SOVINDA PO |
Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor sentenced to prison in Malaysia
The former Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, was recently sentenced to 12 years in prison by Malaysia’s Federal Court convicted of corruption following the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, a state fund to boost the country’s new development.
His conviction included abuse of power, money laundering, and breach of trust with the subsidiary company of 1MDB. Moreover, it is believed that Najib illegally received around USD 10 million in bribes from SRC International in 2011 and 2012. Valuable items and property worth more than USD 200 million that were linked to Najib have been seized by Malaysian police. The conviction resulted in a fine of over USD 46 million by the Malaysian court.
Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, was also sentenced to 10 years in prison by the High Court, ordered to pay a record fine of over USD 200 million for accepting bribes. Rosmah was found guilty of received over USD 40 million in bribes for Jepak Holding, a solar energy company, to secure the solar project in Sarawak in 2016.
Both Najib and Rosmah publicly denied the charges against them with Rosmah believing that she was framed and justice was not given to her as she had not received any bribe but was leading a charity foundation. Similarly, Najib was saddened that he didn’t get a fair trial and was not able to provide an adequate defense.
This high-profile case garnered a significant public response. Many have called for the King to pardon Najib for his conviction believing that the trial was not fair as the court did not allow enough time for proper legal preparations. The President of UMNO stressed the party’s continued support for Najib in obtaining justice. In contrast, some have created online petitions urging the King not to pardon Najib believing that his corruption and bribery were unforgivable. Indeed, many are supportive of the sentence handed to Rosmah suggesting that justice has been given. The process has, however, renewed calls for the anti-corruption unit within Malaysia to be reinforced and strengthened to build transparency and ensure zero tolerance toward corruption.
The prison sentence of both Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor has proven Malaysia’s firm stance against corruption and bribery in the country. Observers now wait to see the resolution of the protests and how Najib and Rosmah will respond.
President Marcos made his first overseas visits to Indonesia and Singapore
After his election victory in May 2022, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. made his first overseas trip to Indonesia and Singapore, on 4 and 6 September respectively, to strengthen bilateral ties, discuss economic cooperation, and exchange views on security concerns in the region’s changing geopolitical environment.
During his visit to Indonesia, the new President met with President Widodo and both countries signed four agreements to boost their economic, security, and cultural cooperation. They also agreed to revisit their agreements on maritime border security. Indonesia and the Philippines also pledged to work on issues regarding the continental shelf, committing to relax the overlapping territorial disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with UNCLOS standards. Moreover, President Marcos offered the Philippines’ strong support for Indonesia’s chairmanship of ASEAN next year and urged the bloc’s centrality and neutrality.
After Indonesia, President Marcos travelled to Singapore where he met with the Singaporean President and Prime Minister to strengthen their bilateral relations. The meeting reiterated their support for the peaceful settlement of disputes in line with international law. Five other agreements were signed during the visit. The Philippines President also met with the Filipino community in Singapore and expressed his appreciation to Singapore for making the country their second home.
Indonesia and Singapore are positive locations for the President’s first state visits due to the economic and geopolitical benefits of the relations, along with the alignment of security concerns in the South China Sea. The visit was celebrated by many Filipinos who hoped the new president would engage the Filipino diaspora abroad, where President Marcos pledged to support migrant families in the Philippines.
The visit demonstrated positive relations between the three states which are crucial for the Philippines economically, socially and geopolitically.
Doomsday cult stirs Cambodia’s political landscape
A Cambodian political leader in the League for Democracy Party (LDP), Khem Veasna, preached a doomsday prophecy, saying that the world will end by a catastrophic global flood. Veasna urged people to flee to his remote farm on the Kulen Mountain in Siem Reap province where it is safe from the prophesied catastrophe.
The cult had drawn as many as 20,000 people to his farm, with many having to sell their homes and separate from their families to join the movement. Some Cambodians in South Korea quit their work to return to Cambodia to take safe shelter. Veasna proclaimed himself as a protecting Brahma (heavenly king), who is said to receive the doomsday message from the black hole that has formed in his spine urging followers to stay until the end of September for safety.
Many children abandoned their homes to join the cult gathering in Siem Reap with parents struggling to convince them to return despite the end date of the prophecy. Many have already returned home, given the due date had passed, but about 1000 people still took refuge at Veasna’s farm. Authorities remain cautious around his farm, ready to intervene if necessary.
In the political sphere, accusations that the Prime Minister could not take any action against the group were circulated among Veasna’s followers. Prime Minister Hun Sen had urged people to tolerate and not discriminate against the cult followers. The Prime Minister believed that Veasna was attempting to provoke the authorities to take action to boost his political popularity. The Prime Minister, however, responded calmly as the cult leader, had not encouraged any military coup to topple the government or persuade donors to cut aid to Cambodia. Further, he hoped that countries such as South Korea, Japan, and Thailand would forgive those who followed the prophecy.
Many filed complaints against Khem Veasna for separating their families while Siem Reap’s authorities warned for further action to be taken if the cult leader does not disperse the following. Some fear social consequences from the event. The Cambodian Embassy in South Korea warned the Cambodian migrants that they may return joblessness if they abruptly quit their jobs. Hun Mana, the Prime Minister’s eldest son, expressed concerns and urged people to refrain from these beliefs that are contrary to Cambodia’s values.
The full social and political impacts are yet to be realised, even though the prophesied doomsday has passed.
Sovinda Po is a Research Assistant at the Griffith Asia Institute.