Archive for March 17th, 2016

Silencing the media in Malaysia

by Sonia Randhawa
New Mandala
16 MARCH 2016

Malaysia has a long history of cracking down on freedom of expression, writes Sonia Randhawa. But that won’t stop Malaysians from fighting back.

Over the past few weeks, the number of websites blocked in Malaysia has more than doubled, from 149 to 339, leaving the promises made about the country’s Multimedia Super Corridor lying in tatters.

Banned websites include The Malaysian Insider and the blogging platform — apparently because of one article published on the 1MDB scandal. It’s akin to blocking YouTube because of one video.

It’s a long way from the attempts to foster a knowledge-based economy and modern state by 2020. If technology was meant to send Malaysians sprinting down the information superhighway, these recent moves represent dangerous obstacles to oncoming traffic. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Save Malaysia’ campaign to oust Najib brings political foes together

By Melissa Goh
Malaysia Bureau Chief
Channel NewsAsia
16 Mar 2016

Political enemies in Malaysia have banded together in a campaign led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, the man who has been leading a year-long campaign to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak, has called for a referendum on Mr Najib’s leadership.

In the campaign, political enemies came together in early March to sign a declaration calling for the removal of Mr Najib, in what they claimed was nothing less than an attempt to save the country from becoming a failed state.

The group included Lim Kit Siang, a former political prisoner from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and civil rights activists who have blamed Dr Mahathir for many of the perceived faults in the nation’s political system. Even Dr Mahathir’s former deputy Anwar Ibrahim, whom he fired and jailed, offered an olive branch from behind bars.

“What Dr Mahathir may be trying to get at in the Citizens’ Declaration and in working with Kit Siang and the DAP and other groups, is to prepare the ground for the next general elections. Mahathir’s support for DAP and the new grouping perhaps could be important in terms of mobilising rural Malay support,” explained Michael Yeoh, executive director of the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute. Read the rest of this entry »

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Not business as usual in Malaysia

by Bridget Welsh
New Mandala
17 March 2016

Malaysian politics is entering new and rough terrain, writes Bridget Welsh. And the longer Najib stays in power the worse the country will be.

The formation of an alliance of former foes this month marks a turning point in Malaysia’s contemporary political history.

The Citizen’s Declaration opposing premier Najib Tun Razak through peaceful means and calling for political reform was signed by former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and leaders of the 1999 reformasi movement who opposed his leadership, other senior leaders in the dominant party UMNO, civil society activists who mobilised the masses to protest the party’s rule, and long-standing traditional political party antagonists.

To get these men and women to sit down together reflected the depth of concern among prominent Malaysians, who opted to put their country’s future before its political past. At issue was not just the scandals plaguing the country, but its declining economic fortunes, exacerbated by declining revenues from oil and gas and poor governance.

In response, the government has intensified a crackdown on international and Malaysia’s media, strengthened the government’s relationship with conservative elements in the Islamist party PAS, and to portrayed the Declaration as a conspiracy to topple the government — measures that have only deepened the ongoing crisis of confidence with Najib Tun Razak.

In contrast to the cool portrayal of ‘business as usual’, Malaysian politics is entering new and rough terrain. The democratic slide will continue, as Najib fights growing opposition to and disappointment in his leadership. Read the rest of this entry »

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Najib’s Jekyll and Hyde playbook at work again – on the day Najib presented the sweet face of reason to Parliament to let it decide on the twin mega scandals, his Ministers were already playing hard ball refusing to respond to questions about the twin mega scandals

It was classic Najib from his Jekyll and Hyde playbook in Parliament yesterday.

On the same day that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak presented the sweet face of reason to Parliament saying to let it decide on his twin mega scandals, his Ministers were already playing hard ball refusing to respond to questions about the twin mega scandals.

During question time yesterday morning, Najib said he will let the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) decide on his twin mega scandals – the RM55 billion 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion “donation” scandals – but shortly after, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said announced that the Federal Government will not respond to any parliamentary question on the RM2.6 billion deposited in Najib’s personal banking accounts, invoking the sub judice rule on the ground that it was now the subject of a judicial review application by the Malaysian Bar.

In one fell swoop, Azalina had nullified and negatived the assurance Najib had implicitly given to Parliament earlier the same day, that the Prime Minister had nothing whatsoever to hide in the twin mega scandals, that the attacks against him on the twin mega scandals were “orchestrated” and that he would let the PAC and Parliament decide on both issues to uphold the “process of accountability”.

How can PAC and Parliament decide on Najib’s twin mega scandals to uphold the “process of accountability” when he and his Ministers refused from yesterday to respond, whether during Question Time or in the Ministerial winding-up debate next week, to issues raised by MPs on the twin mega scandals? Read the rest of this entry »

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Was Azalina acting as the Speaker’s Speaker when she unilaterally and arbitrarily announced that questions on Najib’s RM2.6 billion political donation scandal can no longer be raised in Parliament?

Was the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Azalina Othman Said acting as the Speaker’s Speaker when she unilaterally and arbitrarily announced yesterday that questions on Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s RM2.6 billion political donation scandal can no longer be raised in Parliament because of sub judice arising from the Bar Council’s suit against the Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamad Apandi Ali?

The Bar is seeking a judicial review of Apandi’s decision to clear Najib of any wrongdoing in the RM2.6 billion donation and the RM42 million SRC International cases.

Azalina quoted Standing Order 23(1) which states that “a question shall not be so drafted as to be likely to prejudice a case under trial, or be asked to any matter which is sub judice”.

Firstly, Azalina has committed a grave contempt of the Parliament Speaker, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, usurping his powers as Speaker as under the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders only the Speaker can decide if a matter is sub judice, whether under Standing Orders 23(1) or 36(2) with regard to questions or debates, and even then only after the issue has arisen whether in the course of question time or debate.

Azalina should not exceed her bounds as Minister in charge of parliamentary affairs for the government, which does not give her powers to be the Speaker’s Speaker!

Secondly, the Bar’s suit against the Attorney-General on Najib’s RM2.6 billion donation scandal cannot justify a blanket ban on the subject of the RM2.6 billion donation scandal in Parliament, whether during question time or in debates, although nothing would make Najib, Azalina and the Ministers happier than to have a total ban to prohibit raising the RM2.6 billion donation subject in Parliament. Read the rest of this entry »


Malaysia turns screw on media as politics realign

Asia regional correspondent
Nikkei Asian Review
March 16, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR — It was a brief, sudden goodbye. With its website blocked by the government since late February, hard-hitting news service The Malaysian Insider announced on March 14 that it would cease to publish on the same day.

“The Edge Media Group has decided to shut down The Malaysian Insider from midnight today, for commercial reasons,” wrote the editor, Jahabar Sadiq, in a notice posted on the publication’s website, which had been blocked because of its reports on corruption allegations against Prime Minister Najib Razak. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission said The Malaysian Insider’s reporting broke the law as it amounted to “improper use of network facilities or network service.”

Najib has fended off calls for his resignation over hundreds of millions of dollars credited to his personal bank accounts in 2013, saying the money was donated by the Saudi royal family. He has also brushed off recent allegations that the total sum in his accounts amounted to $1 billion and came from troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, at which Najib is the chair of the advisory board. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mahathir no solution for Malaysia’s mess

— Manjit Bhatia
Malay Mail Online
March 15, 2016

MARCH 15 — In hounding Malaysia’s scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak from office, the autocratic Dr Mahathir, his old foes and others have moulded a union — of sorts. Hailed a “realignment” of Malaysia’s politics, some analysts immediately claimed Najib and his clique can’t ignore its peerless example. But is this unholy alliance all that it’s cracked up to be?

Awfully doubtful. Cracks surfaced even before this “political force” is properly forged. A little over a week later and its legs are buckling already.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat wants Anwar Ibrahim, its jailed founder, symbolic head and one-time Mahathir protégé, unconditionally released from prison, to which Mahathir must agree as part of the overall agenda. And elections reformist group Bersih wants Mahathir to admit and apologise for his past sins.

Mahathir has sneered at these tangents. No doubt the alliance’s champions will paper over the cracks. Time will prove that utility. But time is shorter than 90-year-old Mahathir thinks. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Malaysia’s push to stifle scandal questions backfired as journalists deported

By Philip Sherwell
Asia Editor
16 Mar 2016

Malaysia’s embattled prime minister Najib Razak is cracking down on critics as international probes into funding scandal intensify

The Malaysian administration has waged an increasingly heavy-handed campaign to muzzle dissent and divert attention as a funding scandal and corruption allegations shake his administration.

Earlier this week, Malaysia deported two Australian journalists who attempted to question the embattled prime minister Najib Razak about a $680 million payment into his bank account.

The reporter and cameraman from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation were detained and threatened with charges after they approached the Malaysian leader at a public event to which media were invited.

And Malaysian Insider, an outspoken news website critical of the prime minister, closed this week a few days after the government suspended its operations. Read the rest of this entry »

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The press has become too free for the government of Malaysia

Jahabar Sadiq
editor, the Malaysian Insider
Wednesday 16 March 2016

The threat of being accused of sedition and possible jail time has succeeded: people are shutting up and our independent news site has shut down

The news portal The Malaysian Insider went offline on the first minute of 15 March 2016 – the Ides of March. With that, 59 staffers, including me, lost our jobs. And Malaysia lost another source of independent news.

The closure was ostensibly due to an inability to secure a deal with potential suitors and to stem losses that rose to RM10m (US$2.4m) in the 20 months it was held by the Edge Media Group

But it came nearly three weeks after the internet regulator – the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) – issued a block order against us over a report that claimed the local anti-graft agency had sufficient evidence of a criminal charge against the prime minister Najib Razak, although the country’s attorney-general had cleared him of wrongdoing. Read the rest of this entry »

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