Under pressure, Najib slams “foreign intervention” – Nikkei Asian Review

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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks at the World Islamic Economic Forum in Jakarta on Aug. 2 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks at the World Islamic Economic Forum in Jakarta on Aug. 2 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

JAKARTA — With investigations ongoing in several countries into the international financial activities of scandal-plagued state development fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak slammed “foreign intervention” as a threat to stability in peaceful Muslim-majority countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

“We have seen the devastating results of foreign intervention in the Muslim world, often based on incomplete, wrong or partisan information,” Najib said, citing the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Arab Spring a decade later, a series of anti-government uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Tunisia, some of which had U.S. support.

Najib has been under pressure over allegations that around $731 million received from 2011 to 2013 was diverted from 1MDB into his personal bank account in 2013 — a charge that Najib has denied, saying the money came from an unnamed Saudi Arabian donor.

However, on July 20, the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into money laundering at 1MDB, saying that the 1MDB money was deposited in bank accounts held by “Malaysian Official 1,” which is presumed to mean Najib.

The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that $3.5 billion was misappropriated from the fund, some of which was used to purchase property in Los Angeles, cover gambling debts in Las Vegas and fund “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a Hollywood movie about financial corruption.

But speaking at the World Islamic Economic Forum in Jakarta, Najib, citing the need to respect “democratically elected governments,” not only criticized intervention from outside, but blasted those “who, out of political motivation, call for foreign powers to intervene in their own country.”

Political machinations

Najib has invoked similar rhetoric in defending himself against domestic critics who have sought to depose him over 1MDB, particularly Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister and former political mentor to Najib.

In August 2015, shortly after the allegations against Najib were made public, tens of thousands of opposition protesters took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to call on Najib to step down. Najib’s allies accused the protesters, which included Mahathir, of trying to oust a democratically-elected leader and of acting at the behest of foreign governments.

Najib’s United Malays National Organisation is by far the biggest and most powerful political party in Malaysia, and is the driving force behind the National Front coalition that won Malaysia’s last general election, held in 2013.

UMNO held power since Malaysia’s independence from the U.K. in 1957, but lost the popular vote in the 2013 election to an opposition coalition led by the now-jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Speaking in Jakarta, Najib also criticized the Islamic State group, another by-product of U.S. interventions in Muslim majority countries.

“There is nothing Islamic about a group that practises such barbarities, and it is crucial that Muslim-majority countries take the lead in condemning them,” Najib said.

Yesterday, Malaysia saw the introduction of a new security law that critics say gives the government too much power, but which Najib said is needed to enable Malaysia to deal with the threat from IS terrorists seeking to return to Malaysia and carry out attacks.

“We must ensure that appropriate legislation is in place to let our security and police forces take all measures necessary to stop attacks before they take place, and to root out those who would spread fear and chaos in our land,” he said.

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