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After 1MDB scandal, Najib takes Malaysia on ‘lurch toward dictatorship’

One year after 1MDB scandal, Najib takes Malaysia on ‘lurch toward dictatorship’

Giant video screens lining Malaysia’s ruling-party headquarters flash towering, 40-floor images of a smiling Prime Minister Najib Razak across a corner of the capital, a glaring reminder of who’s in charge.

One year after a financial scandal that would have toppled many leaders, Najib is standing taller than ever after smothering investigations, outmanoeuvring opponents, and bolstering his control with a pair of recent election wins.

But the political survival steps he has taken – which include assuming tough new powers and flirting with an Islamist party – are stoking fears for multi-ethnic Malaysia’s already fragile democracy and sectarian relations.

“He called himself a reformist, but has changed into an aspiring dictator,” said Ambiga Sreenevasan, a prominent lawyer and reform advocate. “What changed him, clearly, is 1MDB.”

Last July 2, The Wall Street Journal reported that Najib received a mysterious US$681 million payment, which capped months of allegations that billions were diverted from 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad), an investment fund Najib founded.

Other revelations followed, including reports that Najib’s film-producer stepson used 1MDB-related funds to bankroll the Hollywood greedfest The Wolf of Wall Street, and for millions in luxury purchases.

Swiss authorities say more than US$4 billion may have been stolen.

Najib and 1MDB deny wrongdoing. But Najib has purged ruling-party critics, curbed investigations, and cracked down on media reporting of the affair.

With former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim jailed since February 2015 on politically-tinged sodomy charges, Najib now towers over the country.

“Najib’s critics failed to comprehend his resolve at staying in power and the lengths he is prepare to go to,” said Ibrahim Suffian, head of Merdeka Centre, an independent polling firm.

The government recently pushed through a new law allowing a Najib-led council to suspend basic liberties if security is deemed threatened, which the opposition called a “lurch toward dictatorship”.

Other proposals would tighten internet controls and limit other legal protections.

“Any remnants of checks and balances are being dismantled by the PM” due to 1MDB, said Eric Paulsen, head of the legal-advocacy group Lawyers for Liberty.

…more
One year after 1MDB scandal, Najib takes Malaysia on ‘lurch toward dictatorship’
27 June, 2016 – SCMP

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All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke
When the people
fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

- Thomas Jefferson
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