Sarawak State Legislative Assembly Dissolves in April
Chief Minister Adenan Satem announced that the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly will be dissolved on 11 April 2016.
Following the dissolution, the Election Commission (EC) will take over to arrange the Sarawak state election. Of 82 constituencies to be contested, 11 will be new.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Azalina Othman Said, revealed that the EC will spend RM135.6 million in this upcoming Sarawak state election.
In a written reply to DAP Member of Parliament (MP) Wong Ling Biu, Azalina reported that RM79 million was spent in the last Sarawak state election.
Adenan (seated centre) making the announcement.
Picture taken from The Borneo Post.
Unusual Alliance Forms the Citizens’ Declaration
Former political rivals and human rights activists sat united together with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed to push for Najib Razak to be replaced through “non-violent and legally permissible means”.
They signed the Citizens’ Declaration calling for Najib’s removal. It has 58 signatories comprising Barisan National (BN) veterans, opposition politicians and civil society leaders.
The declaration expressed concern over the controversies surrounding 1Malaysia Deve-lopment Berhad (1MDB) and the RM2.6 billion deposited in Najib’s personal bank accounts.
Prominent BN figures who signed the declaration included former deputy Prime Minister Muhiyiddin Yassin, former Kedah chief minister Mukhriz Mahathir, former Malaysian Chinese Association president Dr Ling Liong Sik and former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim.
Opposition leaders who signed the declaration were Democratic Action Party (DAP) parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang, People’s Justice Party (PKR) deputy president Azmin Ali and Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu.
Representatives from civil society included Hishamuddin Rais, C4 chief Cynthia Gabriel, former Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan and current Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah.
Following the introduction of the Citizens’ Declaration, the People’s Congress 2016 took place as an initiative to democratize the declaration.
19 key signatories of the declaration took the stage to address around 2000 people. Common points that were brought up by the speakers were on the removal of Najib as Prime Minister, uniting to save Malaysia, moving towards a matured democracy and institutional reform.
Mahathir said that once the Citizens’ Declaration has garnered 1 million signatures, it will be presented to the Malay Rulers. He claimed that with enough pressure from Malaysians, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong will have to look into the matter.
Mahathir Mohamad speaking during the announcement of the Citizens’ Declaration.
Picture taken from The Malay Mail Online.
Final 1MDB Report Classified as Secret
The final federal audit report on 1MDB has been classified under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972.
Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) were not allowed to take home the 300-page report after it was tabled. PAC members were previously allowed to bring home the preliminary 1MDB audit report. The preliminary audit report was submitted to the parliamentary committee last July.
Section 2B of the OSA allows public officers to classify “any” official document as secret. Wrongfully communicating official secrets is punishable with a minimum one-year jail sentence.
Najib Spent US$15m on Holidays, Shopping and Jewellery
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that Najib spent US$15 million on holidays and shopping in the United States (US), Malaysia, Italy and elsewhere.
It claimed that Malaysian investigation documents showed Najib’s credit card was charged US$130,625 at Chanel in Honolulu, two days before he met US President Barack Obama on Christmas eve in 2014.
A worker at a Chanel store in upscale Ala Moana Centre recalled that Najib’s wife Rosa Mansor shopped there just before Christmas. According to the worker, the transaction was paid with a Visa card in Najib’s name.
The Malaysian investigation documents revealed that the credit card was paid for with an account in Najib’s name. That account had been credited with US$9 million a few months earlier. The money came from former unit of 1MDB, SRC International.
WSJ reported that between 2011 and 2014, Najib had transferred over US$14 million (RM55 million) to Malaysian luxury clothing retailer Jakel Trading Berhad. Jakel is one of the most regular recipients of funds from Najib’s accounts.
There was also a recorded expenditure in June 2011 at Kuala Lumpur car dealership Signature Exotic Cars for US$56,000.
In August 2014, Najib’s credit card also incurred charges of €750,000 at Swiss-owned jewellery store De Grisogono in Italy.
The Malaysian Insider Closes Down
The website was said to be losing RM300,000 to RM400,000 per month when the government blocked it permanently on 25 February 2016.
The Malaysian Insider had published a story quoting a source from the panel that oversees the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. The article showed that there was sufficient evidence to file charges over alleged financial misdeed by the Prime Minister. Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali refused to use the evidence to charge Najib Razak with wrongdoing in January.
The picture above now greets visitors to The Malaysian Insider’s website.
Picture taken from The Malaysian Insider.
The US Criticizes Malaysia for Attack on Press Freedom
The United States issued a press statement on 2 March 2016 criticizing the “recent actions to restrict access to domestic and international reporting on Malaysian current affairs.” The statement was signed by spokesman John Kirby.
The statement cited a decision by the Malaysian government in the prior month to block access to The Malaysian Insider news portal as cause for concern. It stated that Malaysia “had not acted transparently nor provided due process” in targeting the media.
“Malaysian officials have also publicly described coming amendments to its Communications and Multimedia Act that would further restrict online space,” he said. He urged Malaysia “to ensure that all its laws, existing and future, fully respect freedom of expression.”
Two Australian Journalists Arrested in Sarawak
Two journalists from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) were arrested while on duty in Kuching, Sarawak.
Reporter Linton Besser and camera operator Louis Eroglu from the “4 Corners” programme were detained while approaching Najib. Linton had questioned Najib on corruption allegations involving the Prime Minister.
Sarawak police said the duo were arrested for breaching police security line and “aggressively approaching” Najib during his official visit to a mosque in Sarawak. They were investigated under the Penal Code for obstructing a public officer from conducting his duty.
After returning to Australia, 4 Corners released an episode entitled “State of Fear: Murder and Money in Malaysia”. The episode covers the corruption allegations regarding the Scorpene submarine purchase and 1MDB, and the murder cases of Kevin Morais and Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Sarawak Report Founder in Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders List
US business magazine Fortune named Clare Rewcastle Brown, the founder of Sarawak Report, as one of the world’s greatest leaders.
It stated that Clare’s exposés on 1MDB have made her both a hero and a villain in Malaysia. The Malaysian government has tried to arrest her for “activities detrimental to Parliamentary democracy” and has banned her website.
Clare Rewcastle Brown.
Picture taken from Fortune.
Appeal Against Tian Chua’s Acquittal Thrown out
The Kuala Lumpur High Court upheld the acquittal of Batu MP from PKR, Tian Chua, of making a seditious statement.
In 2013, Tian Chua was charged with making a statement that the militant intrusion in Lahad Datu, Sabah was a planned conspiracy by the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) to divert attention and frighten the people. The Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court threw out the charge in 2014 because the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case against Tian Chua.
High Court judge Nordin Hassan dismissed the appeal by the prosecution on the grounds that they had failed to prove that Tian Chua had uttered the seditious words. Former Keadilan Daily reporter Siti Noorasihah Geoffrey was the prosecution’s main witness. She had nothing to corroborate her evidence. The judge said that her notes were not legible and that no other documents were presented to support her evidence.
Shafee Abdullah Did Not Breach Publicity Rules, Says Federal Court
The Federal Court ruled that senior lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, did not breach the publicity rules under the Legal Profession Act when he was interviewed by the English language daily, The Star.
It upheld the Court of Appeal decision that set aside a RM5,000 fine which was imposed on Shafee by the Bar Council’s Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board in 2012.
Shafee initially asked for costs of RM300,000 from the Bar as “the Bar has to be taught a lesson in light of selective prosecution” against him. However, the court had only allowed costs of RM50,000.
Lawyer Shafee Abdullah.
Picture taken from Malaysiakini.
Be Part Of The Pemantau Team For The Sarawak State Election
Bersih 2.0 and local non-governmental organizations in Sarawak are preparing for the upcoming Sarawak 2016 state election.
In March, a training session was held in Miri. Local activists and residents attended the training. In February, training was held in Sibu.
Election observation is an important process to ensure that the state election will be carried out in a clean and fair manner. Citizens can become observers and prevent fraud or election offences such as bribery, misuse of power and disturbances disrupting the electoral process.
If you are a voter in Sarawak and would like to join the Pemantau (election observation) team for the state election, please submit your details at: