Posts Tagged ‘UMNO’

Malaysia’s Najib charged with abuse of power, corruption and criminal breach of trust

July 4, 2018

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has pleaded not guilty to charges linked to allegations of corruption at scandal-hit state investment fund 1MDB

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak arriving Wednesday morning at a courthouse in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital. He was charged with corruption and criminal breach of trust. CreditLai Seng Sin/Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Najib Razak, the former prime minister of Malaysia who was ousted in an election two months ago, was charged by anticorruption officials on Wednesday, after his arrest in an investigation involving billions of dollars diverted from a state investment fund.

He was charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of corruption in connection with the investment fund scandal. He pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Atop a political machine that had governed Malaysia since its independence in 1957, Mr. Najib and his allies used political influence, cash handouts and news media repression to try to keep corruption accusations at bay for years.

But in May, voter anger over the scandal at the investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, led to a sweeping victory for a sprawling opposition movement that came together to oust Mr. Najib.

His successor as prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, campaigned on bringing Mr. Najib to justice, and after his inauguration, officials moved to block Mr. Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, from leaving the country.

American prosecutors have accused Mr. Najib, 64, of diverting into his personal bank account $731 million from the state investment fund, which he supervised for years. Money siphoned from the fund, known as 1MDB, was then spent on luxury goods, such as a $27.3 million pink diamond necklace that was worn by Mr. Najib’s wife, American investigators said.

The United States Justice Department said that at least $4.5 billion from 1MDB was laundered through American financial institutions and misspent by Mr. Najib, his family and associates.

A spokesman for Mr. Najib called the arrest “politically motivated and the result of political vengeance” by Mr. Mahathir and the opposition that now governs Malaysia.

Mr. Najib has denied any wrongdoing.

He spent Tuesday night in lockup at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters in Putrajaya, the country’s administrative capital, officials said.

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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).

CLOSE FINISH

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.

NAJIB CONFIDENT

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

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.

Reuters

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.

FRIENDS AND FOES

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.

TIGHT RACE

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

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-malaysia-election-preview/clash-of-political-titans-brings-a-gripping-election-to-malaysia-idUSKBN1I802B

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.

Image result for Shafie Apdal, sabah, malaysia, photos

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.

“OLD FRIEND FOR 30 YEARS”

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

Reuters

Malaysia’s Ruling Party Sacks Defectors as Election Fight Heats Up

May 5, 2018

Prime Minister Najib Razak is fighting to stay in power, dogged by the continuing 1MDB scandal

Prime Minister Najib Razak at a campaign event Tuesday. His party said on Saturday it expelled two of its best-known members.
Prime Minister Najib Razak at a campaign event Tuesday. His party said on Saturday it expelled two of its best-known members. PHOTO:FAZRY ISMAIL/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTER/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Malaysia’s ruling party said on Saturday that it expelled two of its best-known members and began investigating a third for backing the opposition in Wednesday’s Wednesday’snational election, a fresh sign that Prime Minister Najib Razak might be facing a tougher-than-expected battle to stay in power.

The two politicians expelled from the United Malays National Organization or UMNO, Daim Zainuddin and Rafidah Aziz, as well as Rais Yatim, who is under investigation, are closely associated with Mahathir Mohamad. The former prime minister came out of retirement to lead an opposition coalition that aims to unseat Mr. Najib, his former protégé.

Now 92, Dr. Mahathir has blasted Mr. Najib for his management of the country, and particularly his handling of state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd, or 1MDB. Dr. Mahathir and many others accuse Mr. Najib of skimming hundreds of millions of dollars from the debt-laden fund, which is the subject of several international investigations. Mr. Najib and 1MDB deny any wrongdoing.

Dr. Mahathir’s emergence at the head of the opposition has reinvigorated that movement and put UMNO on the defensive. Opinion polls suggest, however, that the party will be able to form a government, even if it loses the popular vote, as did in 2013.

Mr. Daim, Ms. Rafidah and Mr. Rais, all former ministers, have been openly critical of Mr. Najib in the election run-up and joined Dr. Mahathir at a huge rally Friday. Ms. Rafidah, who was Malaysia’s emblematic trade minister under Dr. Mahathir’s long premiership, urged the crowd to give him a “new contract.” She and Messrs. Daim and Rais didn’t respond to requests for comment Saturday.

UMNO officials said Saturday that they would take action against members breaking ranks, but the defections underscore divisions in the party feeding into uncertainty in formerly rock-solid strongholds. It comes at a time of increasing authoritarianism in Southeast Asia amid challenges on trade and security as the U.S. and China contest for influence in the strategically important region.

A prime example is on Sabah, an oil-and-gas-rich state on the northern tip of Borneo island on the South China Sea, lying near the troubled southern Philippines. Islamic militants from the Philippines have occasionally staged attacks in Sabah or tried to use it as a safe rear area.

The state delivers the third-most seats in Parliament and has long resembled a “fixed deposit,” as Mr. Najib put it, of support for the Front. In 2013, 22 of its 25 seats went to the governing coalition. Parliament has a total of 222 seats.

This time, the opposition in Sabah is being led by a former UMNO vice president, Shafie Apdal, who quit the party in 2016 after Mr. Najib suspended him for being critical of the 1MDB scandals. Mr. Shafie later formed an opposition party in Sabah with opposition lawmaker Darell Leiking.

The opposition rallies in Sabah are heavily attended, including with younger voters who have increasingly been deserting UMNO. Supporters say they are looking for more autonomy for the state.

“I thank God I left UMNO. It was divine intervention,” Mr. Shafie said in an interview. “I have been observing the body language of people. It is very positive for us as the numbers coming out are very good.”

UMNO has been at the center of every Malaysian government since 1957, but it lost the popular vote in the 2013 elections to a resurgent opposition and allied parties in the long-ruling National Front coalition were reduced to insignificance. As the 1MDB scandal gained steam in recent years, Mr. Najib purged challengers and opponents.

James Chin, a Malaysian academic who heads the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania, said that the most recent defection of former UMNO ministers who served under Dr. Mahathir showed that “more and more senior UMNO people are willing to challenge Najib at the polls.”

“On the other hand, the fact that all these people were in Mahathir’s cabinet gives the impression that May 9 is a fight between the old UMNO elite and the new UMNO elite,” Mr. Chin said.

Write to Yantoultra Ngui at yantoultra.ngui@wsj.com

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/malaysias-ruling-party-sacks-defectors-as-election-fight-heats-up-1525514318

Malaysia’s “unprecedented” election

April 29, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR – Already dubbed “unprecedented” due to the emergence of Tun Mahathir Mohamad as the first former premier to seek a return to power, Malaysia’s 14th general election will showcase a slew of other firsts.

A record number of multi-cornered fights will ensue for the 222 parliamentary seats that will determine federal power, after so-called third force Gagasan Sejahtera led by Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) on Saturday (April 28) registered candidates in over 150 wards nationwide.

A record 2,333 candidates have been certified by the Election Commission (EC) to run in 222 parliamentary seats and 505 state seats nationwide.

This election will also be the first time the main opposition pact contests under a single logo, in its uphill bid to wrest power from ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN).

Pakatan Harapan (PH), now led by the 92-year-old Dr Mahathir, will campaign under the banner of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), a party that was formed after he sacked his former nemesis Anwar Ibrahim from government in 1998.

This also means that for the first time since it was established in 1965, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) will not use its iconic rocket symbol at the election.

Leaders of the three main factions will all face multi-cornered contests in their seats.

Prime Minister Najib Razak will defend his BN constituency in Pekan, Pahang, which he first won in 1976, while Dr Mahathir emerges from retirement to run in Langkawi, in his homestate of Kedah. PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang will contest in Marang, Terengganu.

The EC refused him entry because neither he, nor his proposer and seconders had entry passes from the EC which had to be applied for in advance.

PKR vice president Rafizi Ramli said that Dr Streram would challenge the decision in court, and accused BN of foul play as candidates in other seats were allowed to enter nomination centres without the said passes.

An ensuing war of words saw a response from not just Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin who is bidding to remain as MP for Rembau – where the Rantau state seat is located – but also Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“This is just instigation when your own candidate is not ready but you blame the police. Enough of this, Rafizi,” the Umno president said on Twitter, accusing the opposition leader of slander for accusing the EC and police of conspiring to hand BN victory.

Both these disqualifications are unprecedented in recent times, say political observers. It is practically unheard of for the EC to ignore a court judgment, while there are no laws regarding entry pass requirements to become a candidate.

Several other opposition candidates were also barred as they were declared bankrupt, but some insisted that recent checks with authorities showed they were cleared.

These disqualifications have made PH’s mission to unseat Datuk Seri Najib even more difficult, seeing as they need another 40 seats to add to their current 72 in order to claim a simple majority.

Recent studies show that despite ebbing Malay support for BN, it is still expected to win comfortably thanks to multi-cornered battles featuring PAS.

“I’m more than 90 years old. There isn’t much time left. But as far as I can, I will try my best with the help of my friends to save our country Malaysia,” said Dr Mahathir on Saturday.

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysia-ge-an-election-of-many-firsts-from-the-start

Ten Reasons To Vote in Malaysia’s Election Include: Corruption, kleptocracy, gangsters

April 28, 2018

QUESTION TIME | If you are voting BN/Umno in these elections, or if you are going to spoil your vote in protest over the miserable political situation, or if you are simply undecided who to vote for, or if you are merely looking for confirmation that voting against BN/Umno is the right thing, please read this article very closely.

Here are my 10 reasons why I will not vote for BN/Umno and why I think it is imperative that we give another group a chance to run this country of ours before it is ruined completely by the incompetent, selfish, greedy, unconscionable, kleptocratic goons and gangsters who are running this country into the ground.

By P Gunasegaram

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If these people are allowed to run rampant with their ways for another five years, the damage to the country will be enormous and it could be decades before complete recovery is possible from the morass into which we are descending. And as they become more and more desperate, there is no telling what they will do in future.

1. BN/Umno leaders are either kleptocrats or condone kleptocracy

Press reports quoting the Auditor-General’s Report on 1MDB state that US$7 billion or about RM28 billion could not be accounted for, in other words, it has gone missing.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) says that it has established that at least US$4.5 billion has been stolen from 1MDB and it is in the process of seizing billions in assets bought with the stolen money, including that notorious yacht.

It has been established that US$681 million came into caretaker prime minister Najib Abdul Razak’s accounts which he said was a donation from the Saudi Arabian royal family, part of which was since returned.

But not according to the DOJ, which says it came from Tanore Finance which was controlled by Najib’s associate Jho Low. If you want to know full details you can download this report here, Part A of which I wrote. Look at Appendix 4 on page 34 to see where the money went.

It is highly unlikely that the DOJ would have got its facts wrong because international money flows can be easily and accurately traced through electronic records which do not lie.

If the caretaker PM is not complicit, he should have ordered an immediate investigation and brought those responsible to book. But it was not done. Now there are assets due to Malaysia in the US and other places but they can’t be returned because Malaysia does not acknowledge the alleged robbery.

As educated people, other Umno and BN leaders must have been aware of all these but for various reasons, almost all of them have condoned Najib and continue to support him, becoming complicit in this massive kleptocracy, the biggest the world has ever seen. That’s itself is already more than enough reason to vote this whole gang out.

Not only that, this unprecedented kleptocracy has enormous side effects in terms of lack of confidence in the country by both Malaysians and foreigners, which has led to a steady decline in the currency, although there is some recovery now.

This reflects a kleptocracy premium for the currency. Compared to 1970, one US dollar now gets over 40 percent more ringgit. The fall in the ringgit value has caused large price increases.

2. They are endangering the future via huge, lopsided contracts

If you think kleptocracy was just a one-off event for elections in 2013 and it will not spill over to other areas, you are dead wrong. There is a hole in 1MDB and the alleged theft continued after 2013 and the only way it will not get exposed in future is if that hole is somehow filled.

This may be done via lopsided contracts, expensive contracts whereby the excess can be syphoned off into 1MDB.

One such example is the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) to be undertaken by a China company – and the cost of which may balloon to RM100 billion eventually.

An analysis shows that it is unlikely to be viable and at RM55 billion, it is already too expensive. There is delayed payment to the 90 percent financing, or RM46 billion for seven years after construction, which China is offering for this project. If the project is not viable, this becomes a huge burden of debt to future generations.

This is not the only such project with China companies and there are several more in the pipeline. This may eventually take the full figure from these contracts to several hundred billion ringgit. If much of this is financed, then there will be massive debts facing future Malaysians.

Such lopsided contracts are signs of desperation. Successful kleptocracy encourages more of the same and even more in future. So think Suharto, think Marcos, think how much damage they have caused to their countries and stop our kleptocrats from continuing to do more damage to us – now.

3. They are incompetent and sidelined a previously efficient civil service

They have inculcated a culture where politicians decide what is done, when, and how much to spend. Politics decide who becomes ministers, among whom there are now too many incompetent ones.

There is no proper, independent study by the civil service on important matters and even if they are, they are routinely overruled. Only those who comply with the politicians move up the rungs, leading eventually to an incompetent and corrupt civil service as well.

4. They have degraded the education system

They have politicised the education system, first lowering standards for teachers and then for students and then de-emphasising English, which is a key language to acquire knowledge and ability because of its widespread use worldwide.

They refuse to use English for teaching subjects such as science and maths, making most of the students in the national education system poor in English. This continues in university and results in the mass production of graduates who are unemployable because of low competence levels.

5. They use unfair means to stay in power

Like all poor governments everywhere they use unfair, foul means to stay in power. Note the recent pushing through of the lopsided redelineation exercise which exacerbates already massive differences in constituency sizes against the stated aims of the constitution.

Note also the hasty passing of the Anti-Fake News Bill designed to repress fair information on 1MDB and other scandals, with publication being stopped by a mere ex-parte court order.

Since 1969, all BN/Umno governments have used the race and religion cards to garner support and this continues unabated now with frequent rousing speeches about Malay rights and defending Islam as if these were being attacked by non-Muslims, which are definitely not the case.

Instead, even the caretaker deputy prime minister opposed a landmark decision by the Court of Appeal, which ruled that a child conceived out of wedlock can take on his or her father’s surname and that the edict on this by the National Fatwa Committee does not have the force of law.

6. They have done nothing about corruption

The clear manifestation of corruption is people living way beyond their means. This is easily established by looking at the assets of people, especially those in high positions, and determining how they came to possess such assets, be it a yacht or a diamond necklace.

But that line of investigation has never been implemented under BN/Umno. Politicians continue to amass vast fortunes with many having large cars, some kept in underground car parks, but no one is brought to account, except for opposition leaders and the so-called small fry.

Some of them are not so small but very much so when compared to the size of the kleptocracy that is taking place.

7. In the name of race, they enrich themselves

In September 2013, Najib announced a RM30 billion “bumiputera empowerment” programme, basically a series of contracts which will be given to bumiputera entrepreneurs. But will these contracts make a difference to the vast majority of 67 percent of bumiputera in the country? No.

The people who will get them are those who are in Umno’s upper echelon, many of whom will act as mere middlemen and pass it on to others to implement, getting an upfront commission in the process.

Select bumiputera – “the Umnoputera” – who are already rich get richer but the vast majority are left out. There are other methods they should have adopted a long time ago to help the bumiputera. But how could they when corruption and patronage, and now kleptocracy, got into the way?

8. Most Malaysians have not benefited enough under their rule

The claim that the government has eliminated poverty in the country is rather ridiculous when the poverty line income is defined as around an average RM800 a month per household, yes household, not even a person.

What is more relevant is a living wage which Bank Negara Malaysia recently estimated at RM2,700 per month per person for Kuala Lumpur and RM6,500 per month for a household of two parents and two children.

Using such measures, the indications are that the vast majority of the people may not have benefited much from government measures. That’s a poor performance for a resource-rich country like Malaysia.

9. They use gangsters and thugs to do their bidding

Stories have been rampant about Umno using thugs for a long time now but what surprised was an admission by a top Umno leader that there were “gangsters” he sided with.

He not only defended Tiga Line, a gang outlawed by the police but included himself and others as part of the gang. He further condoned their actions and asked them to carry on.

10. They don’t give a damn about democracy

Democracy is about giving everyone an equal right to vote, to live the way he or she chooses so long as he or she harms no one else, freedom of expression, right of assembly and equal treatment under the law.

But none of this is practised with a slew of legislation to deny the public their legitimate rights with even more legislation being contemplated, some in blatant violation of the constitution. The clear partiality of the enforcement agencies makes things much worse.

Gird your resolve

Well, that’s my list of 10 although there is more. I ask that you take these into consideration before you put your cross for BN. Desperate people do desperate things. They must not be in power.

Please think carefully about your future, for the future of your children depend upon it. In fact, it’s better if you give the opposition a chance.

One question to ponder for those who think the opposition is the same as BN – have Penang and Selangor overall become better under the opposition? You know the answer, it’s a definite “yes”.

For those of you who will spoil your vote, what an utter waste of a precious privilege. What do you hope to achieve by squandering this? If you are so desperate and disappointed by the politics, at least consider giving someone else a chance to change things while they are in power.

At least you would have exercised your constitutional right properly instead of playing into the hands of those in power who will rejoice because your vote won’t help to tip the balance.

For those who will vote against BN/Umno, I hope this article girds your resolve more than ever and you will do your part about spreading the message as to why this government has to go.

To everyone, do please go out and vote. Let nothing stop you from exercising your legitimate right. Make every vote count.

P GUNASEGARAM says the devil you know can be worse than the devil you don’t. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/419460

Malaysia election: 16 members want court to suspend Umno for breaching party’s Constitution

April 20, 2018

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Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak inspects a ceremonial guard of honour during the annual congress of his ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 7, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR – Sixteen members of Umno on Friday (April 20) filed court papers to have Malaysia’s biggest political party suspend its activities, for allegedly breaching the party’s Constitution.

Their move followed comments by two former Malaysian cabinet ministers asking if the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) could take part in the May 9 general election, as the party had twice postponed its internal polls – way beyond a three-year limit imposed by its own constitution.

The issue is closely watched because the Registrar of Society (ROS) last month granted Umno a second extension to postpone its election. The ROS two weeks ago temporarily suspended opposition Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) for failing to abide by its constitution on a matter the registrar would not disclose.

PPBM is led by Tun Mahathir Mohamad, a former premier who is leading the opposition charge to oust Umno president and Prime Minister, Najib Razak, from power.

The group of 16 Umno members on Friday, represented by lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla, made three applications to the High Court, said a report in the Malay Mail Online (MMO) news site.

“We are of the opinion that the judicial review is needed because of Umno’s failure to adhere to its own constitution,” Mr Haniff told a news conference Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex.

He said the ROS “suddenly came out on March 5 saying it now allows Umno’s bid to postpone party elections to next year, when it was last held five years ago.”

Former culture minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim on Thursday (April 19) said the Malaysian courts, and not the ROS, should decide on this Umno constitutional issue.

“Umno can only go about their daily business once it gets a court declaration. If not, many members will question the legality of Umno,” Malaysiakini quoted Mr Rais as saying on Thursday.

He reminded Umno members that the party was deregistered in 1988 during a leadership battle after some members asked the High Court to decide on an Umno constitutional matter regarding illegal party branches.

Umno, which traditionally holds its elections every three years, last held them in October 19, 2013.

It was first given leave last year by the ROS, to postpone its polls until Thursday, April 19, 2018.

The ROS last month told Umno that it could again postpone its polls, by one more year to April 19 next year.

Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, another former minister who has been taking up cudgels against the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Razak, Umno’s president, said by law the party cannot contest in the May 9 polling as it has disregarded its own constitution.

Umno postponed its internal elections in the past few years as Datuk Seri Najib faced headwinds caused by the scandal surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd, and later, as the party gears up for the general election.

The complaints by Mr Rais, 76, and Ms Rafidah, 74, raised eyebrows because the duo had stayed loyal to Umno during much of the 1MDB turmoil, but have in recent months been critical of Mr Najib’s leadership.

Umno’s secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor has said that he sees no problem with the extensions given to the party by the ROS. He quoted the Societies Act 1966 and residual power under Section 3A of the same Act, to say that the ROS had the power to grant these postponements.

He said there should be no doubts on Umno’s status as a legitimate party, New Straits Times newspaper quoted him as saying on Wednesday (April 18).

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysia-election-16-members-want-court-to-suspend-umno-for-breaching-constitution?&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social-media&utm_campaign=addtoany

Malaysia PM Najib plays up the country’s ethnic divisions to get elected

April 20, 2018

By Alex Climent

Malaysia PM stokes ethnic tensions in re-election bid

Najib Razak waves his party’s flag at a rally. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

Malaysia, the advertisement croons softly, it’s truly Asia. The southeast Asian nation’s tourism board has long sold its ethnic mix as one of its most alluring traits.

Between the lines: As the country heads for national elections next month, that diversity has taken on a more divisive quality.

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Prime Minister Najib Razak is seeking re-election despite his implication in a billion-dollar graft scandal involving the country’s state development fund.

  • He faces an increasingly firm opposition led by jailed former Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and 92-year old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, the authoritarian “father of modern Malaysia” who was once Najib’s mentor.
  • Only gerrymandering helped Najib’s UMNO coalition stay in power in 2013, despite losing the popular vote.
  • This time around he’s taking fewer chances. He chose an election date that trims the campaign season to barely a month, giving him maximal advantages. The government has also ordered Mahathir’s party to dissolve, citing a registration technicality.

But most worryingly, Najib has played up the country’s ethnic divisions, pledging to extend affirmative action benefits for the country’s disproportionately poor ethnic Malay majority, and implicitly stoking tensions with a relatively well-off Chinese minority. He has also courted a once-hostile hardline Islamist party in order to profit from the growing appeal of conservative Islam in some parts of the country.

What to watch for: Malaysia’s economic prosperity and relative peace have always been something of an example to its neighbors in Southeast Asia. But as nationalist and sectarian politics begin to stir elsewhere in the region — Indonesia in particular — Najib’s victory may be a bellwether for a different sort of (truly) Asia.

Go deeper: The Economist on “Why South Asia’s majorities act like persecuted minorities”

Sign up for Signal, a twice-weekly newsletter from GZERO Media, a Eurasia Group company, and follow @saosasha on Twitter.

https://www.axios.com/malaysian-election-ethnic-tensions-najib-razak-50d43069-4833-412f-a8ce-905350b5c925.html

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A flare is set off in Shah Alam at a political event for Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. Photo: AFP

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Malaysian President Najib Razak with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

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Malaysia’s ruling coalition promises 3 million new jobs and bigger cash handouts in election manifesto — Najib becomes “The Candy Man”

April 8, 2018

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Malaysi’a Prime Minister Najib Razak said he and his colleagues vow to develop this country from Perlis to Sarawak and on to Sabah

KUALA LUMPUR –  Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition unveiled its wide-ranging election manifesto on Saturday night (April 7), which included generous promises of  three million new jobs, a rise in annual cash handouts to as high as RM2,000 (S$680) and a debt waiver for farmers that could reach RM5 billion.

“I and my colleagues vow to develop this country from Perlis to Sarawak and on to Sabah,” said Prime Minister Najib Razak at the launch event, where nearly 40,000 supporters packed a stadium in Bukit Jalil on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

Themed “Bersama BN Hebatkan Negaraku” or “Make My Country Great With BN”, the 220-page manifesto was aimed at wooing BN’s most vulnerable votebanks, by promising improved finances and public services if BN is returned to power in polls expected in a month.

The Umno-led coalition vowed to increase the minimum monthly wage from RM1,000 to RM1,500 in five years, with government-linked firms set to offer wider insurance, health and cost of living benefits.

It also promised to create three million jobs nationwide, and specifically targeted youth by promising either a source of income or training within six months of unemployment. Youth unemployment has hovered above 10 per cent, about three times that of average unemployment.

Cost of living has repeatedly been cited as the main issue for voters, with recent reports showing that expenditure is outpacing income growth for the poorest 40 per cent of Malaysians. BN promised to increase its maximum annual BR1M cash handout – paid to seven million recipients – to RM2,000 from RM1,200 currently.

Some RM4.3 billion was committed to improve telecommunications coverage and electricity supply to Sabah and Sarawak. The two states in Borneo supply over a-third of BN’s seats in Parliament, but its voters have long complained of being neglected by the federal government.

BN also sought to allay anger among debt-ridden farmers under its Felda scheme, which provides land to 112,000 families who form about nine per cent of the electorate and live across 54 of the 222 parliamentary wards. It pledged to give a special incentive payment of RM5,000 to each settler, and waive their debts, which total over RM5 billion.

Parliament was dissolved yesterday (April 7), paving the way for elections that must be held within 60 days, but are set to take place before May 15, when the fasting month begins for the country’s Malay-Muslim majority.

The manifesto launch capped a series of moves last week by the ruling administration to establish a lead at the polls.

New electoral boundaries and a law to combat fake news were fast-tracked through Parliament, while cash handouts totalling RM1.5 billion were announced for the country’s 1.6 million civil servants, a crucial BN votebank.

Authorities also suspended former premier Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) on Thursday, while jailed opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim has been denied access to his lawyer.

Tun Mahathir now leads the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance which claims a continued Najib administration will wreck the nation’s finances and institutions.

Meanwhile BN has scoffed at the opposition’s manifesto unveiled last month, saying their promises are unrealistic and would increase government debt to above RM1 trillion.

“The opposition’s manifesto is a formula for disaster,” Datuk Seri Najib told the crowd on Saturday.  “Up to now, not a single rating agency has approved or praised the opposition manifesto. Let us not wake up the next morning to a Malaysia we no longer recognise.”

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysias-ruling-bn-coalition-unveils-generous-manifesto-to-woo-voters

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