14 January 2013

Malaysian PM caught up in murder, bribery scandal...

Mongolian fashion model and translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, 28, who was murdered in Malaysia in 2006 amid allegations of bribery, backmail, treachery and cover-up.The plot has all the trappings of a B-grade movie: the murder of a glamorous Mongolian socialite amid allegations of high-level bribery, blackmail, betrayal and political cover-up.

But these are real-life events, and they could set back the chances of Malaysia's ruling coalition in an election that Prime Minister Najib Razak must call by midyear. 

Mr Najib denies involvement but the allegations will not go away. The internet in Malaysia is running hot with allegations by a disaffected businessman, Deepak Jaikishan, who is well connected in the ruling United Malays National Organisation.

 They relate in part to the alleged cover-up of the murder of 28-year-old Mongolian fashion model and translator Altantuya Shaariibuu in a patch of jungle in the Kuala Lumpur suburbs in 2006.

The second part of the controversy is driven by an inquiry in France into a complex money trail left by Malaysia's $US2 billion purchase of two French-Spanish built Scorpene submarines in 2002 while Mr Najib was defence minister. Ms Shaariibuu worked as a translator in the latter stages of the deal negotiations.

The link between the two events is a Ferrari-driving businessman, Abdul Razak Baginda, one of Mr Najib's best friends and policy advisers, who was the director of the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre.

Mr Najib, who is preparing to contest his first election since being installed in power by his party in 2009, denies ever meeting Ms Shaariibuu or having any link with her. The government denies any wrongdoing in the submarine purchases.

But it was two of Mr Najib's bodyguards who dragged Ms Shaariibuu from a car, knocked her unconscious and shot her twice in the head on October 19, 2006, according to court testimony. She had begged for her life and apparently that of her unborn child.

The killers then wrapped her body in C4 plastic explosives obtained from the military and blew her up, ensuring the foetus was destroyed along with the identity of the father. For good measure, they erased her entry into Malaysia from immigration records.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (L) and his successor Najib Razak shakes hands after casting their votes for the deputy president of the the ruling party United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) at general assembly in Kuala Lumpur on March 26, 2009. Malaysia's outgoing premier Badawi issued a damning indictment of the ruling party, saying it was contaminated by greed, complacency and internal rivalries.
 Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Photo: AFP

The Scorpene submarine story has been tumbling out since 2002 when Mr Najib ordered them from French ship builder DCNS.

Two French investigating magistrates are looking into so-called ''commission'' payments of about $US160 million into companies reportedly set up by Mr Baginda. Documents have been seized from the DCNS offices in Paris.

Ms Shaariibuu, who spoke several languages, became Mr Baginda's lover after they had met in Hong Kong. Stunningly beautiful, she had been married to a popular Mongolian singer and to the son of a famous Mongolian fashion designer.

Ms Shaariibuu admitted in a letter found after her murder that she had been blackmailing Mr Baginda, who had jilted her after they had travelled through Asia and Europe together.

She reportedly had wanted a $US500,000 cut to remain silent about her knowledge of the deal.

Ms Shaariibuu was abducted outside Mr Baginda's house, where she was said to be causing a scene. Her murder was eventually uncovered following continued pressure from her well-connected family and the Mongolian embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

The two bodyguards were convicted of murder in 2009 but have claimed they are scapegoats and are appealing against death sentences. Pleading with a court not to execute him in February 2009, Sirul Azhar Umar described himself as a ''black sheep that has to be sacrificed'' to protect unnamed people.

''I have no reason to cause hurt, what's more to take the life of the victim in such a cruel manner,'' he said.

''I appeal to the court, which has the powers to determine if I live or die, not to sentence me so as to fulfil others' plans for me.''

A judge sensationally dropped an abetting a murder charge against Mr Baginda in 2008 before any evidence was heard and he is believed to be living in exile in Britain with his family.

Among several claims made by Mr Deepak - a carpet dealer - to opposition and independent websites are that he interceded to have a private detective change his 2008 sworn declaration that Mr Najib had had a sexual relationship with Ms Shaariibuu. The Prime Minister has repeatedly denied any relationship with Ms Shaariibuu, calling it a ''terrible lie''.

Often sensational claims and counter claims in the case have been barely reported in Malaysia's government-controlled mainstream media.

The Malaysian human rights non-government organisation SUARAM, whose approach to a magistrate in Paris in 2010 prompted the French investigation, has complained of official harassment.

But the claims are hot issues on opposition and independent websites, led by the Hong Kong-based Asia Sentinel online magazine, which published confidential files on the case last year and whose editor, John Berthelsen, has doggedly pursued the story for years.

Political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda speaks during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur November 20, 2008. Razak, a former aide to Malaysian deputy prime minister Najib Razak, moved on Thursday to exonerate Najib's name in a case involving the murder of a Mongolian woman that dogged the country's next leader.
Businessman Abdul Razak Baginda, one of the PM's best friends and a policy adviser, was Ms Shaariibuu's lover. Photo: Reuters

Malaysia, with a population of 28 million, has an internet penetration of more than 62 per cent, one of the highest in south-east Asia. 

Some commentators in Kuala Lumpur, including Wong Choon Mei writing in the Malaysia Chronicle, have speculated that 59-year-old Mr Najib could be forced from office before he gets to call the election. Jittery powerbrokers in UMNO fear that if he remains head of the coalition, they may lose to the opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, and his Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

There is infighting in UMNO, which has shared power in the country for more than 50 years, as the latest opinion polls show Mr Najib's approval rating has fallen to its lowest level in 16 months.

Wong wrote in the Chronicle on January 7 that UMNO watchers believed former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad had decided to throw his weight behind Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, and effect an 11th-hour change in leadership, although many have cautioned that such a move could boomerang and create even greater infighting.

But Mr Najib, the son of Malaysia's second prime minister, has emerged unscathed by the prosecution of his bodyguards and is publicly ignoring the French inquiry and Mr Deepak's claims as he presents himself as a reformist, abolishing several restrictive laws and implementing a program to bolster unity among ethnic groups.

Malaysia's economy has fared well and the country is considered by the Work Bank to be an attractive place to do business. On January 8, Mr Najib denied rumours he had suffered a minor stroke due to the pressure of the allegations by Mr Deepak, saying he is healthy. ''So don't listen to the blogs, please,'' he said.

Analysts say the election will be the strongest ever challenge to UMNO's rule. Mr Najib has called the coming election ''a defining point for the destiny of the people and country''.-Lindsay Murdoch,The Age

'BN yakin tawan semula P.Pinang' - Ahmad Maslan mabuk nasi kandaq kot...

Barisan Nasional (BN) yakin dapat menawan semula negeri yang kini ditadbir pembangkang termasuk Pulau Pinang, pada pilihan raya umum ke-13 ini.

Ketua Penerangan Umno Datuk Ahmad Maslan (gambar) berkata keyakinan itu bersandarkan kejayaan pelbagai inisiatif Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak bagi mengembalikan keyakinan rakyat terhadap kerajaan BN.

 “Dulu kalah di pelbagai tempat sebab ada tsunami politik. Sekarang ini telah dihentikan Datuk Seri Najib, Tan Sri Muhyiddin (Yassin) dan seluruh pasukan dengan pelbagai produk 1Malaysia yang ada 20 jenama untuk semua kumpulan.

“Kita ada NKRA (Bidang Keberhasilan Utama Negara), NKEA (Bidang Ekonomi Utama Negara), pelbagai program transformasi seperti transformasi kerajaan, ekonomi, luar bandar, politik dan digital. Program turun padang, tinjauan mesra...semuanya ini amat digemari oleh rakyat,” katanya kepada pemberita selepas merasmikan Focus Group Youth Sports Challenge, di sini hari ini.

Selain itu, Ahmad yang juga Timbalan Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri, berkata pelbagai isu yang melanda negeri di bawah kuasa pembangkang juga memberi nilai tambah kepada perjuangan BN.

“Tidak ada perkara yang mustahil dalam politik. Dulu kita (BN) memerintah (di negeri terbabit), sekarang mereka (pembangkang) memerintah. Selepas ini kita pula yang akan memerintah,” katanya.

Program Focus Group Youth Sports Challenge anjuran Majlis Pembangunan Bumiputera Pulau Pinang itu memberi peluang kepada golongan belia menyertai pelbagai aktiviti sukan antaranya futsal, paintball, bola jaring dan sepak raga tuju. — Bernama

The winners and losers in KL112...

For the past few decades, the authorities had placed numerous obstacles for opposition parties to gather en masse, citing security concerns and traffic as the usual reasons.

The People's Uprising Rally (KL112), in keeping with its revolutionary theme, saw the authorities essentially giving opposition parties free passage to do almost whatever they wanted.

Obviously, there was a political gamble at play in view that the 13th general election is around the corner. Malaysiakini examines who had most to gain from this high stakes gamble.


Pakatan Rakyat

Even before the rally was concluded, photographs of an overflowing Stadium Merdeka had gone viral over the Internet, proving to undecided voters that the coalition does enjoy mass public support and is a legitimate candidate for Putrajaya.

What Pakatan needs to do now is to take advantage of momentum and spread the central message of the rally - the ten point declaration - throughout the country.

Civil society

kl112 rally people's uprising teoh beng hock crowd story

Several key civil society movements, especially for environmental causes, have grown exponentially in strength over the past years and command a sizeable following, which was displayed during KL112.

Evolving from the initial not-in-my-backyard (Nimby) philosophy, Malaysia's various green movements have now gone national as people begin to recognise the importance of civil society in shaping the nation.

Ismail Omar

In the run up to KL112, the police released several statements in an accommodating tone, to the extent of promising that they had set a ‘zero casualty' target.

The whole time, inspector-general of police Ismail Omar didn't say a single word, leaving the talking to his subordinates.

Had things turned sour, Ismail would have taken the rap as usual. But now, he will be remembered for the fact that his men stayed true to their word.

Traders near Stadium Merdeka

NONESave for one stall owner selling gas masks, traders who set up shop around Stadium Merdeka were all smiles because they were enjoying brisk sale of T-shirts, drinks and food.

Previously, one group of traders claimed Bersih 3.0 had cost them great losses. Perhaps they should sharpen their eye for opportunities.


Najib Abdul Razak

In the past, Pakatan wasn't able to fill half of the 25,000 capacity MBPJ Stadium in Kelana Jaya. Was the prime minister hoping for the same this time round, so he could ridicule them later?

NONEInternally, Umno die-hards are probably curious to know why their president allowed the event to proceed when it could have been dealt with, by many old and proven methods.

More importantly, the public will also be questioning Najib and his party on whether they can pull off a similar spectacle without paying the participants.

Umno and BN

From sodomy to a Christian conspiracy to eroding Malay rights, Umno and BN component parties have slung mud in every shape and size at Pakatan since 2008.

If the turnout was an indicator of reputation, nothing appears to be sticking.

Mainstream media organisations

112 rally newspaper 130113 02 malay and englishSave for Sinar Harian and all the Chinese media organisations, the focus was not on turnout nor the message of the rally but the various infractions chalked up by the rally organisers.

Unfortunately for them, videoclips and photographs - in particularly an aerial shot by AFP capturing the scene in and around Stadium Merdeka - are being widely circulated online, helping the public to have a clearer understanding of what transpired.-malaysiakini


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