Malaysia on the wrong track

APRIL 14, 2016

Malaysia’s use of its colonial-era Sedition Act to frame possible charges against former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad following his interview with The Weekend Australian is a worrying sign of the extent to which democracy, civil rights and stability are under threat in one of the most important countries in our region. Dr Mahathir, 90, was Malaysian prime minister for 22 years from 1981 to 2003. But that has not saved him from the ire of the incumbent Prime Minister, Najib Razak. Mr Najib is fighting for political survival amid the $1 billion 1MDB sovereign wealth fund corruption scandal. Although he was widely regarded as Mr Najib’s mentor, Dr Mahathir is now fiercely critical of Mr Najib, demanding his removal from office.

In his recorded interview with our Southeast Asia correspondent Amanda Hodge, Dr Mahathir argued “foreign interference” was needed to oust Mr Najib, saying: “Normally I don’t like foreign interference in Malaysia’s affairs but our avenues for redress have been closed completely. So now we have to allow interference in our domestic affairs.” Under pressure, Dr Mahathir has since sought to qualify those remarks, saying he did not ask for foreign governments to interfere. But that has not pacified Mr Najib.

Malaysian police have confirmed they are investigating a range of charges against Dr Mahathir, including some under the Sedition Act, which Amnesty International says is being widely used to “silence, harass and lock up hundreds of (government) critics”. Last year in Malaysia — a country with which Australia has close economic as well as defence and security ties under the Five Powers Defence Arrangement — at least 91 individuals were arrested, charged or investigated under the Sedition Act. That is five times as many as during the law’s first 50 years from 1948. Journalists, lawyers and opposition politicians have been targeted. Amnesty has described it as “the authorities’ weapon of choice when lashing out at opponents”. Amnesty also has raised the alarm about “the rapidly shrinking space for freedom of expression”.

In office, Dr Mahathir was a rabid nationalist, invariably grumpy about the West and seldom warm towards Australia. But in the present crisis he laudably has committed himself to the honourable side. The fact he is being investigated for possible charges under the Sedition Act indicates how parlous the situation has become under Mr Najib’s autocratic attitudes.

The British-educated Mr Najib is the son of Malaysia’s second prime minister, Abdul Razak Hussein, and nephew of its third, Hussein Onn. He is steeped in the country’s post-colonial democratic traditions. But he is showing scant regard for them by lashing out at critics concerned about hundreds of millions of dollars deposited in his bank accounts. He insists Malaysia’s name is being “unfairly dragged through the mud”. In January he claimed “the matter has been comprehensively put to rest”. In fact, the repression he has embarked on is making matters worse.

Malaysia’s reputation as a stable and economically successful bulwark against Islamic extremism in our region is being imperilled by Mr Najib’s high-handed, self-serving actions. He is going down the wrong path. Malaysians deserve better than a slide into oppression.

  1. #1 by drngsc on Thursday, 14 April 2016 - 8:41 pm

    Yes, Najis has taken Malaysia down the wrong path. We are famous for all the wrong reasons. This is a clear illustration of why John Adams said the “Democracy cannot last”. It soon corrupts and destroys itself. Malaysia illustrates this clearly. We began shakily to try and become a democracy. After 60 years, it is obvious that with Najis in charge, we are a failed state where the state holds all the powers and are prepared to use the power for evil. Using cash to buy support, they destroy democracy and bring in Totalitarianism. This 1MDB as it unfolds, is obviously the mother of all thefts. ” How to steal from your country?’ should be the proper title for this 1MDB saga. Maybe someone will make a motion picture out of this saga. For all those who love Malaysia, how do we throw out this crook / criminal, and rebuild Malaysia? I sincerely hope that Sarawakians will teach Adenan a strong lesson and following that in GE 14, we will throw out DUMNO.

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Friday, 15 April 2016 - 3:38 am

    While everything said here is true and important, the article misses the real point. Silencing critics and spinning, actually lying, by Najib and team is not working. No one believes him even rural villages or Sarawakian going to the polls and will vote BN. Najib and team are destroying institution and the VERY FABRIC of this nation in order to stay in power. It’s literally about the selfish interest of the team Najib Vs everyone else’s. The very fabric of what binds team Najib to the thing called Malaysia.

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Saturday, 16 April 2016 - 7:54 am

    They tot d British-educated chap would worry?
    Hey, WHAT ME worry?

    U no see meh, 1 by 1 d critics n so-called patriots n rabid nationalists r found guilty under d Sedition Act n locked up
    Go ask Haris Ibrahim how he feels now

    Sarawak erection coming – many Malaysians r NOT allowed 2 enter Sarawak, although they can enter other nations
    So obvious, divide n rule
    Malaysians cannot even travel FREEly within their own nation after 53 years of creation of Malaysia, truly boleh

You must be logged in to post a comment.