Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission has been making lots of headlines lately. Its agents have been carrying out high-profile arrests of government officials accused of bribery and influence-peddling. You’d think that Malaysians would be happy at the news, says Cynthia Gabriel (above), founder of the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), an anti-corruption organization in Malaysia.
But they aren’t — because it’s all too obvious that, however welcome this campaign, it’s just an attempt to divert attention from a far larger corruption scandal that has been rocking the country for the past five years. I should know, because I’m one of the people — one of many — who were involved in bringing it to light, she writes for The Washington Post’s DemocracyPost:
In 2012, when I was serving as the executive director of one of Malaysia’s largest human rights organizations, my colleagues and I filed a legal complaint in France requesting an investigation into an alleged kickback scheme. According to news reports, Malaysian government officials had received $130 million for their part in the procurement of two submarines from a French company. (All of the officials implicated have denied these claims.) We took this unusual step when our efforts to get answers about the scandal ran into repeated bureaucratic and judicial hurdles in our home country.
“With elections due as early as this fall, the Najib government will do its best to ride out the political storm,” adds Gabriel, a recipient of the National Endowment for Democracy’s 2017 Democracy Award. “Meanwhile, Malaysian activists will continue to look for ways to protect whistleblowers, to end impunity, to advocate for stronger and independent institutions and to demand justice and the rule of law. Only in this way can we hope to build a truly democratic Malaysia.”