The Rendon Group Snapshot – 21 November 2016

by TRG Alerts Admin on November 28, 2016

The Rendon Group

(21NOV16)

Each week The Rendon Group’s media analysts will focus on a different continent and a different issue affecting that continent. As always, we remain available to answer any questions you may have and to provide additional information upon request. For more information regarding The Rendon Group’s products and services, please contact us at Alert@Rendon.com or +1-202-745-4900.

Malaysian Government Cracks Down on Dissent as Opposition Protests 1MDB Scandal

Pro-democracy group Bersih stage 1MDB protest, calling for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to resign, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Pro-democracy group Bersih stage 1MDB protest, calling for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to resign, in Kuala Lumpur on November 19, 2016. (Reuters/Edgar Su)

This week’s snapshot focuses on the Malaysian government’s crackdown on free speech and political dissent. Malaysia’s leadership has moved in recent months to increase penalties associated with speech and demonstrations openly critical of the government in an effort to contain rising discontent and accusations of misgovernance. The Bersih movement began as a campaign for electoral reform, but has been energized by allegations that billions of dollars were siphoned off from the 1MDB investment and development fund. The human rights group Amnesty International demanded that the Malaysian government immediately end its crackdown on Bersih, and “allow civil society to peacefully exercise its human rights”. Prior to the major pro-democracy and anti-corruption protest in the capital on 19NOV16,  Maria China Abdullah, who chairs the Bersih reform movement, was arrested. Protesters called for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak over allegations of diverting public money to fill his personal accounts.

News summary of events during the week of 14NOV16 – 21NOV16

  • 14NOV: A court sentenced opposition lawmaker Rafizi Ramli, a member of the People’s Justice Party (PKR), to 18 months in prison for releasing confidential information related to scandal-hit state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), keeping up a crackdown on critics of the government. (Reuters)
  • 16NOV: Former Premier Mahathir Mohamad threw his weight behind a massive rally planned for this weekend to demand that PM Najib Razak resign, with clashes feared between protesters and pro-government groups. (Reuters)
  • 17NOV: PM Najib Razak warned violence would not be tolerated at a major anti-government demonstration planned for the weekend. (AFP)
  • 18NOV: Steven Gan, the head of the popular Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini, was charged for airing videos of a news conference by former ruling party member Khairuddin Abu Hassan, in what international rights group Human Rights Watch labeled an attack on press freedom. (AP)
  • 18NOV: Police arrested Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah, secretariat member Mandeep Singh and several other opposition leaders, widening a crackdown on government critics a day before a rally calling for PM Najib Razak to step down. (Reuters)
  • 18NOV: Jamal Yunos, an UMNO member and leader of the Red Shirts, was arrested. He had warned of a repeat of racial riots in 1969 that killed hundreds in clashes between Malays and ethnic Chinese. (The Straits Times)
  • 19NOV: Tens of thousands of protesters, undeterred by the arrests of opposition leaders, marched in Malaysia’s capital demanding that PM Najib Razak step down. (Reuters)
  • 20NOV: After organizing a big anti-government rally, Malaysia’s electoral reform group Bersih voiced concern over the arrest of its chairwoman. (AP)
  • 21NOV: Rights groups condemned Malaysia’s government for a crackdown on organisers of a weekend anti-government rally, including the arrest of the protest leader under a tough law aimed at terrorism. (AFP)

Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about protests in Malaysia

  • @davidbrunnstromDavid Brunnstrom, Correspondent for US Asia Policy, Reuters
  • @DrJM_FernandezDr. Joseph Fernandez,  Associate Professor of Journalism, Curtin University (Australia)
  • @johnquinley3John Quinley III, Associate Human Rights Specialist, Fortify Rights
  • @MurrayHiebert1Murray Hiebert, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Chair for Southeast Asia Studies, CSIS
  • @matthewfsmithMatthew Smith, Co-founder & chief executive at Fortify Rights.

Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the protests in Malaysia

Cynthia Gabriel, Director, Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (Malaysia)

“The Official Secrets Act is being used to hide corruption. We need freedom of information laws to help the public monitor and bring to account powerful politicians and businesses.”

  • “Critic of Najib Razak, Malaysian Leader, Gets Prison for 1MDB Disclosure,” NYT, 14NOV16

Josef Benedict, Deputy Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Amnesty International

“These arrests are the latest in a series of crude and heavy-handed attempts to intimidate Malaysian civil society activists and other human rights defenders. They must be released immediately and unconditionally, and tomorrow’s rally must be allowed to go ahead peacefully.”

  • “Malaysia arrests pro-democracy leader ahead of anti-PM rally,” Reuters, 18NOV16

Ooi Kee Beng, Deputy Director, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute (Singapore)

“UMNO’s core is safe but every core has a fringe.It is over this fringe that the battle is fought. When enough UMNO members who are not happy with Najib switch sides, that’s the tipping point.”

  • “Malaysia Braces for Saturday’s Anti-Government Rally,” Bloomberg, 17NOV16

Phil Robertson, Deputy Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch

“There is no question whatsoever that Najib’s government has become more dictatorial and repressive. It’s incredible how far and how fast the human-rights situation in Malaysia has deteriorated.”

  • “Malaysia Braces for More Anti-Government Protests,” Time, 18NOV16

Sholto Byrnes, Senior Fellow, Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Malaysia)

“If Malays do not make up a major part of those attending Bersih, it will show the opposition is failing to win over the voters it needs, is still reliant on its core of Chinese and urban liberals. It’s a big test for the opposition.”

  • “Malaysia Braces for Saturday’s Anti-Government Rally,” Bloomberg, 17NOV16

Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the protests in Malaysia

  1. Malaysia detains 12 activists ahead of anti-PM rally

Media: Associated Press

Byline: N/A

Date: 18 November 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian police detained 12 activists and tightened security ahead of a rally Saturday by electoral reform group Bersih seeking Prime Minister Najib Razak’s resignation over a financial scandal.

Police barricaded key roads in downtown Kuala Lumpur and put water-cannon trucks on standby, but it did not stop protesters who began trickling in. Some were chanting “Save Democracy” and “Bersih, Bersih”— which means “clean” in the Malay language.

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  1. Counter-rally leader detained in Malaysia ahead of mass protest

Media: Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA)

Byline: N/A

Date: 18 November 2016

Kuala Lumpur (dpa) – Jamal Yunos, the leader of a counter-demonstration to Coalition for Free and Fair Elections’ (Bersih 2.0) planned mass rally, was detained by Malaysian police early Saturday morning, according to news portal The Star Online.

The leader of the Red Shirts was brought to the Selangor state police headquarters in Shah Alam, some 30 kilometres from the nation’s capital.

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  1. Malaysian reform group office raided ahead of rally, 2 held

Media: Associated Press

Byline: N/A

Date: 18 November 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian police have raided the office of electoral reform group Bersih and detained two officials on the eve of a street rally by the group seeking the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak over a financial scandal.

Bersih activists have vowed to proceed with Saturday’s rally in Kuala Lumpur despite a police ban and fears of clashes with a pro-government group.

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  1. Malaysian police arrest organiser of anti-PM rally

Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Byline: N/A

Date: 18 November 2016

Kuala Lumpur, Nov 18, 2016 (AFP) – Malaysian police on Friday arrested the leader of a group staging a major weekend demonstration against Prime Minister Najib Razak and his links to the massive 1MDB corruption scandal, protest organisers said.

The arrest of Maria Chin Abdullah, chair of the pro-reform NGO alliance Bersih, looked likely to raise tensions further before Saturday’s rally in Kuala Lumpur, which a pro-government rightist group is vowing to disrupt.

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  1. Thousands in Malaysia take part in rally against prime minister

Media: Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA)

Byline: Audrey Edwards

Date: 19 November 2016

Kuala Lumpur (dpa) – Thousands of protesters in the Malaysian capital took part in an anti-government rally Saturday, despite the arrest of rally leaders and the leader of a counter-protest.

The area surrounding Kuala Lumpur’s Merdeka Square was filled with protesters wearing the group’s signature colour yellow, who waved flags and shouted slogans such as “Free the people” and “Bersih” (the Malay word for clean).

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