Posts Tagged ‘Barisan Nasional’

Mahathir warns many figures on Malaysia’s financial position are false

May 17, 2018

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday many of the figures recording the country’s financial position may be false, but he did not offer any evidence or say which data he was referring to.

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“Regarding the numbers indicating our financial position, I realize many of these figures are false,” he told a news conference. “So we need to determine how much of it is inaccurate.”

Mahathir made the comment in response to a request for a fresh forecast on Malaysia’s economic growth. But it was not clear what numbers he was referring to.

The central bank, finance ministry and the Department of Statistics – all of which report data – did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mahathir won a historic election last week, defeating Najib Razak and his Barisan Nasional coalition, which had governed the country over 60 years.

The country’s central bank on Thursday reported that economic growth slowed to 5.4 percent in the first quarter of 2018, compared with a year earlier, leaving the new government with the task of turning around an economy that has decelerated for two consecutive quarters.

In his first week back in office, Mahathir has announced moves to effectively scrap a goods and services tax – a significant source of government revenue – introduced by Najib, reintroduce a sales tax, and review various projects signed off by the previous government.

Reporting by Liz Lee, Rozanna Latiff and Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Praveen Menon and Neil Fullick

His spokesman did not immediately respond to further queries.


Malaysia’s New Government Prepares Legal Case Against Former PM Najib Razak — “Millions lost in 1MDB caper”

May 15, 2018

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday (May 15) that he was confident that prosecutors will be able to build up a strong case to bring charges against former leader Najib Razak over graft claims linked to debt-laden state fund 1MDB.

Speaking via video conference to The Wall Street Journal CEO Council Meeting in Tokyo, Tun Dr Mahathir, 92, said: “We are slowly getting to the bottom of things and many of our senior officers are volunteering information accompanied, of course, by documents. We think that within a short while we will have a case against him, we will be able to charge him.”

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Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (left) said that he will soon bring a case against former prime minister Najib Razak, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing after 2015 revelations that around US$700 million (S$933 million) – alleged to be 1MDB funds – appeared in his personal accounts before the previous election in 2013.PHOTOS: AFP, EPA-EFE

Dr Mahathir added that he is facing the problem of “trying to trust people to investigate him”.

“Some of these people who were with him had sided with him and we do not know who is going to be loyal to this new government,” he said.

When asked if he might be willing to cut a deal to spare Datuk Seri Najib, if he were to offer information that can recover part of the US$4.5 billion (S$6 billion) that is allegedly lost by 1MDB, Dr Mahathir would only say: “No deal.”

Dr Mahathir had personally ordered travel restrictions on Mr Najib last Saturday after news spread that the latter was about to fly off to Jakarta for a short break.

Former prime minister Najib’s Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government was ousted in the historic election held last Wednesday (May 9) that marked the first time power has changed hands in the history of Malaysia.

Jailed politician Anwar Ibrahim will receive a royal pardon on Wednesday (May 16), Dr Mahathir said, which will pave the way for the Pakatan Harapan (PH) prime minister-in-waiting to run in a by-election and become an MP.

Dr Mahathir, who first led the country from 1981 to 2003 under Umno, is currently prime minister under an agreement with PH that he would eventually hand over power to Mr Anwar, whose Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has the most MPs in the four-party alliance.

He told the conference on Tuesday that he will remain as prime minister for one or two years – and would continue to play a role in the background even after he steps down.

In the immediate future, however, Dr Mahathir said Mr Anwar will play the same role in the PKR coalition as leaders of the other three parties in the alliance.

Malaysia: Ruling alliance held together by PM Mahathir Mohamad and jailed politician Anwar Ibrahim — But the relationaship is frosty

May 13, 2018

Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says the country’s King has agreed to pardon jailed opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim, paving the way for his imminent release.

This means Mr Anwar could be out of jail sooner than June 9, his scheduled release date.

Mr Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, is serving a prison term for the politically-motivated charge of sodomy.

A pardon will mean that Mr Anwar is free to return to politics and could take a seat in parliament.

“We will go through the proper process of obtaining a pardon for Anwar,” Dr Mahathir told a media conference.

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KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) – Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and jailed politician Anwar Ibrahim tried to ease a rift within the ruling alliance on Sunday (May 13) after differences erupted between their supporters over Cabinet positions.

The four-party alliance scored a historic victory in Wednesday’s general election over the long-ruling Barisan Nasional government, but the emergence of a rift so soon is raising questions about the unity of what was always an unlikely coalition.

In a statement from his hospital bed, Anwar said he had told members of his Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) to ensure that Mahathir’s government “remains strong and stable”.

But he also said that, in a conversation with Mahathir, he had raised PKR’s demand for “more inclusive negotiation”, a reference to the formation of the Cabinet.

Mahathir said in a telecast on state TV that “at the beginning, we shouldn’t look at proportion” in the Cabinet.

“It will be made up when we make up the rest of the Cabinet,” he said. “Surely there will be some conflict in need and wants of each party. This will be determined by the prime minister.”

Mahathir is the alliance leader and Anwar’s PKR has the majority of seats in parliament won by the group. The volatile relationship between the two, from friends to foes to allies, has dominated Malaysia’s political landscape for over three decades and is central to the future of the alliance.

Mahathir announced just three ministers on Saturday to join himself and Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Anwar’s wife, in the Cabinet. He was to announce 10, and sources within the alliance said there was no agreement on the others.

The sources declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Wan Azizah did not attend the news conference to announce the new ministers because of the disagreements, said one source in the alliance.

Mahathir then visited Anwar in the hospital where he is recovering from a shoulder operation and the atmosphere was frosty, said another source who was present. The source said Mahathir and Anwar are scheduled to meet again on Sunday to patch up differences over the Cabinet positions.

“Even the three appointed (is not final) because the decision was made without our participation,” Rafizi Ramli, a senior member of PKR, was quoted as saying by the Malaysiakini website.

“He (Mahathir) bulldozed it. He just unilaterally announced,” Rafizi said.

PKR won 48 seats out of the 113 won by the alliance in the May 9 election. Among other members of the coalition, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) won 42, Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) won 12 and the Parti Amanah Negara of new Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu won 11.

“The transition of power in Malaysia will be like water finding a new level, these things won’t be resolved quickly,”said Karim Raslan, founder of the KRA Group, a public affairs consulting firm for South-east Asia.

“It will be a race against time as the two grand old men of Malaysian politics – Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim – struggle to assert themselves.”

Malaysia: Former PM Najib Razak Not Allowed To Leave The County as 1MDB Issues Return

May 12, 2018

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, facing the prospect of his successor reopening a probe into a multi-billion dollar scandal at a state fund, has been banned from leaving the country. New leader Mahathir pledged in campaign to reopen 1MDB probe.

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Najib Razak. Photographer Brent Lewin-Bloomberg


Najib earlier said he was planning to take a short break with his family until next week, during which he would consider his future after Wednesday’s shock election loss. He will respect an immigration department order not to leave the country, he said in a recent Twitter post. Media reports on Saturday morning had said Najib intended to fly with his wife to Indonesia.

Najib’s defeat raises the prospect of him also stepping down as head of the United Malays National Organisation, the party that leads the broader Barisan Nasional coalition. The victory by Mahathir Mohamad, 92, Najib’s former mentor turned rival, brought Barisan Nasional’s 61 year rule to an abrupt end.

“Any decision that I will make later, will only be to ensure UMNO and Barisan Nasional can return to strength and regain the people’s trust,” Najib said in a statement on Facebook.

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Read more: Malaysia’s 1MDB Spurs Voter Backlash, Global Probes: QuickTake

Earlier Saturday, Najib said he and his Barisan Nasional colleagues were committed to respecting the will of the people and facilitating a smooth transfer of power.

“The best interests of Malaysia and its people will always be my first priority and I intend to continue serving them in whatever capacity I can.”

Mahathir, who was prime minister from 1981 to 2003 and defected to the opposition in order to stand as their candidate, repeatedly called Najib a “thief” on the campaign trail and pledged to reopen an investigation into state fund 1MDB.

The U.S. Department of Justice claims billions were siphoned from the fund, which was first set up in 2009 to support infrastructure in Malaysia. Najib faced allegations that some of the money ended up in his personal accounts before an election in 2013. He acknowledged around $700 million appeared in his accounts but said it was a donation from the Saudi royal family and most of it was later returned. He was cleared by the country’s attorney-general of wrongdoing.

If the law finds Najib has done something wrong he will need to face the consequences, Mahathir said Thursday at a briefing.

“We are not seeking revenge,” he said. “What we want to do is to restore the rule of law.

— With assistance by Anisah Shukry

Malaysia’s ruling coalition losing ground, but could still win

May 8, 2018

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling coalition has lost more ground in the lead-up to Wednesday’s general election, but it could still win enough parliamentary seats to cling on to power, a survey by an independent polling firm said.

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Najib Razak (L) and Mahathir Mohamad

Scandal-hit Najib, whose Barisan Nasional (BN) alliance has ruled Malaysia for more than six decades, is pitted in a fierce contest against his former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad.

The eve-of-poll survey published by Merdeka Center on Tuesday showed Najib’s coalition would win just 37.3 percent of the popular vote in peninsular Malaysia, which accounts for nearly three-quarters of the seats in parliament, down from the 40.3 percent the firm had predicted last week.

The Mahathir-led opposition alliance’s support also fell slightly to 43.4 percent from 43.7 percent, it showed. The Islamist Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), which is not part of Mahathir’s bloc, saw support increase by 3.3 percentage points to 19.3 percent.

The polling of the popular vote did not cover the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak, which have historically been pro-BN, although there have been recent signs of a swing away from the government in Sabah.

The survey predicted that Najib’s coalition would win 100 of the 222 seats in parliament, while Mahathir’s alliance would win 83 seats, with contests in 37 constituencies too close to call.

The winning party needs to get at least 112 seats to form a government. The ruling coalition won 133 seats in the 2013 election, despite losing the popular vote.

Najib was set to broadcast live on state media at 1400 GMT. He will announce a “good and special news” for the people, state news agency Bernama reported, citing a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

At the same time, Mahathir was due to livestream his speech from a rally in his constituency on the island of Langkawi.

They will be the leaders’ final speeches before polls open on Wednesday at 8 a.m. (0000 GMT).


Merdeka said in a statement that this would be “one of the most contested elections ever in the country’s political history”.

“The high number of marginal seats (37), implies that voter turnout will be a critical factor in determining the outcome of many seats on election day,” the pollster said in the statement, adding that it predicted BN would retain federal power.

Najib’s coalition failed to win the popular vote in the last election in 2013, getting 47.3 percent of the votes in what was seen as a setback for the ruling alliance even though it retained power.

Najib faces far greater risks this time than in any previous election, and analysts have warned a weak performance could trigger an internal revolt against the 64-year-old premier.

Merdeka’s estimated tally of seats per state showed BN winning only seven out of 26 parliamentary seats in Johor, the birthplace of Najib’s United Malay National Organization (UMNO), with the opposition getting 14. Five seats in the bellwether state were too close to call, it said.

The ruling alliance would win all but three parliamentary seats in Kelantan state in the northeast, which is governed by the conservative PAS, the survey predicted.


In an interview on pro-government television late on Monday, Najib said he was confident of winning the election.

“Our political base is still strong and intact. That is why I am confident, because we actually have strength,” said Najib, whose popularity has taken a hit from rising living costs and a graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing over the billions of dollars allegedly siphoned off from the state fund, which he founded, and he has been cleared of any offense by Malaysia’s attorney general.

In the election run-up, opposition leaders and civil society groups have complained that measures such as gerrymandering have tilted the poll in BN’s favor.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, SUHAKAM, on Tuesday urged the election panel to avoid actions seen as partisan and selective.

“SUHAKAM believes the level playing-field is affected with instances of questionable disqualification of candidates and money and gifts being distributed,” it said in a statement.

Additional reporting by Joseph Sipalan and Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Praveen Menon and Alex Richardson

Malaysia’s election: promised increases in cash handouts likely to damage the economy

May 7, 2018

In the run-up to Malaysia’s general election this week, the ruling alliance has promised to increase cash handouts while the opposition says it will roll back a consumption tax, prompting some economists to say that, whoever wins, fiscal reform will be delayed.

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Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) in Malaysia August 15, 2017. Reuters photo

Malaysia, Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy, recorded 5.9 percent economic growth in 2017, its best performance in three years. The surge is likely to have persuaded Prime Minister Najib Razak to call the election earlier than August, when it was due, political analysts have said.

His Barisan Nasional (BN) alliance is widely expected to retain power despite a robust opposition challenge.

Rising costs of living have been a major issue in the campaign and both Najib and his chief opponent, former long-serving premier Mahathir Mohamad, have made lavish promises to address the issue.

BN has promised to expand cash handouts – in some cases nearly double payouts to some low income families – and erase some debts of operators of palm plantations under the state-owned agency Felda.

The Mahathir-led opposition bloc has vowed to roll back an unpopular goods and services tax (GST) introduced in 2015 by Najib and reinstate petrol subsidies in the first 100 days if it wins.

“The raft of giveaways announced in BN’s manifesto mean that the government is unlikely to meet its target for 2018 of reducing the deficit from 3.0 percent to 2.8 percent of GDP. The move is likely to mean that deficit reduction will carry on past 2023,” Gareth Leather, senior Asia economist at Capital Economics, said in a recent research report.

“A Mahathir victory would throw fiscal consolidation even further off track.”

Yeah Kim Leng, an external member of the Malaysian central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, said BN’s promise to almost double cash handouts could cost the government about 4 billion ringgit ($1.01 billion) additionally in 2018.

And if Mahathir’s bloc abolishes GST and replaces it with another tax as promised, the government could face a revenue deficit of about 20 billion ringgit in 2018, he said.

In the current budget, the government has projected a deficit of 39.8 billion ringgit amounting to 2.8 percent of projected GDP.

“(Political parties) need to ensure fiscal sustainability is not too adversely affected. The threat of being downgraded by international rating agencies will be very costly to financial markets,” Yeah told Reuters.

Other than meeting fiscal deficit targets, the new government will also have to keep Malaysia’s debt level below a self-imposed target of 55 percent, he said.

Johari Abdul Ghani, Malaysia’s second finance minister, told local media last month that the cash handouts would not affect the fiscal deficit target of 2.8 percent, as the government has gained extra income from the rise in crude oil prices.


Najib has been able to lower Malaysia’s fiscal deficit every year since taking power in 2009 and that has been significant for maintaining the country’s investment-grade sovereign credit ratings.

But ratings agencies have raised some concerns over further reduction in deficit: In February, Moody’s said further fiscal consolidation “is likely to be very slow absent any meaningful revenue-raising measures,” which it said the past two budgets did not have.

Malaysia has already pushed back on a target of a balanced budget by 2020, saying it would need another two to three years to reach the goal.

Moody’s said in a report last week that the impact of the campaign promises by both parties on Malaysia’s sovereign credit will depend on how the proposed measures are funded and if on-going efforts at fiscal consolidation will be delayed.

Markets have been largely stable in the run up to the elections on expectations that Najib will retain power.

Frank Benzimra, head of Asia equity strategy at Societe Generale, said markets were expecting a Najib victory.

“Any disappointment, which would result in questioning the currently good economic momentum, would create some short-term ripples,” he said.

Reporting by Liz Lee; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Praveen Menon and Raju Gopalakrishnan


Clash of political titans brings a gripping election to Malaysia

May 7, 2018

Malaysia’s general election this week will be an extraordinary contest, pitting a 92-year-old former authoritarian leader and a jailed reformist he fell out with 20 years ago against a prime minister who has been mired in a multi-billion-dollar scandal.

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FILE PHOTO – A combination photo of Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak and former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad (R) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, January 25, 2016 and March 30, 2017 (R). REUTERS/Olivia Harris REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin(R)/File Photos

Few doubt that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which has ruled Malaysia for the six decades since independence, will triumph in Wednesday’s poll.

But a robust challenge from the opposition – spearheaded by nonagenarian Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, and his one-time protege Anwar Ibrahim – has produced the most hotly contested election yet.

“Momentum is with the opposition, but we believe it is unlikely that they will pull off a surprise victory,” said the Eurasia Group consultancy, which put the odds of a win for Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) at 15 percent.


However, the political risk group’s Asia director, Peter Mumford, said there is a danger for the ruling coalition that it will fare worse than the 2013 election, when for the first time it lost the popular vote but still won with 133 of parliament’s 222 seats.

Under Malaysia’s simple majority system, the party that gets the most seats in parliament wins even if it does not secure the popular vote.

An unconvincing victory would leave Najib, 64, with reduced political clout and he could face pressure from within his party to stand aside ahead of the next election, Mumford said.

That would be a blow for Najib, who has survived an uproar surrounding 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund that racked up heavy debt after he took power in 2009. The prime minister has consistently denied any wrongdoing over the billions of dollars that were allegedly siphoned off from the state fund and he has been cleared of any offence by Malaysia’s attorney general.


Under Najib, a skyscraper called The Exchange 106 has come up in Kuala Lumpur that will replace Mahathir’s pet project, the Petronas twin towers, as the tallest on the capital’s skyline.

FILE PHOTO: Barisan Nasional flags hang at a public housing estate in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia April 21, 2018. Picture taken April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

The two buildings are testimony to Malaysia’s transformation from a rural backwater to an industrial nation, but they are also emblems of the bitter rivalry between the two leaders.

Mahathir, who ruled with an iron fist for 22 years, was once Najib’s mentor but turned against him over the 1MDB affair and quit the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party, which represents the country’s Malay majority.

Then, in an even more unlikely change of heart, Mahathir last year buried a feud with Anwar, 70, and the two agreed to join forces to oust Najib.

Mahathir sacked Anwar as his deputy prime minister in 1998. Anwar then started a movement known as “Reformasi’ – reform – to end UMNO’s race- and patronage-based governance, but he was stopped in his tracks by charges of sodomy and graft, which he denied, but for which he was jailed.

Anwar was imprisoned again in 2015, when Najib was prime minister, after another sodomy charge, which he described as a politically motivated attempt to end his career.

Mahathir has promised to seek a royal pardon for Anwar if they win the election and, once Anwar is free, to step aside and let his protege-turned-foe-turned-ally become prime minister.

Reformasi supporters have been dismayed by Anwar’s reconciliation with the very man who tried to block their movement, but Anwar’s daughter, lawmaker Nurul Izzah, says the opportunity to defeat Najib’s coalition is what matters most.

“It took us many years to get to this point, and if you’re not smart or wise enough to join all these forces together, we might lose the chance at wresting power from BN,” she told Reuters recently.


The opposition alliance, which counts on urban votes and support from the ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, is hoping Mahathir will draw in rural Malay voters who have long been loyal supporters of BN but are now disillusioned by increased costs of living.

A survey released by pollster Merdeka Center last week showed the opposition making gains, but not enough to land a majority of parliament’s seats.

It saw Mahathir’s alliance winning 43.7 percent of the popular vote in peninsular Malaysia and BN 40.3 percent. The poll did not cover the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak, which have historically been pro-BN although there have been recent signs of a swing away from the government in Sabah.

The opposition has complained that a revision of electoral boundaries in March tilted the election in BN’s favor by moving large numbers of opposition-leaning voters into fewer parliamentary constituencies.

The Election Commission insists its electoral map changes did not favor the ruling coalition, and the government says there was no political interference in the exercise.

Thomas Pepinsky, a Southeast Asia political expert at Cornell University, said that despite the unusual spectacle of a tight election in Malaysia, the outcome is in little doubt.

“The strength of the incumbent regime must not be underestimated,” he said. “It retains the legal, infrastructural, and material resources that it has always used to prevail in Malaysia’s controlled elections.”

Additional reporting by Joseph Sipalan; editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Malaysian Election: State of Sabah Says “We Are No Longer a Fixed Asset for Najib”

May 6, 2018

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak can no longer count on the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo as a “fixed deposit” for his ruling coalition, a senior defector said, just days before the country goes to the polls.

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Shafie Apdal, who leads the opposition push in Sabah,

Najib has called Sabah, along with neighboring Sarawak, fixed deposits for consistently voting for his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, thereby allowing the party to retain power for decades despite losing votes in peninsular Malaysia.

But an opposition groundswell in Sabah, famed for its rain forests, beaches, wildlife and mountains, including the country’s highest peak, Mount Kinabalu, threatens to upend expectations of a repeat performance.

Najib is still expected to win Wednesday’s election, aided by recently redrawn electoral boundaries that the opposition and critics say favor his ruling pact and squabbling between the Pakatan Harapan coalition, led by his former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad, and a national Islamist party.

The Election Commission and the government have both said the new boundaries are free from political interference.

Shafie Apdal, who leads the opposition push in Sabah, said anger is palpable among Sabah people, who he says have long suffered from poor public infrastructure, porous border security and the lack of job opportunities, despite supporting the ruling coalition for more than 50 years.

“It’s shameful for Sabahans to be considered a fixed deposit, when interest is not given (back),” Shafie told Reuters in an interview at his home in the state capital of Kota Kinabalu. “People are no longer stupid.”

There are few independent polls that measure voter sentiment in Malaysia, but analysts have mixed views on whether Shafie’s new Parti Warisan Sabah can dent BN’s hold on the state and shift the power balance in parliament.

BN has said it is confident of retaining power in Sabah. Najib says the state now has better infrastructure and that the government has tackled issues like illegal immigration from the neighboring Philippines and Indonesia.


Najib’s coalition faces arguably its toughest election since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957, as former prime minister Mahathir, 92, mounts an unprecedented challenge at the helm of a resurgent federal opposition pact.

The prime minister is also grappling with popular anger over rising living costs and allegations of graft, as he seeks to better BN’s performance in the 2013 polls when it lost the popular vote.

Shafie, who quit Najib’s United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) party over the prime minister’s handling of the graft scandal at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), said he had to speak out against his “old friend for 30 years” on a point of principle. Najib denies any wrongdoing.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks during an election campaign rally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

“I’m not a political prostitute that you can dump money in my mouth, in my ears… I was his buddy, now I’m fighting against him,” Shafie said.

Since campaigning officially kicked off on April 28, Najib has faced growing criticism from former friends and UMNO veterans. On Saturday, his party sacked two senior leaders and suspended another, all long-time loyalists of Mahathir, for speaking against Najib and attending opposition events.

At a campaign stop in Kimanis, a largely agricultural district southwest of the state capital, Shafie told a crowd of about 1,000 supporters that change will only come if people roundly reject BN in both the general election and the state polls, run concurrently.

“The power is in your hands. This is not for Shafie Apdal… It is not for any other leaders. We do this for the people and future of Sabah,” he said, surrounded by dozens of white flags bearing the party logo of a ship encircled by two clasped hands.

BN currently holds 21 of the 25 parliamentary seats.

Shafie is promising higher petroleum royalties and greater state autonomy, which are long-standing demands of Sabah people. Sabah, separated from the peninsula by the South China Sea, accounts for nearly a quarter of the country’s vast oil resources.

“The time has come to change Sabah,” Shafie said to cheers from the crowd. “Can we do that?”

Editing by Nick Macfie


Malaysia PM Najib comes bearing gifts to Mahathir’s election battleground Langkawi

May 5, 2018

A visit to Langkawi by Malaysia’s incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak on Friday (May 4) would probably not have caught so much media attention if it had not been for the fact that the island paradise will turn into a battleground for his arch rival next week.

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Come May 9, close to 15 million Malaysians will determine if Najib’s Barisan Nasional (BN), the world’s longest ruling coalition, will see the end of its golden era.

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In Langkawi, BN faces a tough battle against the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan. For the first time in history, the opposition’s reins are placed in the experienced hands of Mahathir Mohamad – a former prime minister and once a key pillar of BN.

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Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad arriving at a nomination centre in Langkawi on Nomination Day for GE14 (Photo: Jack Board)

For the islanders of Langkawi, Mahathir is known as the man who transformed its poor communities into a world-class tourist destination. His 22 years in power while leading UMNO – a core member of BN – played a significant role in the island’s economic growth and development.

With four more days until the 14th general election, the 92-year-old is giving it his all to turn the people of Langkawi, as well as the rest of Malaysia, against his old party. His ultimate goal is Najib removed from the prime minister’s seat after nine years at the helm.

But the current UMNO leader came prepared on Friday for a fierce battle against his ex-mentor and his enduring legacy.

“I want to tell the people of Langkawi that I – the Prime Minister and a representative of Barisan Nasional – am very committed to the future of Langkawi,” Najib told his supporters at the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre.

To reflect the commitment, I’ll present some of the latest initiatives we’re going to do in the next five years.

The list is long, and expensive. There are 18 initiatives to be realised in the next five years. All for Langkawi.

The projects range from a US$25 million allocation for SME Bank to offer loans with subsidised interest to a US$3 million support for the Langkawi Tourism Academy, a US$50,800 premium outlet, grants worth up to US$2,540 each for 200 entrepreneurs, a new trading hub, a bigger airport, a cleaner sewage system and special Wi-Fi packages.

There are many more.

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A boy sits on the ground at Telaga Walk in Langkawi before the arrival of PM Najib Razak. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

The message is clear – more prosperity, better lives and a brighter future will come to Langkawi when it gives BN a mandate to make it happen.

“These are our plans for Langkawi Island. We will fully deliver them,” Najib said.

“It’s all up to you to consider on May 9. Hopefully good news is there for us – not on May 10 but the night of May 9.”


Prior to his evening speech, incumbent Najib paid a visit to a local shopping venue on Pantai Chenang Road.

Dressed in his ruling coalition BN’s colour of dark blue, the 64-year-old was all smiles as he greeted local residents at Telaga Walk. His walkabout, as it turned out, was far from relaxing with a troop of journalists and bodyguards in tow.

Still Najib waved and shook hands with a few supporters. He also gave a cuddle to a two-year-old Malaysian cat named Tuah, before sampling local delicacies such as cucur udang and mango sticky rice.

His afternoon campaign went on for about an hour before he sped off in his shiny black car. Lining his campaign trail were BN’s flags billowing in the summer breeze, along with dozens more.

Some bore a lighter shade of blue and a shape of an eye in the centre, flanked by two red stripes. They belong to the opposition People’s Justice Party. Others were green with a perfect white circle at the heart – those of PAS.

Their colourful presence underlines a three-cornered fight which political analysts say could show how many people on the resort island actually support the ruling coalition.

image:–najib-langkawi-4.jpg(pp) Najib Langkawi 4
The flags of ruling coalition Barisan Nasional and the opposition People’s Justice Party. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

“A commonly held position is that most Malays have deep party loyalty to UMNO and PAS, overlooking that such loyalty might be more driven by their patronising and anti-establishment functions,” political scientist Wong Chin Huat from the think-tank Penang Institute told Channel NewsAsia.

In the previous election, Najib’s UMNO beat the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) by more than 11,000 votes in Langkawi. If UMNO’s support is largely based on party loyalty, Wong added, the ruling coalition should largely be able to cling to those votes.

image:–najib-langkawi-6.jpg(pp) Najib Langkawi 6
A group of Malaysian boys sit on the ground as they wait for the arrival of PM Najib Razak at Telaga Walk. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

On the streets of Langkawi, there has been a shift in loyalty among voters. One of them is a 68-year-old taxi driver who no longer trusts the ruling coalition.

His biggest disappointment is its implementation of the 6 per cent Goods and Services Tax in 2015.

“When I see Najib cheat people this way, I can’t support anymore. Our money is gone,” he said, adding the coalition is not as strong as it once was.

Many UMNO members have run away.

Without the voters’ loyalty, BN could see its seats swept away in the upcoming election. According to Wong, Mahathir’s influence looms large even outside his Langkawi constituency.

“A Mahathir victory would mean at least a turnover of nearly 6,000 votes. If Mahathir wins with a reversed landslide, it would mean Malay voters are more instrumental than loyal, or at least their loyalty is more to the personality than to the party,” he said.

“While Langkawi is a special case with Mahathir as candidate, Mahathir’s factor is way beyond this constituency.”

Source: CNA/rw


Watchdog groups warn of voter list fraud ahead of Malaysia’s election

May 3, 2018

Malaysian election marred by scandals and corruption…

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FILE PHOTO: Barisan Nasional and Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) flags hang at a public housing estate in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia April 20, 2018. Picture taken April 20, 2018. REUTERS/StringerREUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) – Electoral watchdog groups in Malaysia said on Thursday the voter list for a general election on May 9 had major flaws, including the existence of a 121-year-old voter, raising the specter of possible fraud.

About 15 million Malaysians are registered to vote in next week’s election pitting Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling coalition, which has ruled the country for six decades, against a resurgent opposition led by former leader Mahathir Mohamad.

A joint study of the voters’ rolls by electoral reform groups Bersih and Engage found more than 500,000 cases of many voters registered with the same address, while more than two million were found to have no address.

The groups highlighted 10 major irregularities they said affected hundreds of thousands of voters nationwide.

“A defective electoral roll will bring into question the legitimacy of the whole election,” they said in a joint statement.

“Despite the huge number of dubious voters discovered, we believe these preliminary findings are just the tip of the iceberg.”

The study found some cases in which dead voters were re-registered, and one voter whose birth year was listed as 1897.

In one example, the study listed numerous cases of multiple people registered at the same address in the parliamentary constituency of Bagan Datuk, held by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

“Our conclusion is that there are symptoms of a deliberate plan … action to massively move voters to impact elections in marginal constituencies,” Bersih official Chan Tsu Chong told a news conference.

The groups did not say who they believed was behind the plan.

The Malaysian Election Commission and the prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The opposition and other critics have said that recently redrawn electoral boundaries favor the ruling coalition, which has been accused of gerrymandering.

The government and the Election Commission have rejected that assertion, saying the changes were made independently and without political interference.

Campaigning kicked off last Saturday for an election that is widely expected to be the toughest yet for Najib’s coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN).

Najib is grappling with a multi-billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and popular anger over rising living costs, which have given momentum to the challenge from his 92-year-old mentor-turned-foe, Mahathir.

The coalition is expected to retain power, but a diminished majority in the 222-seat parliament could leave Najib open to an internal leadership challenge.

Bersih and Engage said in their statement that the effect of the “cheating” could only be overcome by an overwhelming voter turnout.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Writing by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by John Chalmers and Clarence Fernandez)