Sunday 15 Sep 2019 | 19:38 | SYDNEY
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Malaysia

A fugitive preacher ignites controversy in Malaysia

Zakir Naik is an Indian preacher of Islam who currently calls Malaysia home. Described by the Washington Post as a “rock star of tele-evangelism”, he is also a fugitive, having evaded law enforcement in his home country of India since July 2016, when he fled the country within hours of bombers

In Malaysia, flipping over the script

When Sin Chew Daily, the largest Chinese daily in Malaysia, recently headlined a Ministry of Education proposal to introduce a few pages of calligraphy in the Malay-language textbook for Chinese and Tamil vernacular primary schools, the backlash was immediate. The reaction went all the way up to

Malaysia’s Mahathir has no interest in building a dynasty

The name Mukhriz Mahathir – son of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad – is in the news once again, mostly by virtue of being the only child in the family to enter into politics. As a sex video scandal roils the People’s Justice Party (PKR) led by prime minister-in-waiting Anwar

Mahathir holds all the cards, again

The latest news coming out of Kuala Lumpur may alter the trajectory of Malaysian politics. On Wednesday night, 23 members of the Parti Keadilan Rakyet (PKR) central committee (half the members of this party leadership group) signed a statement rebuking party president Anwar

After the voting, personality beats policy in Southeast Asia

It has been an unusually intense time for elections across Southeast Asia in the past year with both a stunning upset and more predictable returns of incumbents. But the striking thing from a quick tour of some of the main battlefields is how the general absence of clear policy reform debate in

Why Mahathir is unlikely to make Anwar his successor

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s latest promise that he “will not go more than three years” in the premiership is the latest in an ongoing saga of leadership succession within the Pakatan Harapan coalition government. While the coalition has insisted that there exists a “signed

Making a murderer: the assassination of Kim Jong-nam

Two years of James Bond-esque intrigue following Kim Jong-nam’s assassination in Malaysia have fizzled out, with backroom negotiations seeing murder charges dropped against the two women previously alleged to have killed the North Korean. Ultimately, Malaysia didn’t allow detail to get in the

Malaysia joins the International Criminal Court

On Monday, Malaysia ratified the Rome Statute, making it the 124th State party to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The decision to join the ICC after 20 years of resistance is not only a welcome development but highlights the importance of long-term persistence in the pursuit of human rights

Courting change in Malaysia

Malaysia’s political upheaval looks likely to drag on for years. A three judge panel has granted former prime minister Najib Razak a last minute stay in a corruption trial, which had been set to begin in the High Court last week. Rather than the charges and a political changing of the guard

Spats in the straits between Malaysia and Singapore

Australia has presented itself as a defender of the international “rules-based order” in response to rising challenges facing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In particular, Canberra has directed its concerns towards China’s actions in the South China Sea and

Malaysia and China: breaking up is hard to do

Breaking up is hard to do, judging by the Malaysian government’s latest contortions over how to handle a US $20 billion Chinese-backed rail project of questionable economic value. The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is one of several high-profile Chinese infrastructure deals signed by previous prime

From the high horse: Malaysia’s problematic track record

Speaking at the ASEAN summit in Singapore this month, Malaysia’s “new” Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad gave counterpart Aung San Suu Kyi a taste of his notoriously acerbic mind. As one of three Muslim leaders present at the gathering, Mahathir made clear Suu Kyi was “defending the

Mahathir: Uighurs “have done nothing wrong”

Horror stories have trickled out of China’s Xinjiang province for years. Now research points to a flood of human suffering and disturbing human rights abuses. Yet with threats of China’s economic retribution, many countries have been reluctant to voice concern against Beijing. With

Malaysia: allowing students to find voice

In October 2016, a group of four students stood in front of a public forum at the Universiti Malaya and declared “students want answers”. They had attended an event featuring the CEO of 1MDB, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund established by former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who, along with

Mahathir redux: the past guides the future

Impulsive yet calculating, persuasive but often authoritarian, a visionary obsessed with details, Mahathir Mohamad’s first tenure as prime minister from 1981-2003 undoubtedly left a deep imprint on Malaysia. Credible achievements marked his tenure, including prudent macroeconomic management,

Economic diplomacy: Indonesia, trade deals and TPP

Development lesson Australia can probably thank China’s amorphous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for helping push over the line the bilateral trade agreement that Prime Minister Scott Morrison will claim as his first diplomatic triumph on Friday. The key breakthrough in the agreement is set to

Decoding the Mahathir Doctrine

Since returning to power after his stunning election victory in May 2018, the 93–year–old Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has made a series of comments reflective of weaker states’ views of the evolving Asian order in the Trump–Xi era. These include a firmer stance on the South

Malaysia: Mahathir navigates the region

Malaysia is not usually a country that comes to mind when one thinks of where the geopolitical initiative lies in the Asia-Pacific. That accolade goes first to China, of course, the rising power in the region, and second to Japan, the state most capable of leading any regional counter-initiative

The Sabah question

Who is right in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and Malaysia over Sabah is a question best not asked. In answer, each side will reaffirm their absolute sovereign claim to Sabah, on the northern part of the island of Borneo, and mutual recriminations will result. Not asking

The big clean-up in Malaysia

While the world is watching Malaysia, trying to explain the unexpected victory of Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) in last month’s elections, what is actually more important is the massive clean-up currently underway in the country. By clean-up, I mean a near-total replacement of all key

Malaysia: what now?

Malaysians have rejected Barisan Nasional so overwhelmingly that the electoral system designed to protect its rule has been overcome. The party received its lowest popular vote in history, around 36%, and won only 79 seats in a 222-seat federal parliament. The once multiracial coalition has

Did an election just cause Malaysian democratisation?

What a difference an election makes. Malaysia’s 14th general elections on Wednesday were understood by all observers to be a close-fought battle between the long-ruling Barisan Nasional regime, the Islamist Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), and a new opposition coalition named Pakatan Harapan (

Malaysia election: coming of age

It has been 20 years since I spent the evening at former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim’s house after he was sacked by then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. That night, I thought the mood on the street outside meant Malaysia might be about to become a genuine multi-ethnic democracy. But

Malaysia’s political treadmill

Not many people give Malaysia’s opposition a chance of ending the 13-election winning streak of the ruling Barisan Nasional party when the country goes to the polls on Wednesday. “For a government to rule for 60 years in a democracy, it shows there is something wrong with the country,”

Najib makes electoral hay from ASEAN-Australia Summit

“Cak!” says the Malaysian meme circulating on Twitter since Monday. The Malay expression is often used with children, and means something like “Surprise!”, or, better, “Peekaboo!” In the background is a press photo from the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit which took place

Malaysia’s election – electric and exhausting

In media studios, food courts, street stalls, and offices, I watch Malaysian political observers and insiders perform the same routine. First, they sigh and look bored with the coming general election, due sometime before August. They talk of the lack of debate and point&