Can Najib save Malaysia if he’s the problem, asks veteran newsman

Malaysia may not be a failed state but there is no guarantee that it is not headed down that path, former editor Datuk A. Kadir Jasin said.

The veteran newsman also asked if Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak would be able to resolve the country’s political and economic crises when he himself was the cause of the problem.

“Maybe not yet but it (becoming a failed state) could happen if the escalating political and economic crises are not quickly and amicably addressed.

“But can Mohd Najib do this when he is the cause of the problem?” Kadir wrote in a blog post today.
He was responding to Najib’s recent statement that it was wrong to describe Malaysia as a failed state as some critics have claimed in the wake of a weakening ringgit and poor investor sentiments linked to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) affair.

He noted the apparent breakdown of cooperation between government agencies investigating the debt-ridden 1MDB, while civil servants tasked with probing into the Finance Ministry-owned firm were “being harassed, punished, transferred, cold stored and prematurely retired”.

“The institutions they work for are being undermined,” the former group editor-in-chief of pro-government daily The New Straits Times said.

“Malaysia is among the most successful post-colonial nations in the world. That cannot be denied. But what the people are saying lately is, at the rate we are going we could end up being a failed state.

“The signs are already there for everybody to see, provided they understand economy.

Kadir said among the current problems were the ringgit’s lowest drop against the US dollar in 17 years, the dip in Bank Negara’s external reserves, an “all-time high” in government debt at about 54% of gross domestic product (GDP), as well as stagnating income and rising cost of living.

“While the GDP is stagnating, wealth distribution is becoming worse. The income gap between the rich and the poor is widening past the pre-NEP level. In recent years, as a result of falling profits and low share prices, even the rich are getting poorer,” Kadir said.

“Mohd Najib’s record as Prime Minister and Finance Minister is dismal. Since he took over the two top jobs in 2009, the country’s economy and government finances have worsened.

“The country’s sovereign ratings had either been downgraded or had not enjoyed major improvements. And in more recent times, capital – local and foreign – have taken flight.”

He said Malaysia must urgently overcome the trust deficit towards the prime minister, or end up like Greece.

“Greece is the latest example of a failed state. If that happens to us, it would be worse. At least Greece has a big brother to bail her out – Germany. Who is going to bail us – China, Singapore?

Malaysia flourished because of strong leaders, says Najib

Malaysia’s ability not only to survive the early challenges as an independent country but flourish and prosper was not a product of chance or luck, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. He said Malaysia pulled through because of its leadership and there were particular leadership traits which were identified easily. “Our past leaders had a deep care and concern for the nation, and their services went well beyond the call of duty. Their decisions were instinctive and came from genuine patriotism and a strong sense of purpose.

“They were willing to make big personal sacrifices,” he said when delivering his speech on “Leadership in challenging times” at the 25th Tunku Abdul Rahman lecture organised by the Malaysian Institute of Management in Kuala Lumpur tonight. Najib said past leaders were also bold enough to act regardless of whether it was popular or not. He said they focused on what was urgent and necessary. This, he said, was exemplified by his father Tun Abdul Razak Hussein (Malaysia’s second prime minister) who was known for his principle of “firm action and less talk”. When matters required immediate action, winning people over took second place, he said. “Tunku Abdul Rahman bore the burden of negotiating for an independent federation of Malaya, emerging from the shackles of an empire and recovering from a communist insurgency. “Tunku’s prime challenge was to forge a new nation out of a society with little sense of unity or overall identity.” The prime minister said his father had led alongside Tunku Abdul Rahman, at a time when Malaysian society was in deep crisis, plagued by ethnic divisions and festering tensions. He said Tun Razak was not only able to prevent the almost-certain disintegration of society, but he put Malaysia on its path towards the rapid and widespread socio-economic development that was to follow. He said both Tun Razak and his deputy, Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, died in office and worked to the end, although they both knew the extent of their illnesses. They were willing to assume responsibility for the wellbeing of all Malaysians, he said. “They fought for what was right, took difficult decisions and created radical policies – all from the most noble and moral motives.” He described those leaders as dynamic and not rigid, saying, “I refer again to Tun Razak’s introduction of the New Economic Policy in 1970, and its continued implementation by his successor, Tun Hussein Onn”.

Malaysia’s Mahathir calls for parliament to sack prime minister Najib Razak

Malaysian PM Najib Razak under pressure to resign over allegations he pocketed millions from government-owned investment fund 1MDB

Mahathir Mohamad, modern Malaysia’s founding father and former leader, has called for a vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Najib Razak, accusing him of halting an investigation into corruption and buying politicians.

“A vote of non-confidence is necessary now because Najib has made BN members of parliament beholden to him by giving them lucrative posts in the government,” Mahathir said on his blog, referring to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

Najib is facing calls to resign after reports that he pocketed nearly $700m (£456m) from the debt-laden state fund 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

1MDB was launched in 2009 by Najib, who still chairs its advisory board. Critics say it has been opaque in explaining its dealings.

Mahathir was once a patron and supporter of Najib but has now used his widespread influence to lead the call for Najib to step down on graft allegations, which the prime minister denies, calling them “political sabotage”.

“Najib’s lack of respect for the law and constitution and his willingness to buy politicians and civil servants may mean the end of Parliamentary Democracy inMalaysia,” said Mahathir, 90, who ruled the country for 22 years.

“Even those who had come to me complaining about Najib’s administration before, upon being given posts in his government, have now changed their stand. One of them who claimed to have documentary evidence of Najib’s misconduct, now gladly support him upon being made minister.”

Najib responded to the corruption allegations by changing the attorney general and transferring officers involved in the investigation against him. He also removed deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the second most powerful member of Najib’s party, who has called for an investigation into the allegations.

Among Malaysia’s Many Scandals

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s ruling party is facing its greatest crisis of legitimacy yet. Long seen as a modern and moderate Muslim democracy, Malaysia has been riding on its economic growth and good diplomacy for years, and the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which has led coalition governments for nearly six decades, has been claiming the credit.

But rampant corruption, curbs on freedom of expression, a slowing economy and a currency in free fall have eroded public trust in the government’s stewardship. It hasn’t helped that Prime Minister Najib Razak recently reshuffled the cabinet, and sacked the deputy prime minister and the attorney general for asking uncomfortable questions. Or that once again the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), is using its influence over government agencies to bypass or manipulate electoral rules to its advantage, most recently through gerrymandering in the eastern state of Sarawak.

The last general election, in 2013, was criticized for many irregularities: flawed voter lists, gags on the media, the malapportionment of seats in Parliament and state legislatures. Although the Constitution highlights the importance of having a national Election Commission that “enjoys public confidence,” the commission has been doing the government’s bidding for many years. BN won just over 47 percent of the popular vote in 2013, compared with nearly 51 percent for the opposition. But it gained control of about 60 percent of the seats in Parliament.

The latest financial scandal to rock Mr. Najib also bears on electoral improprieties. The state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), whose advisory board is chaired by the prime minister, is fending off allegations of mismanagement; critics say it cannot account for some 27 billion ringgit in debt (about $6.6 billion). In early July, the U.K.-based Sarawak Report website and The Wall Street Journal reported that nearly $700 million had been transferred into personal accounts of Mr. Najib just before the 2013 election, suggesting a connection to entities linked to 1MDB. The anti-corruption agency claims instead that the money was a donation from the Middle East.

Last week, Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz explained that “a brotherly nation” had made the contribution “to see certain parties win in the general election because we’re friendly to them,” adding, “There’s nothing wrong.” But the opposition People’s Justice Party has filed a suit against Mr. Najib, 1MDB and the Election Commission alleging that these donations were illegal, and as a result the 2013 election should be “declared null and void.”

The Election Commission has a long history of manipulating the electoral system to the benefit of the powers that be. After the 1999 general election, it came under attack for enabling and covering up a vast vote-buying scheme in the eastern state of Sabah, in which local authorities distributed identity cards to tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who then used them to vote — usually, anecdotal evidence suggests, for BN.

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The Election Commission also oversaw the delineation of voting districts in much of the country in 2002-2003. A study by the Center for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity at Oxford University found that the process revealed a political bias in favor of the ruling coalition. “If the BN itself had redrawn the constituency boundaries to its own benefit,” the report found, “it couldn’t have done a much better job than the Election Commission.”

One of the Election Commission’s tactics was to break up constituencies that were BN strongholds so as to increase the number of seats allotted to them in Parliament, and thus bolster the BN’s potential gains. At the same time, it clumped together constituencies dominated by the opposition, reducing those constituencies’ total number of representatives and the opposition’s chances.

In a survey of elections in 127 countries between 2012 and 2014, the Electoral Integrity Project, an independent academic study, ranked Malaysia’s 2013 election 114 on its scale of perceived integrity. Yet today, nearly the same Election Commission that oversaw the voting in 2013 — all but two of its seven members remain — is in charge of redelineating voting districts again. And instead of correcting the system’s existing flaws, it appears to be exacerbating them.

The boundaries of Malaysia’s voting constituencies are to be redrawn ahead of the next general election, planned for late 2017 or early 2018, ostensibly in order to increase the representativeness of both Parliament and state legislatures. The effort started in Sarawak because the state is due to hold local elections by August 2016. So far, the Electoral Commission’s recommendations would increase the representation of less populated rural areas relative to that of more populated urban areas, which favors BN because it tends to fare better than the opposition in Sarawak’s rural parts.

A member of the state assembly from the People’s Justice Party and an individual representing a group of voters have challenged the Sarawak redistricting in court, claiming, among other things, that its lack of transparency violates their constitutional rights. The High Court of Sabah and Sarawak in Kuching agreed, but its decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal. That decision is now being appealed before the Federal Court, Malaysia’s court of last resort. (I have been involved with both appeals, helping represent the parties questioning the redelineation.)

Despite this challenge and civil society’s longstanding complaints that the Election Commission is not independent, Shahidan Kassim, a minister in the prime minister’s office, recently declared being “satisfied” with its performance. This stands to reason: Mr. Najib, who is under growing pressure to resign over financial improprieties, could use a big win in the Sarawak election, to steady himself before the national election.

Once again, the people of Malaysia risk being cheated out of an election. To prevent this, a citizens’ movement known as Bersih (which I once co-chaired and is now led by Maria Chin Abdullah) is calling for a peaceful mass rally on Aug. 29-30 to demand free and fair elections and a clean government — starting with Mr. Najib’s resignation.

In addition to Bersih’s demands, redistricting should be suspended, and the Election Commission should be dismantled. A new commission should be appointed in consultation with civil society.

Malaysia is a country adrift. The government is failing us. The Election Commission is compromised. The rule of law is eroding. The people of Malaysia must take to the streets to reclaim our democracy and the soul of our nation.

Ambiga Sreenevasan is the president of Malaysia’s National Human Rights Society (Hakam) and former co-chair of Bersih, a movement for free and fair elections.

Malaysia flourished because of strong leaders, says Najib

Malaysia’s ability not only to survive the early challenges as an independent country but flourish and prosper was not a product of chance or luck, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

He said Malaysia pulled through because of its leadership and there were particular leadership traits which were identified easily.

“Our past leaders had a deep care and concern for the nation, and their services went well beyond the call of duty. Their decisions were instinctive and came from genuine patriotism and a strong sense of purpose.

“They were willing to make big personal sacrifices,” he said when delivering his speech on “Leadership in challenging times” at the 25th Tunku Abdul Rahman lecture organised by the Malaysian Institute of Management in Kuala Lumpur tonight.
Najib said past leaders were also bold enough to act regardless of whether it was popular or not.

He said they focused on what was urgent and necessary.

This, he said, was exemplified by his father Tun Abdul Razak Hussein (Malaysia’s second prime minister) who was known for his principle of “firm action and less talk”.

When matters required immediate action, winning people over took second place, he said.

“Tunku Abdul Rahman bore the burden of negotiating for an independent federation of Malaya, emerging from the shackles of an empire and recovering from a communist insurgency.

“Tunku’s prime challenge was to forge a new nation out of a society with little sense of unity or overall identity.”

The prime minister said his father had led alongside Tunku Abdul Rahman, at a time when Malaysian society was in deep crisis, plagued by ethnic divisions and festering tensions.

He said Tun Razak was not only able to prevent the almost-certain disintegration of society, but he put Malaysia on its path towards the rapid and widespread socio-economic development that was to follow.

He said both Tun Razak and his deputy, Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, died in office and worked to the end, although they both knew the extent of their illnesses.

They were willing to assume responsibility for the wellbeing of all Malaysians, he said.

“They fought for what was right, took difficult decisions and created radical policies – all from the most noble and moral motives.”

He described those leaders as dynamic and not rigid, saying, “I refer again to Tun Razak’s introduction of the New Economic Policy in 1970, and its continued implementation by his successor, Tun Hussein Onn”. – Bernama, August 20, 2015.