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March 30, 2009

The Malaysian Whodunit

Najib Razak in the library of his
official residence in Putra Jaya
Photo: Kamal Sellehuddin/The Star

by Dorinda Elliott

Reading about Malaysian politics is a bit like reading the National Enquirer. If it's not sodomy and nude photos, it's exploding mistresses. The stories just get weirder and weirder. Now the country's Web sites are abuzz with stories alleging that the prime minister-designate, Najib Razak, who is expected to step into the new job later this week, is connected to a bizarre sex-and-murder scandal. Najib denies allegations that he is linked to the murder of a Mongolian translator who helped facilitate the one-billion-euro sale of three submarines to the Malaysian government and that he profited from those government contracts. But an article published recently in the French daily Liberation and now circulating on Malaysian Web sites details alleged connections between the translator, who reportedly demanded a cut of the 114-million-euro commission on the deal, and Najib. According to the Liberation, the Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaaribuu, was killed--and then gruesomely blown up--in 2006 by two members of the Malaysian Special Branch. She allegedly was the mistress of a close colleague of Najib's--and may have been more than a mere acquaintance of Najib himself. The question, of course, is who ordered the killers to get rid of her?

All of this is a huge distraction from the real issue at hand: the economy, stupid! In a recent interview with Radio Australia, Clive Kessler, a professor at the University of New South Wales, argues that the Malaysian government can't afford to waste time on such scandals. The country's globalized economy is on the verge of recession. The Asia Times quoted Zaid Ibrahim, a former cabinet minister who resigned in protest over the slow pace of democratic reforms, warning: "We will not succeed in promoting a united country . . . if we do not subscribe to the rule of law. We need the openness, freedom and social justice that will be possible only with [the rule of law] in place and democracy."

The great news is that tourism has not been affected by all the scandals. In January, 17,000 Americans traveled to Malaysia, up 10 percent from the same period last year. That's probably because Malaysia is such a fun multicultural destination: a place where you can eat fabulous, cheap Malay, Chinese, and Indian food; visit temples, mosques, and picturesque beaches; and also have hilarious conversations about politics and, yes, sex, with everyone from your taxi driver to your waiter. There's been tremendous progress in the 15 years I've been watching Malaysia: These days, everyone has an opinion. And that's the real beginning of democracy.


Malaysia wants to move towards being a developed country by 2020. That was the suggestion made by the former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamed who ruled Malaysia as would be other dictators like Marcos and Surharto for more than two decades.

During his reign as Prime Minister, Ahmad Badawi and the present Najib Tun Razak were representing the Malaysian government at cabinet level and are also responsible for the policies that racially discriminated the Chinese and Indian population. Till today the races are segregated in schools and other places that would have promoted diversity.This was and is the policy of apartheid of the Malaysian government.

To stifle dissent, criticism or allow the public to actively participate in the affairs of the government, the Malaysian government continued the use of draconian legislation that was enacted during the communist insurrection some 50 years ago.

So legislation like the Internal Security Act ( detention without a trial), Sedition Act, Official Secrets Act,Socities Act, Printing and Publication Act and other forms of repressive tools were rampantly utilized to jail journalists, lawyers, protesters,bloggers and anyone who cared to bring to the attention of murders and torture in Malaysia.

Today the new Prime Minister in Malaysia , Najib Tun Razak is accused of being complicit in a homicide of a young lady who was his lover and is already implicated in corruption in the purchase of submarines. This is the future of Malaysia.

Malaysians of all walks of life are weary of the corruption, nepotism and lack of transparency in the country which was once called the "Golden Chersonese", by visitors on the 17th century. Today its fast becoming in local circles another Zimbabwe.

Clive Kessler obviously does not understand Malaysian values.As Malaysia stands , an illiberal democracy with competing authoritarian groups within the UMNO , the only way in which things can get better is when the old party dies and new one formed.

The economic crisis will rock malaysia in the next few months, sending the nation into a depression.This will envitably bring the communities together for the better of Malaysia.

The US, elections was a timely example to Malaysia, that in a democracy-all men are equal and the segregation of Bumiputras and non-bumiputras is not only outdated, it was a cancer to the Malay population which effectively undeveloped the Malay race to become welfare receipients.

Malaysians will have to address the necessity for a clean, fair and efficient government.The days of UMNO are numbered.No amount of reform can change its label as a corrupt government-even worse to have a leader who stays in power with impunity!

I always feel when I travel to Malaysia that the people there, who are so intelligent, deserve better. It's hard to understand why the politics remains so much in the gutter.
And in the meantime, Malaysians are friendly, smiling, wonderful people, who somehow get along despite their corrupt leaders. It remains a great place to visit.

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