A leading Malaysian civil society group which promotes transparency and free and fair election has won a prestigious international human rights prize. The award coincides with a financial scandal involving Malaysia’s prime minister which continues to cast a shadow over the country’s financial markets and politics a year after allegations of misuse of funds were raised, VOA reports:
The spotlight fell dramatically on Malaysia’s state investment company, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), after media reports last year raised allegations that millions of dollars were deposited into the private bank account of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The scandal may hit Malaysia’s financial sector and economy in the months ahead, said Bill Case, a political science professor at Hong Kong’s City University.
“This IMDB scandal is so serious and the amounts of money so large that if the fund defaults – which it appears it may do in the next few days – and if the government then has to come in and guarantee, it will deal such a blow to that country’s entire financial system,” Case told VOA. “And this will put pressure on the [local currency] Ringgit once again. It doesn’t look good. That’s just the beginning of defaults – there will be a whole succession of them,” he said
The U.S. government is reportedly reviewing Goldman Sachs’ relationship with the Malaysian fund. A Federal Bureau of Investigation team specializing in “international kleptocracy” is leading the bureau’s inquiries.
The US Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Initiative is reportedly also investigating if up to $US150m worth of real estate can be traced to corrupt use of Malaysian state funds.
BERSIH 2.0 – the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections – has been an example of strength for the country in the face of mounting challenges from the state, according to the 2016 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee:
For the first time ever, BERSIH 2.0 gave vibrancy to electoral reform and made it a national agenda for change with its eight demands. This brought them together on the streets to unite for a common cause – free and fair elections. Through mass rallies, it raised political issues and contributed to narrowing gaps in culture, religion, and between ethnic groups. In addition, the rally had raised Malaysia citizens’ awareness to the irregularities and controversies in the electoral system and gave them a hope to unite the nation.
The global campaign started by overseas Malaysians saw the formation of global BERSIH and support had been tremendous at every BERSIH rally. It now boasts a network of 85 cities and has recently registered itself to continue with the international advocacy work with overseas Malaysians. In June 2015, Global BERSIH will make its first oral intervention at the UN Universal Periodic Review in Geneva and will present the state of democracy in Malaysia to UN mandate holders.