A murder most foul as sleaze returns to Malaysia
SCMP August 1 2008
Some see the turmoil at the top of Malaysian politics as farce. But
it is better seen as tragedy that could end not with an alleged sodomite
as prime minister but a man whose proximity to a murder case could
see him shunned on the world stage.
The levels of sleaze in the United Malays National Organisation are
being exposed as on a par with the latter days of the Marcos regime
in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, intense politicking increases the danger of communal friction
as Malay leaders play the race card against opponents.
Much attention has been paid to the allegations of sodomy, which is
illegal in Malaysia, levelled by a former aide against opposition leader
and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.
This is seen by most as a bid to block his return to power.
Mr Anwar was similarly charged after he fell out with then prime minister
Mahathir Mohamad in 1998. A sodomy conviction and long jail term in
2000 were overturned in 2004 - after Dr Mahathir had left office.
Some suspicion of homosexual instincts still surrounds Mr Anwar and
has damaged his reputation somewhat.
But the events surrounding the latest allegations have reinforced
the belief that they are politically motivated. Mr Anwar's accuser
had earlier met Deputy Prime Minister and heir-apparent Najib Razak,
a fact Mr Najib first denied before admitting that he had met him for
The sodomy allegations have succeeded in distracting attention from
more serious allegations against Mr Najib, and his wife, in connection
with the murder of a former mistress of his then associate, defence
consultant Razak Baginda.
Mongolian model and translator Altantuya Shaariibuu was shot and blown
up after she had been pressuring Razak for money.
Print media have largely got Mr Najib's name out of the murder case
but much information and commentary has surfaced on the websites Malaysiakini
and Asia Sentinel, and that of Malaysia Today.
On trial for the murder are Mr Najib's former associate Razak, and
two members of Mr Najib's security team. The conduct of the trial has
been marked by bizarre twists, and its long-drawn-out nature appears
to be deliberate.
French-speaking Altantuya had not only been defence consultant Razak's
mistress but had accompanied him to Paris for negotiations on a submarine
deal worth Euro1 billion (HK$12.3 billion), which netted Razak's company
huge commissions. Mr Najib was, and remains, defence minister.
Recently, specific allegations have been made by a private detective
who had been employed by defence consultant Razak.
In a statutory declaration, he detailed the relationship between Razak
and Mr Najib over Altantuya, who, he claimed, had first been involved
with Mr Najib, who passed her on to Razak.
But, no sooner had the declaration been released than the private
detective was hauled into a police station where he apparently withdrew
it - and then disappeared.
Now, the judge in the murder case has rejected efforts of counsel
for Altantuya's family to call Mr Najib or the private detective to
the witness stand.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Today's editor, Raja Petra Kamarudin, who had
published detailed allegations relating to events surrounding the murder,
was first charged with sedition.
Then, the government made a criminal libel allegation against him.
Lawyers believe this to be a way of silencing him.
These events have taken the heat off embattled Prime Minister Abdullah
But, he is too weak to make sure justice is done when leading Malays
take their racial and political privileges to their logical limits.