Malaysia: Over the Edge?

By Sol W. Sanders
Monday, December 28th, 2015 @ 11:01AM

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Southeast Asia’s multi-ethnic player, Malaysia, with its carefully balanced Malay majority but dynamic Chinese and Indian minorities, is in crisis. A lack of resolution could not only jeopardize the country’s 30 million people but destabilize the region, especially neighboring Singapore with its Malay minority within an Overseas Chinese majority, Indonesia, and Thailand.

The followup on the murder of Kevin Morais, a public prosecutor investigating corruption involving Prime Minister Najib Razak, has brought on crisis after crisis. Morais’ family has charged the government snatched Morais’ body from the hospital and cremated it without an independent post-mortem. Morais had been seconded from his ministry to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission which is investigating the hundreds million dollar theft of government funds linked to the Prime Minister’s private bank account.

Morais, 55, Sept. 2 was dragged from his car after it had been rammed as he drove to work. Kidnapped after the collision, his body ended up in a cement-filled oil drum dumped in a nearby river. His burned car was was found with the identification numbers erased. Accidentally, a security camera along his route caught the hijacking and kidnapping along with identification of seven men, including an army major, who were arrested for the crime. The government claims it had permission from one of Morais’ brothers for the cremation but another brother, an hotelier resident of Atlanta, Georgia, charges it is all part of the growing financial and political scandal.

Malaysia’s police and legal system has been wrestling for months with attempts by the Najib government to subvert investigations into hundreds of millions of dollars that ended up in the prime minister’s personal account. The money as mysteriously then disappeared. The embezzlement was linked to accusations of near total mismanagement of Malaysia Development Bhd., a state-backed investment firm. Najib has fired a number of top officials including his own deputy prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, and Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, as the scandal has snowballed. Meanwhile, Najib’s allies have waged what one member called “a scorched earth policy” to halt leaks by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officials.

Attorney General Mohamad Apandi Ali, a former United Malays National Organization state treasurer, the ruling party which is Najib’s coalition of Malay, Chinese and Indian politicians, before being elevated to the public prosecutor and then the judicial bench, was rushed into handling the negotiation. He was drafted in August just as veteran Abdul Gani Patail was about to file charges against Najib for corruption. Apandi has denied that Kevin Morais was working on the case when he was abducted and murdered but it is generally believed he was and that was the source of his murder.

Although unrelated directly, Najib has been flirting with the more conservative Moslem elements in the country, some of whom remain outside the ruling coalition. Last year Malaysian police discovered a plot for bombings against a Danish-owned brewery and other targets. The police said a group of 19 had planned to announce a caliphate among radical Muslims in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.

A full-fledged insurgency among the minority Malay-speaking population in southern Thailand has ties to Malaysian orthodox Muslims. Indonesia Islamic terrorists, with deep roots in some areas of the country going back to pre-independence, have attacked Western targets. In 2000, a bombing of the Jakarta Stock Exchange was followed in 2002 by a deadly attack which killed 202 people [including 164 international tourists] in the Bali resort town of Kuta. More recently attacks have shifted to the security forces.

Sharing linguistic [Malay] and other cultural traits, there is a close affinity of all these groups in the region. A further breakdown in governance in Malaysia could well spread quickly throughout the archipelago. Continued failure by Najib to root out financial malfeasance could result in further degeneration and embolden Islamic terrorist organizations who claim to be precursors of a “pure” – if brutal – new society.

* This commentary has been posted on

Categories: 2015, Chinese, Economy, elections, Indonesia, Latest News, Malaysia, Najib, Prime Minister Najib Razak, Thailand

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