Ex-US envoy accuses Najib of undermining King
By Debra Chong
July 08, 2011 KUALA LUMPUR
Former US ambassador to Malaysia John Malott today accused the Najib administration of “demonising” citizens asking for free and fair elections by using all the powers at its disposal, including the armed forces.
In today’s online Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article titled “Running Scared in Malaysia”, Malott hit out at the Malaysian government, saying it “has pulled out all the stops to prevent an opposition rally this weekend”.
“Mr Najib has undermined the authority of the King, who gave Bersih and its concerns credence by meeting with its leadership and calling for a negotiated solution,” Malott (picture) said, expressing in strong words his views of the current administration.
Coming on top of an earlier WSJ opinion piece published a few days ago, the ex-envoy’s criticism in the influential international paper is expected to have an effect on the country’s relations and investments globally.
“This week, army units conducted crowd-control exercises with banners that said, ‘Disperse or we will shoot!’ The police set up roadblocks and arrested Malaysians simply for wearing yellow T-shirts, the signature colour of Bersih, a coalition of 62 non-governmental organisations, that demands changes in Malaysia’s electoral system,” Malott said in his article, noting that over 250 Bersih supporters have been arrested by the police, claiming that they are “waging war against the King.”
The ex-envoy also highlighted that Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin had stepped into the fray to defuse tensions by calling on both Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Bersih to resolve their differences in a spirit of harmony and co-operation for the good of the nation.
Malott, who was the US ambassador to Malaysia from 1995 to 1998, remarked that such a move had never before been taken by the King.
He said that Najib had reneged on his offer to Bersih to hold its rally in a stadium despite the audience with the King and that Bersih’s leader, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, is adamant to continue the rally at the iconic Stadium Merdeka after her meeting with Tuanku Mizan.
“Despite the government’s intimidation, thousands of Malaysian citizens of all races and religions are expected to exercise their constitutional right to assemble and call for free and fair elections,” he said.
Malott noted that the political situation in Malaysia is changing daily and appears to have become so volatile that “nobody knows what will happen tomorrow”.
He said Bersih’s main issue is not freedom of assembly but the fairness of Malaysia’s democratic process and the electoral reform movement, which Putrajaya has declared illegal, wants to know “how anyone can be opposed to free and fair elections”.
“It’s an easy question to answer. The United Malays National Organisation [Umno], of which Mr Najib is president, is the longest continuing ruling party in the world, and it is running scared,” he said.
He said unless electoral reforms are made as Bersih has demanded, “we will never know”.
“Tomorrow’s protest represents a brave step in what not just Malaysians but also the international community should hope will begin the country’s transition to full democracy,” he added, and urged Najib to “display his own courage and ensure that a peaceful rally that seeks the fundamental rights of democratic peoples everywhere does not turn into a bloody confrontation”.