Malaysia’s Leader, Dogged by a Billion-Dollar Scandal, Proves Untouchable

Source: The New York Times

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia in 2013. Over the years, he has been accused of having ties to a murder, taking kickbacks and helping concoct a criminal prosecution against a political rival. Credit Lai Seng Sin/Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The conspirators were confident. They planned to confront Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, at a cabinet meeting and demand his resignation. Prosecutors had collected evidence that Mr. Najib had deposited millions of dollars of public money into his personal bank account. Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail was ready to file criminal charges, according to Najib advisers and opposition leaders.

Mr. Najib had a reputation as a gentleman who was slow to act and never fired anyone. But when word of the plot reached him last July, he moved quickly. He dismissed both Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the man who would have taken his job, and the attorney general. And he blocked further inquiries into the allegations against him.

“They took it for granted that he was a sitting duck,” said Tony Pua, an opposition member of Parliament. “He turned the tables on them.”

Throughout Mr. Najib’s 40 years in public office, he has been easy to underestimate.

This month, the Justice Department filed a civil complaint in a money-laundering case outlining how Mr. Najib, identified as “Malaysian Official 1,” received $731 million from a government fund he oversaw. Investigators around the world are tracking the money trail to his bank accounts in what has become a billion-dollar scandal.

Protesters demanding the resignation of Mr. Najib in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, last August. Still, Mr. Najib faces no realistic challenge to his authority and is likely to win re-election in 2018. Credit Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

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A diplomatic approach to human rights

Source: The Star Online

Raring to go: Razali says he’s willing to go on ‘bended knee’ to ask for Suhakam’s annual report to be debated in Parliament. — ART CHEN/The Star

‘We didn’t fight the British to become independent so that we can oppress our own people,’ says the new chairman of Suhakam.

As the new Suhakam chairman, Tan Sri Razali Ismail says he won’t be going to barricades trying to knock down doors on human rights. For him, there is no “They against Us” or “Us against Them” when it comes to Suhakam and the government.

“We want to try to build a kind of sophistication where the government knows where we are coming from and trust us and don’t look at us as an agent to challenge or destroy them. We are not out to bash them,” he says.

The former diplomat believes “it is possible to persuade” the government on human rights. “I have to try my talent and my charm on the people inside, which is not going to be easy.”

Razali says Suhakam wants to talk with civil servants on human rights and hopes it can be introduced as part of the school syllabus to start the kids on it from young. He says “ it is a poor show on the part of the government” that Suhakam’s annual report is not tabled and debated in parliament.

“I am prepared to go on bended knees to meet with the Speakers of Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara on this. They must look at us.’’

The following is the full interview with Razali. Read more

UN rights body ‘gravely concerned’ by new Malaysian security law that grants govt search, seizure powers

Source: The Straits Times

The UN human rights body said it was “gravely concerned” by a new Malaysian security law that grants the government extraordinary emergency powers. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – The United Nations’ human rights body said on Friday (July 29)it was “gravely concerned” by a new Malaysian security law coming into force next week that grants the government extraordinary emergency powers.

“We are gravely concerned that… the act may encourage human rights violations,” Mr Laurent Meillan, acting head of the UN Human Rights Office for South-east Asia, said in a statement. He also expressed concern that the act could lead to “unjust restrictions” on free speech and assembly.

“We call on the government to revise the act to bring it in line with international human rights norms and standards,” he said.

The government rammed the National Security Council Act through Parliament last December, giving it powers to declare virtual martial law in areas of the country determined to be under security threat.

But critics of Prime Minister Najib Razak say he enacted the law as ammunition against any moves to oust him over a huge financial scandal.

The law, which comes into force next Monday (Aug 1), allows a National Security Council headed by the prime minister to suspend civil liberties in certain areas, giving government forces sweeping powers of search, seizure and arrest. Read more

Proham: Strengthen institutional governance for check and balance

Source: Malaysiakini

Our parliamentary democracy is built on the principle of ‘check and balance’ of the executive who have been elected by the people. Independent institutions have the role of preventing abuse of power in public office and taking appropriate action on wrongdoers. Public accountability and good governance are an integral part of human rights and citizens’ action which are guaranteed by our Federal Constitution.

Malaysian policies and legislation has established independent mechanisms which have a public duty to safeguard and protect public interest. These institutions include the attorney-general, the auditor-general, the inspector-general of police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) and the Parliamentary Accounts Committee.

They are to undertake independent monitoring, investigation, inquiry, and assessment and identify wrongdoers who then must be prosecuted.

The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Malaysia (Proham) recognises that action or in action by the executive is weakening both parliamentary democracy and good governance in Malaysian society. Collective action is urgently needed to reverse this trend in the public interest.

As we reflect on three current issues in Malaysian society, Proham is deeply concerned for the state of democracy, human rights and public accountability in Malaysia society. Read more

1MDB: The inside story of the world’s biggest financial scandal

Source: The Guardian

On 22 June 2015, Xavier Justo, a 48-year-old retired Swiss banker, walked towards the front door of his brand new boutique hotel on Koh Samui, a tropical Thai island. He had spent the past three years building the luxurious white-stone complex of chalets and apartments overlooking the shimmering sea and was almost ready to open for business. All he needed was a licence.

Justo had arrived in Thailand four years earlier, having fled the drab world of finance in London. In 2011, he and his girlfriend Laura toured the country on a motorbike and, two years later, they got married on a secluded beach. The couple eventually settled down in Koh Samui, a tourist hotspot, just an hour’s flight south of Bangkok. After trying out a couple of entrepreneurial ventures, Justo eventually decided that he would go into the hotel business. He bought a plot with an imposing house and began building: adding a gym, villas and a tennis court.

That June afternoon, he was expecting a visit from the tourism authorities to sign off on the paperwork. Instead, a squad of armed Thai police burst through the unlocked door, bundling Justo to the ground. The officers tied their plastic cuffs so tightly around Justo’s wrists that he bled on the dark tiled floor. The police quickly moved into his office, ripping out the computers and emptying the filing cabinets.

After two days in a ramshackle local jail, Justo was flown to Bangkok and paraded before the media, in a press conference befitting a mafia kingpin. Still wearing shorts and flip-flops, he was flanked by four commandos holding machine guns, while a quartet of senior Royal Thai Police officers briefed the assembled reporters on the charges against him.

Justo was charged with an attempt to blackmail his former employer, a little-known London-based oil-services company named PetroSaudi. But behind this seemingly mundane charge lay a much bigger story.

Six months earlier, Justo had handed a British journalist named Clare Rewcastle Brown thousands of documents, including 227,000 emails, from the servers of his former employer, PetroSaudi, which appeared to shed light on the alleged theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from a state-owned Malaysian investment fund known as 1MDB.

The documents that Justo leaked have set off a chain reaction of investigations in at least half a dozen countries, and led to what Loretta Lynch, the US attorney general, described last week as “the largest kleptocracy case” in US history. Read more

The Guardian view on Malaysian politics: a scandal meriting the world’s attention

Source: The Guardian

Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak. ‘Even his erstwhile patron, former premier Mahathir Mohamad, has joined forces with the opposition in an attempt to oust him.’ Photograph: Reuters

Malaysia’s new security law, due to come into force on Monday, would be alarming at any time. Its sweeping powers permit authorities to declare national security areas which are off-limits to protests, where individuals and premises can be searched without a warrant, and where killings by security forces need not result in formal inquests. Changes to the country’s criminal code, undermining the rights of suspects, are similarly concerning. Human rights groups warn that existing laws, including the colonial-era Sedition Act – which Prime Minister Najib Razak once vowed to repeal – have been used to detain and muzzle critics. The country’s police chief recently warned that protests by electoral reform group Bersih would be permitted only if participants avoided calling for Mr Najib’s resignation.

The government says the National Security Council Act is needed to protect the public from a mounting global terrorism threat. It is striking, however, that it becomes law as the prime minister faces growing pressure and planned protests over the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB development fund scandal, which has snowballed since emerging a year ago. Even his erstwhile patron, former premier Mahathir Mohamad, has joined forces with the opposition in an attempt to oust him. Read more

Suhakam lauds judiciary for Poca decision

Source: Malaysiakini

Tan Sri Razali Ismail, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) — NST FIle pic

Razali Ismail, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) — NST FIle pic

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) today praised the judiciary for ensuring that detention under the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca) follows due process.

This comes with the High Court in Kuala Lumpur declaring on Tuesday the remand of Malaysian Crime Watch Task Force (MyWatch) chairperson R Sri Sanjeevan under Act as null and void.

“In this case, the commission commends the judiciary for playing its crucial role in ensuring that detention under Poca follows due process,” Suhakam chairperson Razali Ismail said in a statement today.

Razali said Poca allows for detention without trial and denies an individual’s right to legal representation, which goes against internationally recognised human rights standards.

While effective laws are needed to combat crime and bring perpetrators to justice, they must be accompanied by stringent safeguards to prevent abuse of the law, he said. Read more

Court allows whistleblower to strike out Jamil Khir’s suit

Source: FMT News

KUALA LUMPUR: National Oversight and Whistleblowers (NOW) director, Akmal Nasir, is free from a lawsuit.

The High Court allowed Akmal on Thursday to strike out a lawsuit by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom. Akmal had reportedly claimed the latter abused public funds.

Akmal’s lawyer, Razlan Hadri Zulkifli, disclosed that Justice Nor Bee Ariffin found that the impugned statement by his client was a comment on Jamil’s conduct as a Minister.

“She (Justice Nor Bee) applied the case of Utusan Malaysia and Pahang Menteri Besar Adnan Yaacob,” he said. “The court awarded cost of RM3,000 to Akmal.”

Lawyer Adnan Seman, acting for Jamil, said he will seek instructions from his client on whether to appeal over the striking out.

Jamil, in charge of Islamic affairs, sued Akmal on November 19 last year. He claimed that Akmal had alleged that he abused his position as a Minister. Akmal had reportedly further alleged that Jamil had used the Islamic Economic Development Foundation (YaPEIM) funds for personal use. Read more

Bopim hails Surendran’s stand on ‘preventive detention’

Source: FMT News

KOTA KINABALU: A human rights advocate stressed that Padang Serai MP N Surendran “hit the nail on the head” with his statements on two consecutive days, on preventive detention. “He gave as good as he got, in fact even better,” said Daniel John Jambun in a telephone interview.

“Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

“Nur Jazlan was forced to degenerate into rhetoric and polemics.”

Jambun, who heads the UK-based Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (Bopim), urged the Federal Government to emulate what other nations were doing on national security and on combating terrorism.

“These nations hit by terrorism, including long-suffering India for example, don’t have detention without trial.”

There’s no reason for Malaysia to have such laws, he continued, even if it suffered terrorist attacks like so many other countries in the world.

“It’s high time that the Federal Court declared the intention of the framers of the Constitution and the intention of Parliament on national security.

“National security cannot be used as a euphemism to deny civil liberties and human rights.” Read more

LFL urges Putrajaya to put NSC Act on hold

Source: FMT

 

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has expressed shock that the controversial NSC Act has been gazetted to come into force on 1 August 2016 despite very serious concerns raised by stakeholders. Pic taken from FMT News.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has expressed shock that the controversial NSC Act has been gazetted to come into force on 1 August 2016 despite very serious concerns raised by stakeholders. Pic taken from FMT News.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has strongly urged the government to suspend the National Security Council Act (NSC) and to consult all stakeholders regarding the many concerns that have been raised.

“We further call for substantial amendments to be made to the NSC Act, so that national security is genuinely balanced with constitutional, democratic and human rights concerns, and institutional checks and balances,” said LFL Executive Director Eric Paulsen in a statement.

LFL expressed shock that the controversial NSC Act has been gazetted to come into force on 1 August 2016 despite very serious concerns raised by stakeholders — civil society, lawyers, elected representatives — and even the Conference of Rulers which had called for certain provisions of the Act to be “refined”. The Act also failed to acquire the Agong’s Assent and was deemed to be passed by Parliament.

If comparisons were drawn between the now abolished provisions of Part III on the Special Provisions Relating To Security Areas of the Internal Security Act 1960, and Part IV on the Declaration of Security Area of the NSC Act, said Paulsen, “they bear such a striking similarity that we can only deduce that the NSC Act was enacted to replace Part III of the ISA”.

More importantly, he said, the powers to invoke the special provisions relating to “security areas” have been shifted from the Agong under the ISA to the Prime Minister under the NSC Act. Therefore, he continued, it’s clear that the Prime Minister under the NSC Act has effectively usurped the powers of the Agong under the ISA (abolished) to declare “security areas”. Read more