Is Najib for real? Or is all this talk of reform just a pre-election ploy?
Here’s something I wrote for Asia Times, together with another correspondent Simon Roughneen.
Najib punts on legal change
By Anil Netto and Simon Roughneen
PENANG and BANGKOK – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has thrown down the gauntlet to the country’s political opposition with a bold-sounding reform package aimed at winning back lost popular support ahead of general elections due by 2013. Analysts believe the reform vows signal a move towards early polls, with some speculating they could be called as early as the fourth quarter of this year.
The amendments, announced last night in a speech on the eve of Malaysia Day and Merdeka (independence) Day celebrations, will entail the replacement of tough security laws, such as the Internal Security Act (ISA) and Emergency Ordinance, which have historically been used and abused by authorities to squash public
dissent through provisions that allow for detention without trial.
Najib also promised to update a media code that requires publications to apply for permits every year, a regulation has created a culture of self-censorship among Malaysian journalists, and bring laws governing public assemblies in line with international norms. According to a press statement from Najib’s office, the proposed changes ”represent the biggest shake-up of the Malaysian system since independence from Britain in 1957.
Full article in Asia Times.