Najib’s Malaysia held back by dirty politics, poor reforms, says Aussie paper

May 05, 2012
The Sydney Morning Herald makes a scathing attack on the Najib administration in today's edition. file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 — Dirty politics, an unfair electoral process and poor reforms attempts are capping Malaysia’s ability to reach its full potential, the Sydney Morning Herald has said.
The influential Australian paper said that although Malaysia possessed great wealth and had experienced decades of high growth, it still was unable to rid itself of a “poisonous” political climate which includes “massive fraud, waste and economic distortion.”
“Australians often trip too naively into Malaysia’s murky political world. Succumbing to the happy multicultural story of ‘Malaysia-truly Asia’ a lot of us don’t see the deep racial fears and antipathies swirling in the country’s history and heating its political even today,” SMH Asia-Pacific editor Hamish McDonald said in a scathing opinion piece.
McDonald’s critical remarks against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration comes days after Umno-owned the News Straits’ Times (NST) had carried a misleading report citing Australian Senator Nicholas Xenophon.
On Wednesday, Xenophon, an independent lawmaker representing South Australia, was falsely quoted by the NST as calling Islam instead of Scientology a “criminal organisation” during his 2009 speech in Australia’s Parliament.
The English-language daily, the oldest in the country, issued an apology the very next day but Xenophon, a known associate of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, has said he will sue the NST for defamation even though the article has been removed from its website.
“Senator Nick Xenophon, who went up last month to join an international team looking at Malaysia’s electoral system, has just had a personal lesson in just how slanted and hostile its media can be...it’s hard to think of a cheaper reporting trick in a strongly Muslim country,” McDonald wrote.
The SMH editor described PM Najib as trying hard to preserve “the ethnic dominance endowed in Umno and on the other to reform the discredited underpinnings of that power” but added that the Umno chief’s reform attempts have not resulted in much “perceptible change.”
“A new economic policy is aimed at watering down preferences for ethnic Malays. Stakes have been sold off in bloated public sector enterprises to try and make them more efficient.
“Last month the government repealed the colonial-era Internal Security Act, which allowed indefinite detention without trial and it changed the public assembly law,” said McDonald, referring to Najib’s slew of reform pledges including the tabling of the Public Assembly Act.
But McDonald was quick to add that the reforms have been met with resistance, saying that Umno hardliners have been “resisting a loss of Malay perks” and how the PM’s new replacement security law has been condemned by human rights groups as being wide open to abuse just like the previous law.
The SMH article also criticised Najib for his administration’s handling of last weekend’s Bersih 3.0 rally, saying that “familiar instruments of repression” were wielded when the rally was declared illegal and thousands of Malaysians were doused with tear gas and water cannons.
McDonald stressed that Bersih’s concerns regarding Malaysia’s electoral system- such as the possibility of gerrymandering, postal votes and the spike of newly-registered voters were genuine concerns that needed to be addressed immediately.
He added that an unequal access to Malaysia media made it more difficult for groups like Bersih to spread their message or concerns to a wider Malaysian public.
“Rural people get only the slanted pro-government media, at best anodyne, at worse mendacious.
“Xenaphon’s experience suggests the setting won’t change for the election Najib seems about to call. It’s a pity, given what Malaysia could be,” McDonald said.

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