Will Malaysia have a kleptocratic Prime Minister as well as an unconstitutional Chief Justice next week?

International reaction to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s keynote address at the 13th Invest Malaysia Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday came quick and fast – that it does not buy the Prime Minister’s latest PR exercise to trot out the Malaysian government’s handling of the political economy in very upbeat and promising terms while trying, for the first time for any Malaysian Prime Minister, to demonise the Opposition, which includes the longest-serving former Prime Minister and two former Deputy Prime Ministers.

This international reaction came in the form of an Opinion piece in yesterday’s South China Morning Post by William Pesek in his article: “Why Mahathir Mohamad is Malaysia’s best hope, and Najib’s worst nightmare”.

The depth of failure of Najib’s “Punch and Judy” speech at the 13th Invest Malaysia conference could be gauged from the fact that the article by William Pesek, author of “Japanization: What the Wolrd can Learn from Japan’s Lost Decades” and columnist/journalist on Asian and global economics, business markets and politics, came out within 24 hours of Najib’s speech with the following six thrusts:

1. That “a shared disgust” for the current Prime Minister, “whose corruption scandals have Malaysia in the global headlines for all the wrong reasons” was the powerful force behind Mahathir’s “180-degree turn” on his nemesis, Anwar Ibrahim.

2. Since 2009, Najib hasn’t just tarnished the national brand at every turn – he has pursued an agenda ensuring a lost decade for a resource-rich economy that should be booming.

3. “Malaysia’s population, like those of Japan, China and elsewhere, will put up with dodgy governance practices so long as living standards rise. The ends tend to justify the means if bellies are full and bank accounts grow. But as Indonesia, the Philippines and other neighbours move forward, Malaysia is regressing in dangerous ways.”

4. “When Mahathir left office 14 years ago, Malaysia ranked 37th on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index. It’s now 55th. Since Najib grabbed the reins, Malaysia has stagnated in competitiveness and innovation rankings. He’s huge on buzzy conferences heralding Malaysia’s success in raising its game, but the facts belie the hype.”

5. The 1MDB scandal, described as a “national embarrassment” sparking money laundering investigations from Singapore to Zurich to Washington, and pulling Hollywood, Leonardo DiCaprio and Miranda Kerr into the fray. There’s also the “little matter” of of US$700 million that found its way into Najib’s personal accounts.

6. Malaysia’s “calcified economy” – The last eight years of drift and dysfunction and the possibility of a multi-year period of lower living standards and perhaps the dreaded middle-income trap; but longer-term, Mahathir could be the jolt that rescues Malaysia from mediocrity.

These are damning indictment of the eight years of Najib premiership which the Prime Minister cannot remain silent, after his keynote address at the 13th Invest Malaysia address on Tuesday.

Parliament has two more weeks to go before adjournment.

Najib should arrange for a three-day debate before Parliament adjourns on August 10 to clear or cleanse Malaysia’s reputation in international society from such a damning indictment, and in particular, the stain of the odious appellation of a global kleptocracy arising from the 1MDB scandal.

Is Najib prepared to start the process to clear or cleanse the stains on Malaysia’s international reputation, or is Malaysia going to be plunged to an even lower depth of international acceptability by having not only a kleptocratic Prime Minister but also an unconstitutional Chief Justice by next week?

(Media Statement in Parliament on Thursday July 27, 2017)

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