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

Read more

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