Malaysia Has Fallen: Recent Najib Commutation Highlights Two-Tier System Of Justice – OpEd


The recent commutation of former prime minister and convicted felon Najib Razak’s prison sentence on the last day of Sultan Abdullah’s reign as the Malaysian king, has exposed the nation’s two-tier system of justice. This has led to widespread criticism by traditional Pakatan Harapan (PH) supporters. The fact that the minister of the federal territories Zaliha Mustafa, a member of prime minister Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) sat on the Pardons Board and said the decision was a consensus has led to even more outcry. 

The whole affair blatantly highlights the two-tier system of law and justice in Malaysia. There is one set of rules for the ruling elite, and another set of rules for the rest. The Pardons Board in its current secret composition reflects the feudalistic nature of Malaysian society today. 

Any criticism of the above is technically sedition (as the government controls the definition), where the minister for communications Fahmi Fadzil has already warned Malaysians the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) will take action against anyone who discusses the commutation of Najib’s sentence.

However, this has not prevented peoples’ criticism online. There is also deep suspicion that prime minister Anwar Ibrahim had some direct involvement, even though he said any pardon or commutation of prisoner sentences are at the king’s sole discretion. Some are saying the commutation of Najib’s sentence and lowering his RM210 million fine to just RM 50 million has broken through a tipping point, where the bulk of political commentary is no longer favourable to the Madani government. 

The poor are suffering and will suffer more

The economic outlook for 2024 could be much worse than what has been forecast by the experts. Prices are still rising, especially in the food sector. Income is not increasing, and doesn’t look like it will in the foreseeable future. New taxes are eating away at family consumption in the lower to middle income groups. On top of this, the Ringgit is reaching new lows, increasing both prices and the debt burden. 

The leadership of the Madani government just don’t seem to have any empathy for Malaysians. The government is floundering (maybe purposely) in its own bureaucracy and long string of advisors. Monopolies still exist and Government linked corporations (GLCs) still control many strategic sectors in Malaysia’s economy. The Malaysian market-space is still overburdened with regulation. These inefficiencies are keeping prices on a rising trajectory.

The GLCs and crony rent-seeking capitalists with elite connections are obtaining billion Ringgit projects, while MSMEs are getting token assistance. This is making the cronies richer, while the MSMEs are still suffering from the Covid MCOs two years ago.

The Madani government is redistributing wealth towards the elite in society.

Anwar is not a leader of the people

Anwar emerged after his sacking as deputy prime minister under Mahathir Mohamed back in 1998, as a symbol of reformasi or reform. He became the symbol of hope that people gravitated around. His time in prison increased this ‘halo effect’. For 25 years there was a hope a new multicultural Malaysia would be reborn. 

Upon becoming prime minister in 2022, the reformasi aura has quickly become tainted with the appointment of UMNO leader Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who himself was facing 47 charges of corruption and money laundering as deputy prime minister. These charges were dropped by the public prosecutor in 2023, amounting to a discharge without acquittal (DNAA). 

This turned any hopes of reform into wishful thinking. Reformasi became mocked and called reformati (the death of reform). Anwar quickly turned from being a leader of the Rakyat (people) to become a puppet of the political and economically powerful elites. He has very much done their bidding by extending monopolies and concessions, awarding contracts outside of tender to politically connected firms. 

The hopes of people have been dashed, where now there is a feeling of hopelessness. There is now much talk of people trying to leave Malaysia for better prospects somewhere else. The brain drain is accelerating 

Instead of using his leadership to enhance and develop Malaysia’s path to democracy, Anwar is steering Malaysia back towards Mahathir’s dark ages, where censorship, cronyism, favouritism under the justice system to the very symbol of kleptocracy, while heavily clamping down on criticism and free speech. The so-called ‘3Rs’ (race, religion and royalty) are now taboo in the Malaysian media. 

Malaysia is now a country where opponents are persecuted by the nations legal system, which is politically controlled. The internet is illegally blocked, and the media is fearful of criticising the government. 

Worst of all, Malaysia’s economic policies favour the elites. There is no wealth tax, where a new range of taxes have burdened the poor. 

The Malay culture used to create class apartheid 

Many Malays said when Anwar was appointed prime minister after the hung parliament following the 2022 general election, that Anwar’s government was one made with Royal prerogative. Consequently, the government should not be criticized, as this would be disrespectful to the king.

Anwar was the choice of the Malay rulers, and Anwar very skilfully through cybertroopers, used the rulers as a cover from criticism. Anwar also had a heavy price to pay for his position, in meeting requests from the rulers. Anwar is governing for the elites rather than the people.

The prosecutions of Malay politicians, are really persecutions of those who have fallen out of favour with the inner circle. To the public, it looks like Anwar is fighting corruption. To the elite, it is about settling old scores. Such is the Machiavellian nature of Malay politics.

Meanwhile, corruption continues unimpeded by the elites, with the big deals being done above any scrutiny and transparency. There will never be any investigations or prosecutions. Whistle blowers suffer very badly. Only the ‘small fry’ are being caught and prosecuted for public consumption.

Malaysia’s feudalism stems back to the British Colonial times, where the sultans were propped up as a symbol of authority the Malays would be obedient to. This has remained the same until today, as written into the Constitution, where the monarchy is actually the cornerstone. 

The politicians under the monarchy have used censorship, repression, the creation of racial divides, and institutionalised Islam to create an obedient Malay peasantry. 

Only a few Malays are groomed to become part of the clan of the elite. It takes connections with ‘god-fathers’ who nurture these young entrants into the professional, civil service, business, and political spheres. 

The rest are just thrown crumbs.

Murray Hunter

Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 30 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic, and researcher. As an entrepreneur he was involved in numerous start-ups, developing a lot of patented technology, where one of his enterprises was listed in 1992 as the 5th fastest going company on the BRW/Price Waterhouse Fast100 list in Australia. Murray is now an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis, spending a lot of time consulting to Asian governments on community development and village biotechnology, both at the strategic level and “on the ground”. He is also a visiting professor at a number of universities and regular speaker at conferences and workshops in the region. Murray is the author of a number of books, numerous research and conceptual papers in referred journals, and commentator on the issues of entrepreneurship, development, and politics in a number of magazines and online news sites around the world. Murray takes a trans-disciplinary view of issues and events, trying to relate this to the enrichment and empowerment of people in the region.

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