Dubbed the ‘champion of doubletalk’ by influential U.S. daily Washington Post a year before Malaysia held its controversial general elections in 2013, Prime Minister Najib Razak is widely expected to pull another ‘self-aggrandizing’ act when he delivers his nation’s report card to the United Nations in New York tomorrow.
KUALA LUMPUR – Dubbed the ‘champion of doubletalk’ by influential U.S. daily Washington Post a year before Malaysia held its controversial general elections in 2013, Prime Minister Najib Razak is widely expected to pull another ‘self-aggrandizing’ act when he delivers his nation’s report card to the United Nations in New York tomorrow.
This time, despite being able to claim credit for successfully negotiating with Ukraine rebels over access to the MH17 air crash site, the 60-year-old Najib is unlikely to find the international community as gullible as he and his expensive public relations team may wish.
International NGOs are breathing down hard on the United Nations to get tough with Najib for backtracking on democratic and human rights reforms. Behind the handshakes and plush carpets of the UN headquarters in New York and Geneva, activists say the international community is watching developments in Malaysia closely.
“Malaysia is going precisely the wrong way when we look at the issues and treatment of human rights, sort of slamming the car into reverse by taking a much more intolerant and abusive path going forward,” Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch told Malaysia Chronicle.
Najib using despotic means because he thinks he can get away with it
Robertson, in the Malaysian capital for a for forum on transgender rights, highlighted Najib’s use of the archaic Sedition Act, drawn up in 1948 by the British colonial government to fight back terrorists and Communists insurgents.
Robertson flayed the Najib administration which he believed was now using the oppressive law to effect a brutal crackdown and creating a climate of fear in a bid to regain political power by force.
“Prime Minister Najib needs to explain exactly what Malaysia is doing. It’s too bad there isn’t a Question and Answer session at the UN general assembly so that somebody could put a hand up and ask why is Malaysia using the Sedition Act wholesale to go after activists and Opposition politicians. Our assessment is they are using the Sedition Act in a politically purposeful manner to crackdown on anybody who has an opinion the government doesn’t like,” Robertson said.
The Human Rights Watch deputy director said the Najib administration had launched the crackdown because they believed they could “get away with it”.
Bad record will impede re-election into UN Human Rights Council
However, such ham-fisted action might cost the Malaysian government its bid to get re-elected on the UN Human Rights Council, Robertson warned.
He also said the international community was also closely following the Sedition investigation launched against Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.
“It’s clear the Sedition Act is so broadly worded that any sort of speech the government of Malaysia finds offensive can be barred under that Act. This is being used to effect a wholesale crackdown on expression. It’s being used to create fear among people that what they said tomorrow, what they may have said 2 or 3 years ago will be used to haul them into court and to basically treat them as criminals. They clearly violate international human rights standards on protection of freedom of expression,” said Robertson.
Anwar, symbol of the Opposition, to be persecuted again?
“I think many people I spoke to today are looking very closely to see whether this police investigation of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim that is supposed to take place tomorrow will turn into a sedition charge. This is the sort of thing we are now seeing in a new post-GE13 Malaysia – crackdown on rights based on assessment by the government that they can get away with it. Well, that’s not the case. The international community is watching the situation very closely. Malaysia has said to a number of different states they plan to run again for the UN Human Rights Council. With a record like I would expect they would not be re-elected,” he added.
Anwar is being probed for comments made in a speech in 2011 while launching a protest over the alleged lack of fair investigations into the murder of a Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu whom many believed had been Najib’s mistress.
Another Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, the influential adviser of the DAP party, has already been quizzed by the police and faces Sedition charges too.
Lim flayed Najib for his “reign of white terror”.
“Ironically, Najib will be speaking as the most “transformational” leader at the UN General Assembly tomorrow, representing Malaysia as the world’s most seditious country instead of being the world’s best democracy,” Lim said in a statement issued on Thursday.
“Najib has not only beaten all the previous five Prime Ministers in chalking up the most number of sedition prosecutions in any Malaysian administration, including that of his father Tun Razak and his former mentor Tun Mahathir in a 22-year premiership, he can even claim credit as the only leader in the contemporary world who has sanctioned the most number of prosecutions under the arcane colonial law of sedition to suppress freedom of speech, criticism and dissent.”
“Can Najib explain to the United Nations General Assembly why Malaysians have suddenly in the past five years become the most seditious people in the nation’s 57-year history as well as being the most seditious people in the world, judging by the number of seditious prosecutions particularly in the past six weeks?”
Dragnet to widen, asylum seekers may increase
Najib is due to deliver Malaysia’s national statement at the General Debate of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept 26.
Caught in the sedition dragnet are some 20 personalities from a wide spectrum of backgrounds. They include federal and state legislators such as Teresa Kok, N Surendran, Khalid Samad, RSN Rayer to academicians, reporters and social activists like Azmi Sharom, Susan Loone, Safwan Anang, Ali Abdul Jalil, Wan Ji Wan Hussin and Adam Adli.
A blogger Alvin Tan has cut bail and is seeking political asylum in the United States after being prosecuted for Sedition over a posting on Facebook – a Muslim greeting that the authorities allege was serious enough to incite mass disorder and violence. Critics however have lambasted it as ‘racial bullying’ by the Najib administration to consolidate support from the Malays, the predominant electorate in the country.
In New York, the Malaysian prime minister is expected to ‘share’ Malaysia’s economic transformation programmes as well as lobby for support for a non-permanent member’s seat in the United Nations Security Council.
Najib, who just months ago called on his Umno party members to “emulate” the courage of the brutal ISIL militants is also expected to make a U-turn on the international podium .
He is likely to condemn efforts to change the leaders of some legally-elected Islamic countries through illegal means, as well as hold forth on the tragic Malaysia Airlines flights MH370 and MH17. – Malaysia Chronicle