Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific


No end to Malaysia’s political games after Najib’s courtroom downfall

Police officers stand guard outside Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 28 July 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

The rule of law isn’t so much about the absence of abuse of power — it’s about the absence of impunity. That’s why Malaysians can be gratified with the guilty verdict handed down against their former prime minister Najib Razak, who on 28 July was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined US$50 million on charges relating to his role in the 1MDB corruption scandal. Read more…

Najib verdict complicates Malaysia’s game of thrones

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak leaves a courtroom for a break at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1 June 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Francis E Hutchinson, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

On 28 July, Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak made history when he became the country’s highest-ranking official to be convicted in court. Najib was found guilty of seven criminal charges relating to his role in the 1MDB investment fund corruption scandal. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined US$50 million. Najib remains on bail pending appeal, but more charges are on the table regarding misappropriation of funds. Read more…

Laying down the law in the South China Sea

The Royal Australian Navy guided-missile frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154) (L) is underway with the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and the Arleigh-Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) in the South China Sea 18 April, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Nicholas Huynh).

Author: Donald R Rothwell, ANU

Australia’s 23 July statement to the UN Secretary-General in formal response to a series of diplomatic exchanges between Malaysia, China and other states is the clearest to date on legal issues associated with China’s South China Sea maritime claims. Diplomatically the statement is unremarkable, legally though, it makes Australia’s position on some key issues very clear.

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Rethinking political consensus in Malaysia

Malaysia's members of parliament attend a session of the lower house of parliament, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 13 July 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Kevin Tan, University of Nottingham Malaysia

The temperature of Malaysian politics is rising again as the COVID-19 threat subsides. When Malaysia’s parliament resumed sitting on 13 July 2020, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government confirmed a razor-thin majority of just 113 of 222 seats. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin narrowly survived his first crucial test in removing the speaker of the lower house with a marginal two-vote majority.

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Youth insecurity in Malaysia

A general view of the Central Bank of Malaysia (Bank Negara Malaysia) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 31 July 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Darryl Tan, ASLI CPPS

With COVID-19 infection rates levelling out since early May, Malaysia appears to have successfully avoided a worst-case scenario. The firm Movement Control Order, enforced by the Malaysian government since mid-March, has been largely credited for containing the pandemic.

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COVID-19 taps the accelerator in Malaysian politics

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin reacts during a session of the lower house of parliament, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 13 July, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Huey Teng).

Author: William Case, University of Nottingham Malaysia

The COVID-19 crisis has served as a fierce accelerant in Malaysia’s politics. Amid the fog of pandemic, a trajectory of events that might have unfolded anyway has been catalysed. Malaysia’s new Perikatan Nasional (National Alliance) government has restored the country’s politics to old contours of party-state fusion and hybrid modes of authoritarian control.

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Disinformation and xenophobia target Malaysia’s Rohingya

A Rohingya woman a wearing protective mask walks past closed shops amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 18 May 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Harris Zainul, Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia

The Rohingya in Malaysia have become the target of increasing xenophobia and hate speech. Disinformation — the intentional creation of false information — is fuelling the fire of outrage against this marginalised community.

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Malaysia’s massive fiscal injections miss the mark

A man wearing a protective mask walks past closed shops amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 28 May 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Evelyn S Devadason, University of Malaya

Malaysia’s spending to fight COVID-19 through four economic stimulus packages now totals US$73 billion (RM295 billion). On 27 February, the first package worth US$4.8 billion was issued to counter COVID-19’s immediate impact on the tourism industry. As the pandemic worsened and impacted the broader economy with the Movement Control Order (MCO) of 18 March, the government introduced the second (27 March) and third (6 April) stimulus packages worth US$57 billion and US$2.3 billion, respectively.

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Is ASEAN’s COVID-19 response leaving migrant workers behind?

Firefighters spray disinfectant on a street during the movement control order due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 31 March, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Teng).

Author: M Niaz Asadullah, University of Malaya

Many ASEAN nations saw a sharp decline in the number of coronavirus fatalities after more than a month in lockdown. New infections in Thailand dropped to single-digit figures and Vietnam has already reopened its economy. The Philippines and Malaysia have conditionally permitted most sectors to resume business.

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COVID-19 highlights the plight of Malaysia’s refugees

Rohingya refugees wearing protective masks keep a social distance while waiting to receive goods from volunteers, during the movement control order due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 7 April, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Thomas Daniel, ISIS Malaysia

Malaysia’s COVID-19-induced Movement Control Order (MCO) has caused severe hardships for refugees and asylum seekers in the country. Most work informally and earn daily or weekly wages, with no job protection. Many were made redundant and are now highly reliant on aid from NGOs and well-wishers. Read more…

Malaysia needs innovative fiscal measures for sustainable health financing

Participants exercise during Mega Yoga Day in Kuala Lumpur. The event, which aims to hold the largest gathering of yoga participation in Malaysia, also promotes national awareness of physical fitness and an active lifestyle through exercise, according to government organisers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 27 October 2013 (Reuters/Samsul Said).

Author: Yen Lian Tan, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) accounted for 73 per cent of total deaths in Malaysia in 2015, with half of these being due to cardiovascular diseases. This health burden is growing as the prevalence of NCD risk factors continue to rise among Malaysians. Read more…

Malaysia beats brutal COVID-19 expectations

Commuters are seen wearing face masks in an almost empty SBK train as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Photo: Reuters/Hazim Mohammad).

Author: Stewart Nixon, ANU

To the casual observer, Malaysia’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak may seem bungled. Media reports highlighted a mass religious gathering later linked to thousands of infections and the Ministry of Women’s advice that wives maintain a presentable appearance and avoiding nagging and sarcasm under lockdown. Read more…

The return of old-style Malay-centric politics?

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin delivers a televised speech at the Prime Minister's Building, 24 April 2020 (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Universiti Sains Malaysia

As the world was gradually coming to terms with COVID-19, Malaysia was enveloped by a self-manufactured political crisis. Uncertainty prevailed over who wielded ultimate executive power in light of the abrupt resignation of Mahathir Mohamad. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong — Malaysia’s king — eventually settled on Muhyiddin Yassin as the best choice to lead the country as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister. Read more…

Malaysia’s surprise new cabinet

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks during a news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia 11 March, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Francis E Hutchinson, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

After swearing-in as Prime Minister of Malaysia on 2 March, Muhyiddin Yassin unveiled his new cabinet a week later. The new line-up contains several surprises and reveals some familiar tactics to concentrate power and ward off potential challengers for the top job — but Muhyiddin’s choices for coveted portfolios could also generate fault-lines within the ruling coalition. Read more…

The failed politics of reform in Malaysia and Sri Lanka

Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad leaves after an event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 28 February 2020 (Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Kanishka Jayasuriya, Murdoch University

The ejection of Mahathir Mohamad from Malaysian government and the victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the Sri Lankan presidential election seemingly mark the end of coalitions pushing for greater openness in the two countries. These developments offer an instructive case study on the politics of institutional reform. Read more…