MALAYSIA UNDER PRIME MINISTER NAJIB RAZAK

NAJIB RAZAK

Prime Minister of Malaysia Dato' Sri Mohd Najib was appointed as Malaysia's 6th Prime Minister in April 2009. He succeeded Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who did not seek reelection as UMNO President. [Source: Malaysian Government]

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (Najib Razak) took office following his election as president of the United Malaysian Nationalist Organisation (UMNO)—the dominant faction of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN). The change in leadership was part of a deal reached last year with Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi following the party's dramatic loss of support in national elections in March 2008. According to the Far Eastern Economic Review, Najib won 190 out of 191 party division nominations and was the only candidate. But despite his near unanimous approval, UMNO continues to be wracked by sharp tensions. [Source: Dante Pastrana, World Socialist Web Site, April 2, 2009]

Dante Pastrana wrote in the World Socialist Web Site: Despite calls of unity at UMNO's annual general assembly last week, the differences were just below the surface. In his speech, Abdullah lashed out at complacency and greed within the party and warned that "UMNO faces a life and death situation". In an oblique reference to Najib, the outgoing prime minister warned: "If we revert to the old path, I believe we are choosing the wrong path, one that will take us to regression and decay." The "old path" is the combination of communal politics, police-state methods and national economic regulation that has formed the basis for UMNO rule since independence in 1957. Increasingly these measures have become an obstacle to the closer integration of Malaysia into globalised production processes. While Abdullah promoted mild changes to counter the parliamentary opposition's demands for more far-reaching reforms, Najib is more aligned with the UMNO old guard.

Najib’s rise to power has not been without controversy. Corruption allegations persist over the purchase of two French submarines in 2002 while Mr Najib was defence minister. He denies any wrong-doing and an investigation in France is ongoing. His former aide was also linked to a case involving the murder of a Mongolian national in 2006. The aide was acquitted in 2008. His elevation to the leadership also coincided with rising demand for change from an increasingly vocal electorate. Following a huge rally for electoral reform in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, in 2011, Mr Najib moved to reform tough laws on public gatherings. He also repealed the controversial Internal Security Act, replaced by new laws in 2012. Critics however says the new laws remain repressive and still allow for abuses. [Source: BBC, May 1, 2013]

Najib Razak’s Life

Najib is the eldest son of Malaysia second Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, credited with playing a part in securing independence from Britain in 1957. Najib's uncle, Hussein Onn, was the country's third prime minister. Najib is married to Datin Sri Rosmah Mansor and he has five children.

Najib was born in the district of Kuala Lipis in the state of Pahang. He received his primary and secondary education at one of the country's leading schools in the country, St John's Institution. He then continued his secondary education at the Malvern Boy's College, Worcestershire, England. Upon completion of his secondary education, Najib enrolled at the University of Nottingham and graduated in 1974 in industrial economics. [Source: Malaysian Government]

On his return to Malaysia in the same year, Najib joined the national oil company, Petronas, as an executive where he served for two years before taking the plunge into politics following the sudden demise of his father in 1976. He was the obvious choice of the ruling National Front coalition to contest the Pekan parliamentary seat vacated by his late father. The national outpouring of grief following Tun Razak's death and the respect for his father tremendous contributions toward Malaysia's development, saw Najib elected unopposed as Member of Parliament at the very young age of 23.

Najib Razak Political Career

After earning an industrial economics degree from the University of Nottingham in the UK, Najib returned to Malaysia in 1974 and worked for state oil firm Petronas. His father's sudden death two years later left a parliamentary seat vacant and saw Mr Najib enter politics. At 23, he became the youngest MP in Malaysian history and quickly rose to prominence. He held numerous cabinet posts - including energy, telecommunications, education, finance and defence - before becoming deputy prime minister to Abdullah Badawi in 2004.[Source: BBC, May 1, 2013]

According to to the Malaysian government: Najib has long association in politics and government service. Following his unopposed victory as Member of Parliament in 1976, Najib was appointed the Deputy Minister of Energy, Telecommunications and Posts. He had also served as Deputy Education and Deputy Finance Minister. In the 1982 general elections, he stood in the state seat of Bandar Pekan and was subsequently appointed the Menteri Besar of Pahang until 1986. Following the general elections in 1986 where he re-contested and won the parliamentary seat of Pekan, Najib was appointed the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports. Under his stewardship Malaysia made its best ever showing in the Sea Games where the country came out on top in the medal tally for the first time in the history of the game. He also introduced the National Sports Policy which outlines the development of sports in the country and introduced monetary incentives for the Malaysian athletes who won medals at the Olympics Games.[Source: Malaysian Government]

In 1990, Najib was appointed Defence Minister, a senior position within the government by the Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He embarked on the modernization of the Armed Forces, moving it towards a leaner fighting force capable of handling any conventional threats. The Armed Forces modernization, among others, saw Malaysia's acquisition of new assets such the Russian aircrafts, MiG 29, Boeing F18 Super Hornet, the F-2000 frigates, the 155m artillery gun and the upgrading of the country's air defence with the acquisition of a new radar system. The welfare and well-being of the armed forces personnel were given due attention including improving their housing facilities and allowances.

In 1995, Najib was appointed to a much more prominent ministry, which is the Ministry of Education. During his tenure the country's education system underwent a major reform with the passing of six legislations, the main one being, The Education Act 1996, to facilitate a more market driven education system. The legal framework saw the country's education system undergo massive reforms and sweeping changes to the institutions of learning. It allowed them to offer a wider range of courses, different options and approaches to learning and new teaching methods. Today, there is greater choices and places for Malaysians to pursue their higher education locally or abroad. Besides that, there is an increasing number of foreign students pursuing their studies at local and foreign learning institutions in Malaysia. Indeed, Najib had a big part in this move to build a world class education system that is flexible and innovative in Malaysia as well turning the country into a regional education hub and center of excellence. Besides that, the well-being of teachers were given due attention with the introduction of time-based promotion, better starting salary for new teachers and special housing projects for teachers.

During the 1999 general elections Najib received a major setback when he barely scrapped through with a majority of 241 votes for the predominantly Malay Pekan parliamentary seat compared to the over 10,000 majority in the previous election. It came as a shock for him and political observers. However, it was not a complete surprise as the election came at the height of the 1999 political upheaval. Following the elections, he was appointed Defence Minister for the second time and proceeded with the modernization of the Armed Forces which came to a halt following the financial crisis of 1997. Major acquisitions include the purchase of the new Russian fighter aircraft, Sukhoi Su30 MKM, submarines which the Royal Malaysian Navy had sought for many years and the Polish tanks. Also, the short-range air defence system. Jernas, was acquired for the Army. For the Armed Forces personnel, several allowances were improved in particular flying allowances for air force pilots and higher starting salaries for new recruits.

The 2004 general elections which came a few months after Najib elevation as the Deputy Prime Minister, saw him winning his parliamentary seat with a whopping 22,922 majority. It was one of the highest majority in the elections and undoubtedly the most improved performance by a candidate. In the 2008 general election, Najib was re-elected to the Pekan parliamentary seat with a majority of 26,464. It was the highest majority for Barisan Nasional despite the overall drop in support for the coalition government in that general election. He remained as Defence Minister until September 2008 when he took over as Finance Minister in 2008 from Abdullah. A Malaysian general election was held on March 8, 2008, in accordance with Malaysian laws for national elections, which states that a general election must be held no later than five years subsequent to the previous elections; the previous general election was held in 2004. Malaysia's Parliament was dissolved on February 13, 2008, and the following day, the Election Commission announced nominations would be held on February 24, with general polling set for March 8. State assemblies of all states other than Sarawak were also dissolved and their elections took place at the same time.

Najid as Deputy Prime Minister

Dante Pastrana wrote in the World Socialist Web Site, “With Najib as deputy prime minister, the government was already taking a tougher line on political opponents. He is connected to the pressing of new charges against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. The case is based on allegations of homosexual behaviour made by one of Anwar's political aides, who has been photographed with Najib. The opposition People's Coalition alleges that the aide was a government plant. [Source: Dante Pastrana, World Socialist Web Site, April 2, 2009 +++]

“In the run up to the UMNO general assembly, police attacked an opposition rally in Kedah at which Anwar was speaking. On March 23, two opposition newspapers—Harakah and Suara Keadilan—were ordered to close for three months without explanation. Reporters from popular opposition web sites—Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider—were denied credentials to the UMNO assembly. +++

“While declaring that he will fight for reform and end corruption, Najib is steeped in UMNO's corrupt and anti-democratic traditions. He is fighting off allegations of involvement in a lurid scandal involving the murder of a Mongolian woman. Two of his bodyguards are on trial for the killing. One of Najib's close aides was acquitted last year of related charges. +++

Reflecting concerns in international financial circles about Najib's agenda, an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Malaysia's New Mahathirism" warned of the dangers of racial conflict and government repression. While critical of "the moderate and mostly ineffective Abdullah," the newspaper urged Najib to "squelch his inner Mahathir and lead Malaysia down the path of more transparent government and basic freedoms". This appeal is not directed at creating democratic rights for ordinary Malaysians, but rather the best conditions for foreign investors. +++

Politics of Preparing Najib to be Prime Minister

Najib Razak was named the head of his party in November 2008, making it virtually certain he would become prime minister in April 2009. He won endorsements from 138 UMNO branches and won the post unopposed. Candidates need the support of at least 58 of the party’s 191 branches to be a candidate. Najib’s sole rival Razaleigh Hamzah received only one nomination.

With Najib selection wrapped up at an early stage with a minimum of fuss the politicking revolved around patronage, influence and who would be picked for what ministry position. "The realignment of backers and allies, and the race for power and positions, has begun," said Zainal Aznam Yusof, a respected Malaysian economist and a member of a government council set up recently to deal with economic problems."One dreads to hear the sound of money greasing the wheels of UMNO," Zainal wrote in an editorial in the New Straits Times.

With Abdullah gone, Mahathir returned to UMNO. "It's not Najib that is going to rule. It's Mahathir going to pull all the strings from now on, from behind the scene," said Terence Gomez, professor at the University of Malaya. David Chance of Reuters wrote: “That means Malaysia is unlikely to see big reforms under Najib of the kind that are needed to reassure investors who want issues such as lack of transparency in the judiciary addressed. At the same time, the prosecution of bloggers and others who challenge the government is likely to rise under Najib. A recent crackdown at has drawn criticism from human rights and journalist groups and important trading partners.” [Source: David Chance, Reuters, October 9, 2008]

Ian Buruma wrote in The New Yorker, “One man who is desperate for Najib to succeed is Dr Mahathir. When I spoke to Dr Mahathir’s confidant Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad, who is a veteran UMNO political operator, about his party’s fortunes, he sounded gloomy. UMNO, he told me, is like Chiang Kai-shek’s corrupt nationalists in Shanghai in the 1930s. He ticked off the party’s many ills on his fingers: “corruption, ostentatious living, abuse of power, rank stupidity at the top . . .” So was Anwar going to win? “He will if Najib fails to deliver great changes,” Abdullah Ahmad predicted. “Najib wants to, but he can’t. He’s surrounded by corrupt people.” [Source: Ian Buruma, The New Yorker, May 19, 2009 <>]

“It’s not clear that Najib wants to make big changes, despite recent speeches denouncing corruption in Malaysian politics. Anwar does, but it’s unclear whether he will be able to. The entrenched interests “” Malay bureaucrats, army officers, policemen, judges, businessmen, and politicians “” will fight to hold on to their privileges. When I asked Anwar about this, he said that such resistance could be managed by reformulating the quotas rather than abolishing them. “Affirmative action would still be acceptable, but based on need, not on race,” he said. “I tell PAS that Malays won’t lose out. But there are poor Indians, and poor Chinese, too, who should be helped.” <>

Najib as Prime Minister

Najib's government spent hundreds of millions of dollars on financial handouts for students, low-income families and government employees in his first two years in office. He also intensified efforts to win back support by abolishing security laws that were widely considered repressive. There was some relaxation in rules that stipulate ethnic Malays must own 30 percent of certain businesses. These moves were made in such a way as to avoid antagonizing Malays. According to Al-Jazeera “Najib’s limited liberalisation moves dismissed by critics as cosmetic steps that dodge deep change to avoid upsetting a ruling Malay elite.”

In April 2009, The Star reported: “ Najib Tun Razak announced a 28-member Cabinet with 25 ministries that saw eight ministers dropped and seven new faces appointed. Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who won the UMNO deputy presidency in last month’s party elections, was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister. Najib retained the finance portfolio which he has held since September 2008 following the portfolio swap between him and former premier Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at that time. Najib’s Cabinet is slightly smaller than his predecessor’s 32 ministers and 27 ministries. Najib also announced that he would be forming a Council of Economic Advisers, consisting of between six and eight experts who will advise him directly on economic matters. The chairman of the Council will have ministerial rank but would not be part of the Cabinet. [Source: The Star, April 9, 2009]

According to to Malaysia government: Under Najib premiership, Malaysia has embarked on a journey of transformation within Malaysia’s multiracial, multi religious context. The cornerstone is his 1Malaysia initiative, which emphasizes national unity. Najib has also launched a Government Transformation Programme to improve the quality of public services, increase efficiency, and make government more transparent. The programme sets Key Performance Indicators to measure the performance of officials and agencies and National Key Result Areas to define goals for specific areas of public policy. He also introduced a new cabinet position to support the Unity and Performance Minister in implementing the KPI system. To drive the nation forward, Najib introduced a New Economic Model with reforms to create a business environment conducive to economic growth, development and investment. The goal is to make Malaysia a high-income nation and a developed country by 2020. Transformation and further liberalization of the economy are vital to this. [Source: Malaysian Government]

Najib has won some praise for repealing laws that allowed indefinite detention without trial and has tried to build bridges with the country's minority Indians and Chinese. The opposition had more than one-third of Parliament's seats and hoped to win power by pledging to curb graft, racial discrimination and restrictions on civil liberties. Najib announced high-profile measures to tackle those problems in a bid to ensure the political survival of his National Front coalition, which has governed since 1957. [Source: Eileen Ng and Sean Yoong, Associated Press, January 9, 2012]

Siva Sithraputhran and Anuradha Raghu of Reuters wrote: “Najib's government has struggled to respond to growing demands for more accountability and democratic reforms. Those demands are being pushed most forcefully by the young, many of whom get their news from lively independent websites rather than state-controlled media. Many feel impatient with the gradual pace of reform under Najib, a 59-year-old veteran of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which dominates the ruling coalition, and the son of a former prime minister. [Source: Siva Sithraputhran and Anuradha Raghu, Reuters, April 29, 2013]

Economic Policy Under Najib

Najib, who has a bachelor's degree in economics, took over at a time when a re-energized opposition led by Anwar was seeking to take over the government and when economic growth was is the doldrums due to global financial turmoil and Malaysia' was losing investment money to more nimble neighbors. Growth in Malaysia's export-oriented economy in 2009 fell to it lowest numbers since 2001. The budget deficit soared due to spending on fuel subsidies and national infrastructure projects, according to the Malaysian Institute for Economic Research, a leading think-tank. "I pity Najib. He's taking over from the worst of times and from a man who messed things up," Abdullah Ahmad told Reuters, referring to the outgoing premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Eileen Ng of Associated Press wrote: Najib “has embarked on a series of economic and government transformation efforts to revamp his coalition's image, including abolishing security laws widely considered repressive, wooing investment from abroad and bolstering public welfare including cash handouts for civil servants and the poor. With his battlecry of "1 Malaysia," Najib also trimmed affirmative action policies but is restrained by hardliners in his ruling Malay party. He has pointed to the National Front's stewardship that turned Malaysia from an agricultural backwater into a modern, stable nation.[Source: Eileen Ng, Associated Press, April 29 2013]

To mark his 100th day in office, Najib unveiled a range of economic sweeteners including a cut in road toll charges and business license fees A nationwide poll around that time by the independent Merdeka Center research firm showed Najib's approval rating had risen from 45 to 65 percent in less than a month following his pledges to tackle complaints of corruption and racial discrimination. [Source: Razak Ahmad, Reuters, June 6, 2009 <=>]

“Malaysia's focus on heavy industries and manufacturing in the 1980s drew multinational corporations to its shores but it has since lost out to neighboring countries as a low-cost manufacturing base. Government spending in the last decade helped bolster growth as foreign investment ebbed. A 2011 World Bank report said Malaysia's brain drain was intensifying with more than one million of its citizens, mainly ethnic Chinese, living in Singapore and other countries largely due to higher wages, unhappiness over poor governance and lack of meritocracy. It warned the outflow of skilled people could bog down Malaysia's economy.” [Ibid]

Shamim Adam of Bloomberg wrote: “Najib Razak wants to engineer a return to Malaysia's glory days between 1987 and 1996 when its economy boomed, investment poured in, and local share prices almost quintupled. Although Malaysia's economy has expanded since those heady times, its average annual growth has declined from 7.2 percent in the 1990s to 4.7 percent in the last decade. A fast-rising China has attracted investment that might otherwise have gone to Malaysia, while neighbor Singapore has built new industries, wooed multinationals aggressively, and outstripped Malaysia in growth. "Beyond commodities, it's difficult to see Malaysia's competitive advantage vis-à-vis other Asian countries," says Joseph Tan, Singapore-based Asian chief economist at Credit Suisse Private Bank (CS). [Source: Shamim Adam, Bloomberg, September 09, 2010 ///]

“In response, Najib, in office since April 2009, has moved to streamline the government, made it easier for foreigners to invest, backed cutting-edge industries, and promoted a productive, educated workforce. His most controversial initiative is to start dismantling the policies that favor the ethnic Malay majority that put him in office—policies adopted by his father 40 years ago, when Abdul Razak was Prime Minister and the country was still recovering from riots between the Malay majority and the Chinese minority that left hundreds dead.” ///

Najib slowly dismantled the New Economic Policy, the affirmative action policy that helped Malays. Najib said the NEP failed to meet its target of raising Malay share of corporate wealth to 30 percent by 2010. It stood at 19 percent in 2009. The government still wants to meet the target by reforming the system and creating a new investor-friendly economic model, Najib said.

In 2013, the Najib government said gross national income per capita rose nearly 50 percent from 2009 to just under $10,000 in 2012, but critics say that figure is misleading because it does not take into account inflation and the uneven distribution of wealth. [Source: Niluksi Koswanage, Reuters, May 2, 2013]

New Economic Model

The goal of Malaysia's New Economic Model (NEM) unveiled by Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2010 is to raise Malaysia from a middle income nation to a high-income nation by raising per capita income to $15,000 by 2015 from $7,000 in 2010 as well as maintaining a growth rate of six percent a year.

Philip Schellekens wrote on a World Bank blog: The objective of NEM is for Malaysia to join the ranks of the high-income economies, but not at all costs. The growth process needs to be both inclusive and sustainable. Inclusive growth enables the benefits to be broadly shared across all communities. Sustainable growth augments the wealth of current generations in a way that does not come at the expense of future generations. [Source: Philip Schellekens, World Bank bogs, March 30, 2010]

A number of strategic reform initiatives have been proposed. These are aimed at greater private initiative, better skills, more competition, a leaner public sector, pro-growth affirmative action, a better knowledge base and infrastructure, the selective promotion of sectors, and environmental as well as fiscal sustainability.

The NEM represents a shift of emphasis in several dimensions: 1) Refocusing from quantity to quality-driven growth. Mere accumulation of capital and labor quantities is insufficient for sustained long-term growth. To boost productivity, Malaysia needs to refocus on quality investment in physical and human capital. Relying more on private sector initiative. This involves rolling back the government’s presence in some areas, promoting competition and exposing all commercial activities (including that of GLCs) to the same rules of the game.

2) Making decisions bottom-up rather than top-down. Bottom-up approaches involve decentralized and participative processes that rest on local autonomy and accountability —often a source of healthy competition at the subnational level, as China’s case illustrates. 3) Allowing for unbalanced regional growth. Growth accelerates if economic activity is geographically concentrated rather than spread out. Malaysia needs to promote clustered growth, but also ensure good connectivity between where people live and work.

4) Providing selective, smart incentives. Transformation of industrial policies into smart innovation and technology policies will enable Malaysia to concentrate scarce public resources on activities that are most likely to catalyze value. 5) Reorienting horizons towards emerging markets. Malaysia can take advantage of emerging market growth by leveraging on its diverse workforce and by strengthening linkages with Asia and the Middle East. 6) Welcoming foreign talent including the diaspora. As Malaysia improves the pool of talent domestically, foreign skilled labor can fill the gap in the meantime. Foreign talent does not substract from local opportunities--on the contrary, it generates positive spill-over effects to the benefit of everyone.

Overall, the New Economic Model demonstrates the clear recognition that Malaysia needs to introduce deep-reaching structural reforms to boost growth. The proposed measures represent a significant and welcome step in this direction. What will matter most now is the translation of proposed principles into actionable policies and the strong and multi-year commitment to implement them.

Malaysia’s New Economic Model and Ethnic Issues in Malaysia

According to The Star: The New Economic Model (NEM) points out that a key challenge of inclusive growth is the design of effective measures that strike a balance between the special position of the Bumiputera [Malays] and legitimate interests of different groups. While saying that ethnically divide societies are more prone to violent conflicts, NEM emphasises that the multi-racial composition of the Malaysian population is still its outstanding feature and this ethnic diversity will always be with us. As such, the market-friendly affirmative action programmes in line with the principle of inclusiveness will target assistance to the bottom 40 percent of households, of whom 77.2 percent are Bumiputra and many are located in Sabah and Sarawak, and ensure equitable and fair opportunities through transparent processes. It also allows access to resources on the basis of needs and merit to enable improvement in capacity, incomes and well-being, and has sound intellectual frameworks for better monitoring and effective implementation. [Source: The Star, March 30, 2010]

"The ETP (Economic Transformation Programme) will provide mechanisms to strengthen the capability of the bottom 40 percent so that they can take advantage of opportunities to secure better jobs, raise their productivity and grow their income. "This group will be assisted with programmes to build skills so that they can use their entrepreneurial instincts to start and grow their businesses," it says.

The NEM will also ensure equality be achieved through competition that is complemented with merits and recognition. "Families will be endowed with the opportunity and capabilities to pursue their aspirations in connected, sophisticated modern cities, townships and villages. They will live, work and study in localities free from the fear of crime, the indignity of discrimination and the anxiety of need," it says.

Najib’s Efforts to Cut Subsidies

Jeremy Grant wrote in the Financial Times: “Malaysia is one of the few countries in Asia attempting to tackle structural reforms such as reducing state subsidies on basic provisions, in an effort to cut public debt. At 54.8 percent of gross domestic product, the country’s public debt is one of the highest in Asia. [Source: Jeremy Grant, Financial Times, April 16, 2014]

“Najib Razak, prime minister, said last month that the government’s subsidy bill had risen too fast and warned that failure to cut government spending could lead to a loss of investor confidence “and subsequent hardship for the people”. A cut in fuel subsidies was implemented in September and a 6 percent sales tax will come into force next year. [Ibid]

“Many Malaysians Lee are feeling the pinch as subsidies are peeled away. Petrol is now 10 percent more expensive following the first round of cuts in fuel subsidies. Electricity tariffs also rose 15 percent. Charles Santiago, an opposition MP, says: “People are left hanging because they have the lifestyle of a middle class [person], but their earnings capacity has fallen because of the increase in the cost of living.” Worse, many Malaysians have ridden a wave of cheap credit to build up significant household debt. Malaysians are among the most highly leveraged in Asia: household debt reached 86.8 percent of GDP at the end of last year, up from 80.5 percent a year ago, according to data published by the central bank last month. Carmelo Ferlito, fellow at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs in Kuala Lumpur, warned that Malaysia’s middle class are now in a dangerous position, particularly if economic growth slows. “The risk is that if they do not change their spending habits and return to being savings-oriented, when a crisis comes the middle class will disappear.” [Ibid]

1Malaysia

1Malaysia is an on-going campaign introduced by Prime Minister Najib Razak in September 2008, calling for the cabinet, government agencies, and civil servants to emphasize ethnic harmony, national unity, and efficient governance. The eight values of 1Malaysia as articulated by Najib Razak are perseverance, a culture of excellence, acceptance, loyalty, education, humility, integrity, and meritocracy. [Source: Wikipedia]

Najib launched 1Malaysia.com.my in an effort to communicate with the citizens of Malaysia more efficiently and support the broader 1Malaysia campaign, He has used the site to highlight his policy initiatives and to provide a forum for Malaysians to their government. The 1Malaysia campaign makes extensive use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

The first 1 Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M) Project was a scheme devised by Najib Razak to help poor Malaysians. The amount of RM 500.00 Ringgit Malaysia was given to households with an income of less than RM3,000 a month. The second BR1M Project or also known as BR1M 2.0 will be launched on February 2013 and more than 2.5 Billion Ringgit will be distributed to Malaysians nation wide. This will effect 5.7 million household all over the country. In addition to the RM 500.00 for household, the government has also allocate RM 250.00 to single individuals. Those who have received RM 500.00 from the first BR1M project need not to apply as it will be automatically processed.

Najib’s Economic Transformation Program

Prime Minister Najib Razak unveiled a so-called Economic Transformation Program aimed at helping the country achieve its long-held target of achieving developed nation status by 2020. Najib's Economic Transformation Program (ETP) is a series of projects and policy measures intended to accelerate the country's economic growth. The government has also taken steps to liberalize some services sub-sectors. The Najib administration also is continuing efforts to boost domestic demand and reduce the economy's dependence on exports.

In June 2011, Najib announced nine new initiatives under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), an ambitious $444 billion program that is aims to push Malaysia into high-income status by 2020. The projects are additions to six projects announced recently which include a refinery and a petrochemical integrated development, and are planned to bring in a total of RM2.27 billion (US$748.5 million) in investment, gross national income (GNI) impact of RM18.67 billion (US$6.15 billion) and create 36,595 jobs by 2010. Combined, the 15 projects within seven National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) will account for about RM63.38 billion (US$20.9 billion) in investment, RM66.31 billion (US$21.9 billion) in GNI and generate 63,531 new jobs. [Source: Najib Razak, June 14th, 2011]

According to Bernama, Najib said that so far the ETP has recorded RM170.28 billion (US$56.19 billion) in investment, RM220.15 billion (US$72.63 billion) in GNI and created 362,396 jobs. The new initiatives include a 64 ha health education centre in Bandar Springhill developed by the UCSI Group, a parent organization of the UCSI University. The project will become the first private teaching hospital in the country and feature Malaysia’s only anti-aging, aesthetics and regenerative medicine facility.

Another initiative will provide national programme standards for early childhood care education (ECCE) training and upgrade the qualifications of the existing workforce to a minimum of diploma level as well as provide multiple and accessible training. The project, under the SEGi University College, will be fully operational in 2015 and the investment is worth RM700 million (US$230 million) and will generate RM900 million (US$297 million) in GNI.

Under the new initiatives, agriculture will play a leading role and will feature two main products: premium shrimps and swiftlet nests. Najib said JEFI Aquatech Resources Sdn Bhd was spearheading an initiative to develop Malaysia as a leading shrimp producer for the global and halal markets by developing agro-entrepreneurs in the country’s rural areas.The three main components of this project are the establishment of the Jefi Aquatech Centre and Jefi Aquatech Farm, which includes the development of the Agro-Entrepreneur Programme.Projects related to improved communications infrastructure and green technology are also in the pipeline under the ETP.

Najib's economic transformation plan was based on hefty public and private investment. It had some initial success but critics say it depends too much on public spending and risks expanding a national debt already at 53 percent of gross domestic product.

Najib and the Murdered Mongolian Model

November 2009, the Asia Sentinel reported: “A Malaysian private investigator in hiding for more than a year after recanting a sensational statement connecting now-Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to the murder of a Mongolian translator, has surfaced to reaffirm his allegations and to say he had been offered a RM5 million (US$1.48 million) bribe to disappear by a businessman said to be connected to Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor. [Source: Asia Sentinel, November 13, 2009 /*/]

“The statement by the private detective, P Balasubramaniam, in a YouTube video, appeared on Malaysia Today, the website run by Malaysian journalist Raja Petra Kamaruddin. Balasubramaniam said in his original statutory declaration that he had been hired by Abdul Razak Baginda, one of Najib's closest friends, to protect him from the wrath of Altantuya after he had jilted her. Razak Baginda was originally charged with the murder along with Najib's bodyguards but was acquitted without having to put on a defense. /*/

“In the 90-second video, Balasubramaniam said he had met with the businessman, Deepak Jaikshnan, the director of a carpet firm, in a bak ku teh (pork rib soup) restaurant in the Rawang* suburb where he lived, in which the businessman offered him the money. In an accompanying story in Malaysia Today, Raja Petra displayed photocopies of RM50,000 checks on Public Bank of Malaysia made out by Deepak Jaikshnan./*/

“Almost immediately on giving his original statement tying Najib to Altantuya in the company of his lawyer and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the private investigator was hustled to a Kuala Lumpur police station where he wholly and completely recanted the original, saying he had been coerced into making it by Anwar and others. Then he and his family disappeared. He had not been heard from since. /*/

“In his original statement, Balasubramaniam said he was making it because of his "disappointment at the standard of investigations conducted by the authorities into the circumstances surrounding the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu." He wrote that he wanted the "relevant authorities to reopen their investigations into this case immediately so that any fresh evidence may be presented to the Court prior to submissions at the end of the prosecutions [sic] case." /*/

“The private investigator said in 2008 that he had had extensive conversations with Razak Baginda in the days leading up to Altantuya's death in which he was told she had been introduced to Razak Baginda at a diamond exhibition in Singapore and that she had been handed off to him to look after her because Najib "did not want her to harass him since he was now the deputy prime minister." /*/

“It should be noted that on occasion Malaysia Today has been spectacularly wrong. At one point the website said Rosmah Mansor had been present at Altantuya's murder, although Sirul's confession made no mention of her and no other evidence has emerged to indicate she had been in the jungle clearing where the translator died. He has also delivered sensational reports that have been verified. /*/

“In the story on the website on the same day the YouTube video appeared, Raja Petra recalled that he had been having lunch with Balasubramaniam when the private detective received a call saying a police supervisor named Suresh was telephoning him to tell him his family's security was at stake. After he had repudiated his statement, according to Raja Petra, he was whisked to India and hidden. Balasubramaniam, Raja Petra wrote, had no choice but to accept the RM50,000 a month and "retirement' in India or suffer the same fate as Altantuya. "Little did they know that Bala was just biding his time, waiting for the right moment to strike back. And now he is striking back and has come out to reveal what really happened since the time he signed his first Statutory Declaration, followed by the second one the following day, 16 months ago," Raja Petra wrote. /*/

“The Altantuya murder, with its long-rumored ties to Najib, has had the potential to blow up into one of Malaysia's biggest scandals ever since the time the woman's body was found near a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. In his original declaration, Balasubramaniam said he had been told by Razak Baginda that the woman wanted the US$500,000 apparently as a commission owed to her from "a deal in Paris." The document also purported to confirm long-reported rumors that Najib, Razak and Altantuya had been at a dinner in Paris during the time when the submarine transaction was being negotiated. During the trial, a cousin of Altantuya's said she had seen a picture of the three at dinner, but the prosecution and defense both refused to take the matter further. /*/

“That deal was the purchase by the Malaysian government of three submarines at a cost of US$1 billion. According to testimony in Malaysia's parliament, a company controlled by Razak Baginda received a €117 million "commission" for the purchase of the submarines from the French military. Interestingly, in late October the son of the late French President Francois Mitterrand and a former minister were convicted of taking bribes relating to the sale of a huge amount of arms to the government of Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos between 1993 and 1998 in defiance of a United Nations arms embargo. Some 42 persons were accused of selling weapons to the Angolans. Despite calls to have Paris look into the Malaysian submarine transactions for possible evidence of corruption, no action has been taken and it appears unlikely that it will be. /*/

Court cases Involving the Murdered Mongolian Model

Thomas Fuller wrote in New York Times, “Testimony in the murder trial revealed that immigration records of the Mongolian woman and her friend had been deleted. Malaysia's political opposition says the case highlights the impunity of the police and high officials in government as well as a lack of independence in the judiciary. A police officer took the stand and said she was tortured by police investigators — her own colleagues. Witnesses in both cases have dropped from sight, including a private investigator, P. Balasubramaniam, who alleged in a sworn statement issued shortly before disappearing that the dead Mongolian woman was Najib's mistress. The statement by Balasubramaniam, which has been widely circulated online, contradicted Najib's repeated assertions that he never met the Mongolian woman,Altantuya Shaariibuu. [Source: Thomas Fuller, New York Times, August 2, 2008 <>]

“Balasubramaniam spent two months writing and revising a 16-page declaration about the case, based on conversations he had with the murdered woman and Abdul Razak Baginda, an aide to Najib. Balasubramaniam retracted the allegations in a hastily convened press conference and then disappeared. "It's obvious what has happened here. You don't need to be a rocket scientist," said Americk Sidhu, the private investigator's lawyer. "Somebody needed him to shut up." Balasubramaniam's wife and three children are also missing. The family's two Rottweilers were left behind in their cages. <>

"A lot of very dark things are happening now," said Raja Petra Kamarudin, one of the most influential and prolific Malaysian bloggers. Raja Petra was formerly a political associate of Anwar's wife, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail, in her Parti Keadilan Rakyat. Citing sources in military intelligence, he issued a sworn declaration in June alleging that Najib's wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, was present at Altantuya's killing. Government prosecutors say Altantuya was killed by two commandos who also served as bodyguards to Malaysia's top leaders. "I don't think Malaysia can afford to have a prime minister who has a huge question mark hanging over his head: Is he, or not, involved in the murder of this girl?" Raja Petra said in an interview. <>

“Najib has called the allegation in the declaration "total lies, fabrication and total garbage" and a "desperate and pathetic attempt to discredit and taint my political image." The government charged Raja Petra with criminal libel, a law that lawyers say has not been used in recent memory in Malaysia and which, unlike civil defamation, can carry a two-year prison term. Separately, Raja Petra has been charged with sedition and his house raided several times.” <>

Activists Slam Malaysia over Crackdown on Dissent

In September 2008, Eileen Ng of Associated Press wrote: “Rights activists condemned the arrest of a Malaysian opposition lawmaker and two journalists under a tough security law, accusing the government of trying to avert an opposition bid to seize power.One of the three people detained under Malaysia's Internal Security Act, journalist Tan Chee Hoon, was freed, but the two others were still being held, a Cabinet minister said. The arrests Friday were "aimed at protecting public order and preventing racial tension from flaring," said Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, rejecting allegations that the detentions were aimed at thwarting opposition leader Anwar Ibraham's bid to seize power. [Source: Eileen Ng, Associated Press, September 13, 2008 ++]

“The use of the Internal Security Act, a widely criticized law allowing indefinite detention without charge or trial, sparked fears of a major government crackdown on dissent. "The Malaysian government apparently thinks it can only maintain power by jailing journalists and opposition politicians," Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "Such tactics have no place in a modern democracy." Even though Abdullah was prime minister at the time of the crackdown. Many think Najib, then deputy prime minister, was behind the action. ++

“Police released journalist Tan of the Chinese-language Sin Chew newspaper after questioning. But Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin, also a journalist, and opposition lawmaker Teresa Kok were still being held, Syed Hamid said.Online commentator Kamarudin, a well-known anti-government activist, has infuriated authorities by publishing numerous claims about alleged misdeeds by government leaders on his Web site, Malaysia Today.Tan had reported comments last month by a Malay Muslim ruling party politician who described Malaysia's ethnic Chinese minority as "squatters" and accused them of hungering for power. The remarks sparked outrage nationwide, and the politician was suspended by Abdullah's party. Opposition lawmaker Kok was the third to be detained near her home in a Kuala Lumpur suburb. She has allegedly complained about the noise of morning prayers from a mosque in her electorate. ++

Protests in Malaysia in 2009

In August 2009, Julia Zappei of Associated Press wrote: “More than 60 people including minors were in custody after Malaysian police violently ended a mass street protest in a crackdown analysts say could undermine the government's reform agenda.Police used tear gas and chemical-laced water Saturday to disperse an estimated 20,000 people in downtown Kuala Lumpur who were protesting the Internal Security Act, a law that allows for indefinite detention without trial. [Source: Julia Zappei, Associated Press, August 1, 2009 <*>]

“Almost 600 people were arrested in the protest, the country's biggest in nearly two years that lasted hours. Most of them were released but 63 people remained in custody, said Kuala Lumpur police Chief Muhammad Sabtu Osman. He said they were being investigated for illegal assembly – an offense punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine. Police had declared the planned protest by opposition groups as illegal. Opposition lawyer Latheefa Koya said those held included three boys aged 13, 16 and 17. She said the 16-year-old is the son of someone detained without trial for eight years under the Internal Security Act. <*>

The opposition has decried the police action as a brutal crackdown on dissent. "It is clear that nothing has changed in this country," opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said in a posting on his blog Sunday. "Whenever there is a peaceful assembly, the police are used by the elite powers ... to prevent the people from expressing their views."

“Government leaders have dismissed the protest as an attempt by the opposition to gain political mileage. Prime Minister Najib Razak said the protest was "unnecessary and only caused hardship to the people" as the government has already pledged to review the controversial law. But analysts said the police action was a step back for Najib who has been struggling since taking office in April to revive his government's popularity. Approval has plunged in recent years amid public dissatisfaction over perceived highhandedness, economic mismanagement and racial tensions. <*>

“Ramon Navaratnam, chairman for the independent Center for Public Policy Studies think tank, said the crackdown showed that the government had failed to learn the lessons from a poor showing in general elections last year when it lost its traditional two-thirds Parliamentary majority. "(Najib) has said the right things but it's not materializing sufficiently... Is he serious about it – to be liberal and reformist?" Navaratnam said. "I'm sure this will have an effect ... This is too large a crowd, the issue is too emotional and basic to just be a flash in the pan." <*>

“The protest was the biggest since November 2007 when tens of thousands of ethnic Indians demonstrated against perceived discrimination of their minority community. Human rights activists have held numerous smaller protests over the years against the Internal Security Act, claiming it has been used in the past to jail hundreds of government critics. The act was instituted during the British colonial era more than 50 years ago to arrest those who posed a threat to national security. Human rights groups say at least 17 people are being held under the law, mainly for alleged links to militants and document forgery. Since taking office, Najib has released 26 detainees, including five leaders of the ethnic Indian protest.” <*>

Tensions in Perak and Arrest of an Opposition MP for Insulting the Sultan

In May 2009, ASEAN Affairs reported: “Malaysian police arrested at least a dozen anti-government protesters in Ipoh, the capital of the northwestern state of Perak at a rally to coincide with the first sitting of the state assembly since the state government was ousted in February. Perak was one of five of Malaysia's 13 states ruled by the opposition until a putsch organised by Najib Razak, who became prime minister a month ago. The ousting of the state government appeared to be an attempt by Najib, who was then deputy prime minister, to show he would be a strong leader and came just a few months before he took power, replacing Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. It came after a series of by-election losses for the coalition that has ruled Malaysia for 51 years. [Source: ASEAN Affairs, May 9, 2009 ||||]

“The Perak takeover has a powerful mix of race, religion and Malaysia's royals. The Islamist opposition has even accused the new chief minister of using black magic, which he denies, and the takeover is subject to court action. Malaysia's politics are becoming increasingly bitter and the opposition questions Najib's character and his ability to deliver reforms on racial equality and the economy. ||||

“A three-party opposition coalition known as the Pakatan Rakyat, or People's Alliance which includes the DAP, won political control of Perak in the March 2008 general elections. But the subsequent defections of three state legislators tipped the balance in favour of the ruling Barisan Nasional, the coalition in control of the federal government. Following the defections, Sultan Azlan Shah, the titular head of the Perak state, formally recognised the BN as the state government. ||||

In August 2009, an opposition MP was accused of sedition after allegedly insulting a state sultan. News agencies reported wheelchair-bound Karpal Singh, a prominent lawyer and MP, was charged with sedition for allegedly saying that political decisions taken by the sultan of Perak, a state in the north of Malaysia, can be legally challenged.Under Malaysian law any act that provokes hatred, contempt or disaffection against a state ruler amounts to sedition. Karpal, who is the chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), faces up to three years in jail if convicted. [Source: Agencies, August 12, 2009]

Insisting that he was voicing his legal opinion, he told reporters that he "can't see anything there which is seditious". "These sedition charges against Karpal are utterly baseless. This is just an excuse to remove a powerful political opponent" "In any event, sedition is an outdated piece of legislation," he said. "Of course I'm confident I've done nothing wrong." Prosecutors say Karpal's statement questioning the sultan's mandate to appoint a new state administration during a power struggle in Perak was seditious. The government has denied the charge is politically-motivated, saying it plans to call up to 20 witnesses mainly journalists who were at the press conference. [Ibid]

Bersih 2.0 Protests: Thousands Rally in Malaysia for Fairer Election Laws in 2011

In July 2011, police in Kuala Lumpur fired tear gas and detained hundreds of activists as more than 20,000 demonstrators massed across Malaysia's main city demanding electoral reforms in the country's biggest political rally in years. The rally was organized by Bersih 2.0, the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, who were demanding electoral reforms. Police fired teargas at close range at protesters in an underground tunnel, injuring several, and into the Tung Shin and Chinese Maternity hospital courtyard. More than 1,700 demonstrators were arrested.

The election protests were held by group of more than 60 non-governmental organizations, known as Bersih 2.0, which has the support of opposition political parties. Bersih wants electoral changes, such as lengthening campaign periods to at least 21 days and using indelible ink on fingers to prevent people from voting more than once.

Associated Press reported: “The opposition-backed rally was the culmination of weeks of intense pressure on Prime Minister Najib Razak's long-ruling coalition to make election laws fairer and more transparent ahead of national polls. Demonstrators marched in defiance of Najib's administration, which declared the rally illegal and warned people repeatedly to avoid it. Officials insisted it was merely an opposition attempt to trigger chaos and stir anti-government sentiment, while activists accused authorities of being afraid of any large display of dissent that could undermine their authority. [Source: AP, July 9, 2011 <<<]

“Authorities took extraordinary security measures to deter the rally by sealing off roads, closing train stations and deploying trucks with water cannons near the Independence Stadium in downtown Kuala Lumpur where activists sought to gather. Police said in a statement that they detained 1,667 people in a clampdown called "Operation Erase Bersih," referring to the Bersih coalition of civic groups that organized the rally. Those arrested included several senior opposition officials. Some were released after several hours, with police indicating that most would not be held overnight. <<<

“Thousands tried to reach the stadium from various parts of Kuala Lumpur, chanting "Long live the people" and carrying yellow balloons and flowers as they marched. Police fired numerous rounds of tear gas and chemical-laced water in repeated attempts to disperse the crowds, causing demonstrators to scatter into nearby buildings and alleys before they regrouped. Police helicopters flew overhead as a brief downpour failed to deter the protesters. The demonstrators dispersed after a five-hour standoff with police. Only several hundred reached the stadium. <<<

“Witnesses said riot police armed with batons charged at some protesters and dragged them into trucks. Some were seen bleeding, but police could not confirm any injuries. Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's top opposition figure, said on Twitter that he sustained a "minor injury" when his group was hit by tear gas. The Malaysiakini news website said he had a knee injury. Najib insisted Saturday the protesters only represent a minority, and that most Malaysians support his administration. "If there are people who want to hold the illegal rally, there are even more who are against their plan," the prime minister was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama. <<<

“Organizers said 50,000 took part in the rally, but police claimed there were only up to 6,000. Other observers and participants said the total was between 20,000 and 30,000, noting that it was highly unlikely that police could have arrested a quarter of the demonstrators. An accurate count was impossible because they were scattered in various areas. The rally has galvanized the opposition and has been credited for a surge in political awareness among the public in recent weeks. Opposition leaders accuse Najib's National Front coalition of relying on fraud to preserve its 54-year grip on power, which has been eroded in recent years amid mounting complaints about corruption and racial discrimination. The government insists the current electoral policies are evenhanded. The activists' demands include an overhaul of voter registration lists, tougher measures to curb fraud and fairer opportunities for opposition politicians to campaign in government-linked media. The National Front's mandate expires in mid-2013 but many analysts expect elections to be called by next year.” <<<

Malaysia Advances New Law Banning Street Protests

In November 2011, Malaysian lawmakers approved a ban on street protests after opposition legislators boycotted the vote and activists criticized the ban as repressive and a threat to freedom of assembly. Associated Press reported: Prime Minister Najib Razak's ruling coalition says the Peaceful Assembly Act is intended to strike a balance between public order and the right to peaceful assembly. The act passed easily in Parliament's lower house after the boycott. But Malaysian and international rights groups describe it as repressive because it bans street rallies and imposes tough restrictions and penalties for demonstrators. [Source: Associated Press, November 29 2011]

“The new law would confine demonstrators mainly to stadiums and public halls. Depending on the venue, organizers may be required to give 10-day advance notification to police, who would determine whether the date and location are suitable. Children under 15 and non-citizens would be barred from attending rallies, which also cannot be held near schools, hospitals, places of worship, airports or gasoline stations. Demonstrators who break the law can be fined 20,000 ringgit ($6,200). Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he believed the Peaceful Assembly Act would be "more Draconian" than laws in Zimbabwe or Myanmar. Other opposition activists indicated they might challenge the law in court, insisting it breaches the people's constitutional rights.” [Ibid]

Tear Gas Used as 25,000 Rally for Reforms in Malaysia

In April 2012, Malaysian police fired tear gas and chemical-laced water at thousands of demonstrators in Kuala Lumpur demanding an overhaul in electoral policies. Associated Press reported At least 25,000 demonstrators swamped Malaysia’s largest city today in one of the Southeast Asian nation’s biggest street rallies in the past decade. The demonstration reflected concerns that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling coalition — which has held power for more than 50 years — will have an unfair upper hand in upcoming elections. Activists have alleged that the Election Commission is biased and claimed that voter registration lists are tainted with fraudulent voters. [Source: AP, April 28, 2012]

“Demonstrators wearing yellow T-shirts poured into downtown Kuala Lumpur, massing near a public square that police had sealed off with barbed wire and barricades. “I’m here because I’m a Malaysian and I love my country,” said information technology manager Burrd Lim. “There’s no election that’s perfect, but I want one that’s fair enough.” Authorities said an opposition-backed pressure group that organised the rally had no right to use Independence Square, a symbolically important venue that hosts parades and high-profile celebrations. The demonstration remained peaceful for several hours, with participants singing the national anthem, waving banners and chanting slogans. Organisers declared the event a success and asked people to head home. ~~

“But just as some were walking away, a small group appeared to suddenly breach the police barriers, prompting authorities to fire tear gas and water laced with stinging chemicals at portions of the crowd. Demonstrators fled into streets and stores nearby, but witnesses said baton-armed police backed by trucks continued firing tear gas at some of them for at least half an hour before much of the crowd was dispersed. Authorities were seen detaining at least 20 people. ~~

“Federal police spokesman Rasdi Ramli estimated there were about 25,000 demonstrators, but many witnesses and some Malaysian news organisations said there were far more. Independent news website Malaysiakini said there was 100,000, while The Sun newspaper estimated 80,000. The rally’s organisers also want longer election campaigning periods and changes to ensure citizens living abroad can cast ballots, as well as international observers for the polls and fairer access for all political parties to the government-linked media. Government officials and electoral authorities insist the activists’ concerns are overblown. “We accept that there are issues,” Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said late Friday. “We have worked very hard to address them, introducing a raft of reforms to ensure that our country’s next election is the freest and fairest ever.” ~~

Najib Under Pressure on the Eve of 2013 Elections

Economic worries, perceived corruption, a system of ethnic preferences in the multi-racial country, street protests and infighting in UMNO, caused Najib's approval rating to slump and and made his government more unpopular than at any time since independence from Britain in 1957. In February 2013, the independent Merdeka Center showed Najib's approval rating at 61 percent, down 10 points since the end of 2011. His coalition is less popular, polling at 45 percent.

Wong Chun Wai, the editor of the pro-government Star daily, wrote in the Chronicle on January 7 that UMNO watchers believed former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad had decided to throw his weight behind Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, and effect an 11th-hour change in leadership, although many have cautioned that such a move could boomerang and create even greater infighting. Malaysia's economy has fared well and the country is considered by the Work Bank to be an attractive place to do business. On January 8, Mr Najib denied rumours he had suffered a minor stroke due to the pressure of the allegations by Mr Deepak, saying he is healthy. ''So don't listen to the blogs, please,'' he said. [Source: Lindsay Murdoch, The Age, January 13, 2013]

The Straits Times reported: “The recast political landscape saw Prime Minister Najib Razak undertaking economic and legal reforms to put the country on a firmer footing. Simultaneously, the winds of change blew swiftly through Malaysia's wider political culture. An assertive population kept up pressure on the ruling coalition to fulfil its promises, and on opposition politicians to repay voters' trust. [Source: Straits Times, April 11, 2013 +=+]

“Alongside the attention given to headline developments on the national stage - like the proposed high-speed rail link and the handling of the Sabah incursion - all eyes were also on the states of Kelantan, Kedah, Selangor and Penang, ruled by the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition. Not only their residents but also other Malaysians wanted to know whether economic growth and hopes of a better life would bear fruit under the stewardship of the opposition. +=+

“Malaysia's political culture has evolved substantially over the past five years. An increased expectation of good governance, stable political structures and pro-growth policies combined with pro-equity measures - yardsticks by which both BN and PR are judged - is a telling reflection of a maturing polity. The stakes are high for BN, whose share of parliamentary seats will be treated as a barometer by investors. The electorate will have to choose between it and PR, whose left-leaning platform focuses on achieving more balanced economic development across the country - a change that can be made only if PR gains power at the federal level.Malaysia has made progress in poverty reduction and income gains. There is sufficient momentum to reach its goal of US$15,000 per capita income perhaps ahead of 2020, subject, as always, to the vagaries of politics. +=+

Najib After the 2013 Election

After the 2013 election Najib promised to lead on a platform of limited reforms. According to the BBC: “These include moving to beef up foreign investment, improving public welfare with cash hand-outs for civil servants and the poor, as well as pushing his 1Malaysia programme prioritising national unity. "What my colleagues and I have done for Malaysian workers over the past four years are only a reflection of what is to come and implemented in the next five years," he said. "Improved welfare and well-being for more than 13 million Malaysian workers will be our priority to propel the nation forward."[Source: BBC, May 1, 2013]

Ten days after the election. Najib named a new Cabinet. Sean Yoong of Associated Press wrote: Prime Minister Najib Razak chose a mix of experienced officials and fresher faces meant to reinvigorate an administration accused of losing touch with many Malaysians. Najib said he considered his selection "a balanced Cabinet of experienced figures, technocrats and those who represent the young." Najib said the 30 Cabinet ministers and their 27 deputies will focus on cultivating the people's trust, ensuring continuity and combating corruption.[Source: Sean Yoong, The Associated Press, May 15, 2013 <=>]

“He reshuffled veterans in key portfolios such as home affairs and defence. Among the notable new ministers are Khairy Jamaluddin, one of Malaysia's most Internet-savvy politicians, who was put in charge of youth and sports issues, and Abdul Wahid Omar, president of Malaysian banking giant Maybank, who was appointed a minister in the Prime Minister's Department. The new Cabinet in the Malay Muslim-dominated country includes very few ethnic Chinese politicians, a reflection of how voters from the country's largest minority group abandoned the National Front in the elections. However, the lineup includes a record number of indigenous politicians from two largely rural Malaysian states on Borneo island, where support for the National Front remains steady. <=>

“Two surprises include Paul Low, an anti-corruption campaigner who will be a minister in the Prime Minister's Department, and P. Waytha Moorthy, an ethnic Indian rights activist who once led street protests against the government but was named a deputy minister. However, some analysts said the revamp might not appear bold enough to impress the public. "The Cabinet, at every level, is more of the same. It is disappointing. There is no substantive change to bring real national transformation," said Bridget Welsh, a political science professor at Singapore Management University. <=>

Bitter Election Creates Long-term Headache for Najib

Three weeks after the elections, Reuters reported: “ Malaysia's divisive election has left a bitter taste for millions of people that risks creating a long-term problem of legitimacy for Prime Minister Najib Razak's long-ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. The outrage was clear at a busy intersection across from one of Kuala Lumpur's fanciest shopping malls, where a huge poster of Najib and his deputy had been defaced--a rare display of public disrespect in the Southeast Asian nation. One of the scrawled comments poked fun at the unconvincing share of the votes won by Najib's ruling coalition in its May 5 election victory: "47 percent PM," it said. "If you don't like it, you can leave," mocked another, alluding to a comment by Najib's new home minister that those unhappy with the result--and the electoral system that produced it--should pack up and emigrate. [Source: Reuters, May 26, 2013 *~*]

“The tense political atmosphere threatens to prolong policy uncertainty that investors hoped the polls would put to rest, as Najib braces for a possible leadership challenge and the opposition mounts a noisy campaign to contest the result. By securing 60 percent of parliamentary seats with less than 50 percent of the popular vote, the BN's victory has served to expose starkly the unfairness of a gerrymandered electoral system that is also prone to cheating and bias. *~*

“That has galvanized the opposition, led by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, into holding a series of big rallies as it refuses to accept the result and prepares legal action to challenge the outcome in nearly 30 close-run seats. Disgruntled Malaysians have submitted over 220,000 signatures to the White House online petition page, exceeding the number required for a response from President Barack Obama. In response, divisions have appeared in the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the main party in the ruling coalition--in power since independence from Britain in 1957. *~*

Hard-liners have urged a crackdown on dissent and blamed minority ethnic Chinese voters for deserting the ruling coalition. That has raised racial tensions in a country whose ethnic Malay majority dominates politics and enjoys special privileges to offset what its leaders see as its disadvantaged position compared to relatively wealthy ethnic Chinese. Reformers have urged Najib to press ahead with social and economic reforms to blunt the opposition's appeal and address the concerns of discontented young and urban voters. That includes many ethnic Malays who voted for the opposition. "Every day Najib sees angry Malaysians on the Internet. It is not an easy thing to swallow," said a senior government official who declined to be identified. "There are people in his cabinet asking for a crackdown and there are others asking for him to brandish his reformist side." *~*

“The hard-liners appeared to gain ground last week when police used the colonial-era Sedition Act to detain three opposition politicians and activists and charged a student with inciting unrest. The three arrested were later released after a court rejected the police remand order, but could still face charges. Najib is under pressure from UMNO conservatives such as Mahathir Mohamad, who served as prime minister for 22 years, to show a tougher side. "Najib is not in a very strong position," Mahathir told reporters in Tokyo on May 25, saying there was a risk that his majority could be weakened further if some ruling coalition politician defected to the opposition. "When you are concerned about that, the focus on development, economy and all that will be affected. That is Najib's problem." *~*

“Najib is unlikely to countenance deeper electoral reforms, a move that could be political suicide for the BN. Reformists within UMNO are urging him, however, to ignore calls for a security crackdown and push ahead with steps to tackle corruption and make the ruling coalition more appealing to urban and ethnic Chinese voters who have deserted it. "Of course the debate on whether we are truly a majority government will go on. But we can gain respect from the people," said Saifuddin Abdullah, a prominent reformist who is a member UMNO's Supreme Council. *~*

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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