malay) ascendancy in a country with large, constitutionally disadvantaged ethnic Indian and Chinese minorities.

But as the intense firestorm sparked by last week’s arbitrary dismissal of potentially career-ending corruption allegations against him suggests, Najib is also seen by growing numbers of fellow citizens as unfit to rule the country whose leadership he inherited as if by right. His time in government, especially since the 2013 general election, has brought an expansion of repressive laws, multiplying human rights abuses and curbs on media freedoms more reminiscent of Russia than of a supposedly functional, pro-western democracy closely allied to Britain and the US. Read the rest of this entry »

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In Bolehland whether its a crime or not, depends on who did it!

By Martin Jalleh

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What would have happened to me if I had RM2.6 billion in my bank account deposited from foreign sources?

The Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamad Apandi Ali has rejected the investigations and recommendations of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and exonerated Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak of any wrongdoing or crime in the RM2.6 billion donation and RM42 million SRC International scandals, deciding that no charges would be brought against Najib and even instructing MACC to close all investigations on the matters with regard to Najib.

The immediate reaction of shock and outrage by the MACC special operations director Bahri Mohd Zin to the Attorney-General’s decisions and his comment that the MACC would “most likely” to appeal against the AG decision as the cases were so “straightforward” was a mere understatement considering the firestorm the AG’s decision sparked both inside the country and world-wide.

For the past six days, Malaysia was the “bad boy” of the international media, flayed as a country where the Rule of Law is treated as a joke because of the AG’s decision – a sober reminder to the Najib government that Malaysia operates in an open international society and borderless world where everyone of its decisions and actions must be able to stand up to international scrutiny.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamid did his image as the No. 2 in the country no favours when he tried to stop the conflagration of the the firestorm over the Attorney-General’s decision when he said a few hours after the AG’s announcement that “no one should question the competence or independence of Malaysia’s institutions or our legal process” – for Zahid was acting like Canute trying to stop the tide.

What would have happened to me if I had RM2.6 billion in my bank account deposited from foreign sources? Read the rest of this entry »

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Swiss wreck efforts by Malaysia to contain 1MDB scandal

Michael Peel in Bangkok and Jeevan Vasagar in Singapore
Financial Times
January 31, 2016

Malaysia’s leaders are battling the most severe international pressure yet over alleged large-scale corruption after Switzerland torpedoed efforts to contain the growing scandal around the 1MDB investment fund.

Kuala Lumpur’s attempts to play down an affair that has rocked the country and embroiled Najib Razak, the prime minister, have been derailed by a Swiss criminal investigation that said on Friday it found “serious indications“ that about $4bn was misappropriated. Read the rest of this entry »

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Najib is notching up a great shame and infamy for Malaysia when we are overtaken by China and even Indonesia in both TI CPI ranking and score within a decade

Durian Tunggal is in the Alor Gajah parliamentary seat, which is the fourth parliamentary constituency I am visiting Malacca today and the 79th parliamentary constituency I am visiting since my six-month suspension from Parliament on Oct. 22. The other parliamentary constituencies I visited today are Masjid Tanah, Tangga Batu and Bukit Katil.

I have been suspended from Parliament not because I had committed any crime or wrongdoing like theft, robbery, murder or corruption, but because I wanted the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to give full and satisfactory accountability for the world-class RM2.6 billion “donation” and RM55 billion 1MDB twin mega scandals.

It is because of the refusal of the Najib administration to live up to the principles and precepts of accountability, integrity and good governance that Malaysia had been named third in the world’s “worst corruption scandals in 2015” by the Foreign Policy website and the reason why Malaysia fell four places in the latest Transparency International (TI) 2015 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranking released on Wednesday compared to the previous year – now ranked No. 54 with a CPI score of 50/100.

Malaysia was ranked 50th among 175 countries in 2014 but dropped to 54th among 168 countries in 2015.

Malaysia’s ranking in the TI CPI 2015 could have been lower, as five countries, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Puerto Rico and St Vincent – which had been ranked higher than Malaysia – were excluded due to technical reasons like not meeting three minimum secondary sources for research.

In the TI CPI 2004, Bahamas was ranked No. 24, Barbados No. 17, Dominica No. 39, Puerto Rico No. 31 and St Vincent No. 29.

If these five countries which rank higher than Malaysia had been included, Malaysia’s ranking in 2015 would be between 59 to 60 instead of 54.

Furthermore, if the TI CPI 2015 ranking had taken into consideration the shocking announcement by the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohamad Apandi Ali rejecting the recommendations of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and exonerating Najib from any wrongdoing or crime for the RM2.6 billion donation scandal, Malaysia would have fallen to an even lower ranking in the TI CPI, probably Malaysia’s lowest ranking in TI CPI history since 1995 and be consigned to between No. 65 – 70 in the TI CPI ranking!

This why I had demanded for full accountability in Parliament for Najib’s world-class twin mega scandals, but instead I have been suspended for six months from Parliament. Read the rest of this entry »

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Call for Royal Commission of Inquiry into Najib’s world-class twin mega scandals as nobody expects the truth to be revealed if the matters are left solely to normal government investigations or even the PAC

The Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohd Apandi Ali’s rejection of the investigations and recommendations of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and exoneration of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak of any crime or wrongdoing in the RM2.6 billion donation and RM42 million SRC International scandals have convinced the overwhelming majority of Malaysians that they cannot get to the bottom of the Najib scandals from the ordinary government investigation and enforcement agencies and processes.

After the “purges” at the end of July last year, where Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Senior Minister for Rural and Regional Development, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal and the Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail were sacked; arrest or immediate transfer of key officers in major investigative agencies like the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Bank Negara, the MACC and the Police associated with demands that there should be full and fearless investigation into the twin mega scandals; and the four-month derailment of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) investigations into 1MDB and the subsequent appointment of a “cari makan” Chairman for the PAC, many entertained doubts that the truths about the Najib twin mega scandals could be uncovered by normal investigative and enforcement agencies and processes.

The last nail in the coffin of those who still harboured “hope against hopes” that the normal investigative and enforcement agencies could produce results in the probes into Najib’s twin mega scandals was the Attorney-General’s decision to reject MACC’s recommendations and to exonerate Najib of any wrongdoing by deciding that no charges would be brought against the Prime Minister. Read the rest of this entry »

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Najib proven wrong that his twin mega scandals are no more issues as they have become even bigger than in the past and gone fully international

The Sembrong Parliamentary constituency which covers the two State Assembly seats of Kahang and Paloh is the 75th parliamentary constituency I am visiting since my six-month suspension from Parliament on 22nd October last year because the Najib administration refused to give full and satisfactory accountability for his two world-class mega scandals – the RM2.6 billion donation and the RM55 billion 1MDB scandals.

Wherever I went, regardless of whether they are Chinese, Malays, Indians, Kadazans or Ibans, Malaysians are united in their demand that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak should come full and clean on his two world-class mega scandals.

Ever since the beginning of the new year, Najib had been declaring that his twin mega-scandals were no more issues as they had been resolved, but the opposite was the case – as Najib’s twin mega scandals have become even bigger than in the past and gone fully international.

Najib’s RM2.6 billion and RM55 billion 1MDB twin mega scandals were the reasons why Malaysia was placed as the No. 3 in the world in the “worst corruption scandals in 2015”.

They were also the chief reason why Malaysia had dropped another four notches in the latest Transparency International 2015 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranking compared to the previous year, announced a few days ago. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Companies Switzerland Says Are Linked to Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal

By TOM WRIGHT and BRADLEY HOPE
Wall Street Journal
Jan. 30, 2016

Swiss attorney general’s office is examining allegations of criminal activity from 2009 to 2013

The Swiss attorney general’s announcement that $4 billion may have been misappropriated from Malaysian state-owned companies opened a new front in the troubles facing 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, the state-investment fund set up by Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009.

Switzerland’s top prosecutor on Friday named a number of firms in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi in relation to the matter, but gave no details of their roles, if any.

The attorney general’s office said it is examining allegations of criminal activity from 2009 to 2013 relating to PetroSaudi International Ltd., a Saudi oil company; SRC International Sdn Bhd, a unit of Malaysia’s Finance Ministry; Malaysian companies Genting Group and Tanjong PLC; and a joint venture between 1MDB and an Abu Dhabi sovereign-wealth fund called the Abu Dhabi Malaysia Investment Company.

The investigation is one of a series of global probes into 1MDB. A Malaysian government investigation last year found that almost $700 million entered Mr. Najib’s alleged bank accounts via agencies, companies and banks linked to 1MDB ahead of a close election in 2013. Read the rest of this entry »

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