MALAYSIA ‘A GENUINE DEMOCRACY’
Democracy is thriving in Malaysia where free speech is propagated, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told American academics and policymakers in Washington on Wednesday (US local time).
He said that Malaysia had the “longest and most consistent record” as a democracy in South-east Asia.
“Elections are fiercely contested, and they are real fights — which is shown by the fact that opposition parties have won state elections. They won five out of Malaysia’s 13 states in 2008.
“I know there are elements that have been trying to create false impressions lately. There was even one article that |said Malaysia was in danger of sliding into dictatorship. That really is preposterous!”
Mr Najib was speaking at the Banyan Tree Leadership Forum co-sponsored by the US Centre for Strategic and International Studies and Malaysia’s Institute of Strategic and International Studies. The Prime Minister also pointed out that Cabinet Ministers and prominent politicians have lost their seats in elections and that he nearly lost in the 1999 general election.
“Ours is a genuine democracy and no one is guaranteed election, no matter how high their position. It is the people who have the final say, which is how it should be in a democracy,” said Mr Najib, adding that it was untrue that his government jailed its critics, unlike one of his predecessors.
Without referring to Dr Mahathir Mohamad by name, Mr Najib said this person, who was a former prime minister and now an opposition leader, admitted to being a dictator during his time in power.
“When he was prime minister, hundreds of people were summarily locked up under the Internal Security Act (ISA). Newspapers, including a major national daily, were closed,” said Mr Najib.
“The judiciary was emasculated. Crony capitalism was rife, with deals made that significantly burden ordinary Malaysians today. People had no right to demonstrate, and students were not allowed to participate in politics.
“But Malaysia’s democracy survived and, under my government, it has been strengthened. We repealed the ISA — and ended the state of emergency that had existed for over 60 years.”
When asked by a reporter during a press conference about the possible dates for the 14th General Election, Mr Najib laughed and said: “Wait first. You want me to announce something in Washington DC? You’ve got to be kidding,” Malaysian state news agency Bernama quoted him as saying. AGENCIES