Can we pass the test?

Four years after being turfing out its ruling party-in-perpetuity, Malaysia did the unthinkable – it sent its former Prime Minister, Dato’ Sri Haji Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak to prison on charges of corruption. Mr. Najib, had until that point been regarded as something of an untouchable figure, even though he looted and abused power on a scale that Malaysia had never seen before (this included US$700 million in his personal account). [LINK]

As a Singaporean, it can be tempting to get smug about all these things going on in Malaysia. Singapore’s successive governments have taken pride in not being anything like their Malaysian counterparts. Sure, our Prime Minister remains the world’s best paid, despite a pay cut but nobody has found anything unexplainable in his personal bank account.

The difference in official corruption in Singapore and Malaysia can be seen most visibly at the street level. Your papers need to be in order whenever you enter Singapore. If you must pay a traffic fine in Singapore, you pay it because offering the cop a little extra is a guaranteed way to jail. Malaysia is, to politely, vastly different in this respect. I remember crossing the Causeway with my mother-in-law and being told to “give something to my officer,” by Malaysian immigration.

It is easy to get smug when you compare the levels of government corruption between the two countries. However, while Singapore may score higher than Malaysia according to Transparency International, Malaysia has passed two crucial test, which Singapore has not.

The first test came in the 2018 General Election, when the “Barisan Nasional” (BN) ruling coalition was thrown out of power for the first time in history. It was by all accounts an amazing election that was not just politically significant but culturally so. Malaysia has a political culture based along ethnic divisions, yet Malaysians united along racial lines and voted to get rid of a government that had become so corrupt that it made people’s lives miserable.

Sure, the opposition coalition that won that election has not been remarkably better and Bumiputra policies remain. However, the Malaysian electorate displayed a maturity of being able to unite across ethnic lines despite what the best efforts of politicians. Not only does this contrast with Singapore, which is officially “non-racial,” but accepts talk about the public not being ready to be led by someone from an ethnic minority, but it also compares well with the mature democracies of the West, which have seen a rise in ethnic nationalism.

The second test comes with the High Court upholding Mr. Najib’s jail term. Malaysia’s judiciary has shown that it has a certain level of independence to punish a kleptocratic former Prime Minister. While Mr. Najib may no longer be Prime Minister and have control of levers of the state, Mr. Najib does have a following and a lot of influence. Talking about Mr. Najib as being “untouchable” was not an exaggeration. We also need to remember that this is a region where “corrupt” leaders are not necessarily disgraced and pushed to spend their latter years under the radar – the Philippines has just put the son of a man that robbed and rapped the country back in the presidency. Malaysia is in the region where such things can happen.

Still, the Malaysian Supreme Court was not bowed and sent Mr. Najib to where he belongs and the message became clear, nobody including a very influential Prime Minister is above the law.

In a way, this sets a good example for the ASEAN region (if you discount Singapore as an anomaly). Having an electorate that can unite across ethnic lines despite the best efforts of politicians and a judiciary that can move against those with power and influence shows that nations in this part of the world are capable of building stable societies where people can prosper. This would be a week to say “Malaysia Bolleh.”


Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.






21 Responses to “Can we pass the test?”

  • Harder Truths:

    Tang Li – you are so wrong

    This guy is in prison because he made so many enemies – that is the only reason he couldn’t save himself.

    Do you know how corrupt Malaysia really is? You think those judges are so clean and are not following someone’s orders? This is about d0g eat d0g. His enemies who he used his power against during his reign now want revenge. That’s the real story.

    Especially the Malaysian royalty can get away with anything. They come to $inkeland hotels, trash the place and leave. The hotels are too scared to do anything.

    Malaysia boleh if you have big money, big connections and big bullshit. Yes $inkieland is the same it is true. And looking at the rest of Asia, the situation is the same everywhere else.

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  • Stupid Singaporeans Vote PAP:

    Officially corrupted is corruption of the highest level.

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  • Paul Angel:

    Singapore has no corruption because it is illegal. But GREED is okay. It’s legitimate and not a crime. This government is truly greedy to the core…but not corrupt.

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  • panyusg:

    I am not sure if Najib sleeps in a normal cell or in a plush air-con room with all the comforts. The Prison does not have to have disclose to anyone and it can be done even without the knowledge of all the prison guards except for the elite few who may be on Najib’s payroll.

    Are we sure Najib is still in Kajang prison? His life is in great danger there. Everything can be organized. Remember UMNO is still on power.

    The Prison Director also can follow “advice” from the outside to make sure Najib is given sufficient comforts (maybe even the pillow and blanket are from home).

    Najib is different from the wretched Anwar who was a pariah and was being persecuted. Najib has a future when he emerges after an expected pardon from the Agong who is from his home state of Pahang.

    And when Najib emerges, the Prison Director will be duly rewarded with high promotions.

    Malaysian politics is not vicious i.e. they kill someone. Rather it is a nice a wayang kulit. There is an affectionate Bahasa phrase…sudah-lah.

    We shall see…will Najib lose a lot weight? He will if he is fed the skimpy nasi lemak meals.

    Everything can be organized…a jail is not a jail. All further charges can be dropped.

    Malaysian politics is also very forgiving. Anwar was forgiven. Dear ole Mahathir will retire on his last day on earth which may still be years away.

    Majullah Malaysia

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  • panyusg:

    I recall the massive peaceful KL demonstrations at the height of the 1MDB saga. That was good for Malaysia…entire families were out, dressed in a specific color. The police let them move around. There was no violence.

    No such celebration rally now that Najib is finally in “jail”.

    The saga is not over. Politics in Malaysia is about give-and-take. Can be played in many shapes and form.

    Everything can be organized including forgiveness.

    Boss-ku will come back into the limelight.

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  • MarBowling:

    We sure 101% can pass the Acid Test in term of Cronyism, Nepotism, Favoritism, etc. 62.14% have confirmed that!

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  • C’est la vie:

    How, …… how to pass, c’mon !!!

    Imagine, the likes of flippin JoTeo retaining her seat, after displaying her absolute incompetence and innate inability to simply say sorry, … c’mon !!!

    And then there’s MuPillai who again, kept his seat, … against Dr Chee, c’mon !!!

    What about Dr Tan Cheng Bok, … who lost out to SlimIswaran, c’mon !!!

    Forget it sg, … forget about finding the “balls” for doing the right thing, or needing change, or the cries and moans about “how can this be” !!!

    Just stick with “inside is not within”, hijacking the parliament for absolving oneself, collect more monies from the feeble fools and, … perpetuate the shit show that’s on show, all made possible and brought to you by the moronic muppets on the island, … the majority !!!

    Hang on a mo, hang on, I hear someone bellowing out, … “what test, it’s what we voted for, it’s what we want, … what test” !!!

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  • @C’est la vie

    As I have been saying many times, Sinkieland desperately needs a complete reboot and it is certainly not coming from the electorate.

    God is too busy attending to other important matters, lets hope the mRNA vaccine will do the job. lol

    It would be a complete lie and con for ANYONE to deny that more and more (than usual) babies are being born still, that more people are contracting cancer, and more are getting injured and dying from climate change.

    Regardless of how extensive the denial and coverups are, you can con the dafts all the time, but you can never con mother nature.

    Besides, there is always a limit to everything, it remains to be seen when the patience and tolerance level of the dafts would be reached.

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  • Spineless Sinkie Syndrome:

    HAHAHA! Like so many Sinkies, this Tang Li also super naïve & blur even after so many years here.

    Please lah, you think that “Ah-jib” will stay in jail for the full 12 years sentence meh?

    His Sultan “Ah-Gong” will velly soon pardon him, so he will sit in his jail cell for maybe a few years at the most. Thereafter he will come out to enjoy the billions that he stole. Of course, he will need to “share” some of the loot with you-know-who-lah. Yes?/No? LOL.

    As for comparison with Sinkiepore system, the comments here are equally naive and perfunctory.

    Please lor, since day 1, “FamiLEE” dynasty practices “LEEgal colluption” which is somewhat ‘smarter’ than what the blokes do up north. That’s all. LOL. In appearance wise, it is all ‘shiny & clean’ (much like LRD’s outward image), but in reality, it is NO different from the “ilLEEgal” types. Get my point? LOL.

    SSS Sinkies can continue to shout “MIW are Whiter than pure snow white! so we Luv PAPies forever!” Yes?/No? LOL.

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  • xoxo:

    Najib’s ca$e is simply too glaring to be hu$hed.Besides,he has made too many political foes .
    Compared to the *treatment* Anwar underwent for *sodomy*(not MONEY,talk about LGBTQ RIGHTS?) Najib is receiving,it is kachang-puteh.Maybe becos they give face to his late FATHER ,RAZAK?

    A ROYAL PARDON is even possible.
    This is the reality of human lives.
    It depends on who you are,who are your parents?

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  • Eddie Leong:

    The next Agong will ascend to the throne in Jan 2014. Hence, any pardon by the present Agong will have to be done in 2013.

    Najib will serve his sentence in “jail”. Given that he may be a target, the Prison Department can always arrange a special place for Najib.

    The real criminal Jho Lho is still free, rumored to be in China. Most of the money can be returned and all will be forgiven.

    Next is that warship scandal.

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  • Magic:

    Mr. Najib is a magician. He use his magic tricks to make the economy grow and make Malaysia a magical land. He make money out of thin air and by using illusion. Unfortunately, he is a bad magician. He used his magic trick to make money go into his bank account too for his own interest. Like the tarot card, upright means good magic, reverse mean bad magic. Many people support him because of his magic power to make Malaysia great. They cannot see the illusion. People in other parts of the world should be aware of bad magicians.

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  • opposition dude:

    Ha ha Najib is untouchable indeed. What a great joke! Please lah, when you were PM no one could touch you but once you aren’t you are just another ordinary guy lah. Do take note that Umno is now in a coalition government, they can’t just suka suka do whatever they want like how it was in the past. They basically have got not enough power to stand up to any sort of confrontation so jailing Najib would be a last gasp desperation move to try and win some votes in the upcoming election.

    Don’t be surprised if Umno once again becomes the majority ruling party they quickly go release Najib from jail for “good behaviour” or some other excuse.

    We do need more opposition in parliament but we won’t be getting this wish granted for a while to come thanks to the kiasees. Once these kiasees are in the minority in the GRCs is when PAP will be the opposition in parliament and when we will see change that actually makes life better for Singaporeans.

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  • PAP mandate strong:

    @ The real criminal Jho Lho is still free, rumored to be in China. Most of the money can be returned and all will be forgiven.
    Next is that warship scandal.

    Mmmm…Meaning Malaysia should also plan a trip to Taiwan in the following months or next year ?

    But give China heads up.
    朋友, please return Jho and watever monies makan back to Malaysia including 1R1B. 你識做, 我識做.

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  • Temusik Patriot:

    You mean LEEgaly Corrupt?…the PERFECT art of CORRUPTION innovated by a bastard aptly named Lie Con You

    Stupid Singaporeans Vote PAP:
    Officially corrupted is corruption of the highest level.

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  • Trust only myself:

    “….the Malaysian electorate displayed a maturity of being able to unite…..”

    Please lah the writer cannot think properly… to compare the matured voters there with those “majority trained as well as new bloods” introduced by the liars here………no change for the next fifty years.

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  • Ah Ha:

    Tang Li is 100% bind (physically and intellectually) and is becoming the beacon of workies.

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  • Magic:

    “One fine morning, Najib and Mahadi walked into a candy shop in downtown KL.

    In a double fast time, Najib took 3 bars of chocolate into his pocket without paying.

    Mahadi saw everything but kept quiet. He instead asked the shop owner if he would like to watch some magic.

    Shop owner replied in affirmation. Mahadi then asked for a bar of chocolate from the shop owner and he ate that chocolate immediately. Mahadi then asked for a second bar of chocolate and also eat it there and then.

    When Mahadi finished the third bar of chocolate, the shop owner asked Mahadi where is the magic?

    Mahadi then told the shop owner that all the 3 bars of chocolate were already went into Najib’s pocket!”

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  • DifferentStrokes...:

    Now its “Malaysia Boleh” as their highest courts jailed Najib, a corrupt ex PM.
    But if he gets a royal pardon or a reduced sentence, we say? “Malaysia,Mana Boleh?” ;)

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  • NED Revisit Malaysia again:

    Last GE of Malaysia, NED maybe using young Malaysians to topple Umno. US may had successfully sabotaged and delayed the Belt and Road initiative. Eg;High Speed Rail from Kl to Sg were strapped. However Umno had revived recently and may restarted the HSR. The next GE of Malaysia woild be coming soon,NED would be actively physco the youths again,yo vote for Oppositions to retard China initiative. With Pelosi visited using Sg and My as stepping stones despite advised against the trip by Sg.Sg had lost the role of mediation centre.

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  • Soccerbetting2:

    Reported on Straits Times :Quote-”Malaysian court to deliver verdict in corruption trial of former PM Najib’s wife Rosmah
    1 of 3

    Rosmah Mansor (centre) arrives for the verdict in her corruption trial at the high court in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 1, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

    Rosmah Mansor leaves after attending her husband’s second trial at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex on Aug 25, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

    Rosmah Mansor (centre) arrives at the Federal Court in Putrajaya for her husband’s appeal on Aug 23, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
    KUALA LUMPUR – Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Malaysia prime minister Najib Razak, arrived in court on Thursday to hear the verdict on charges against her of seeking bribes in exchange for government contracts, just days after her husband was jailed for corruption.

    Najib and his wife, who has faced criticism for her lavish lifestyle, are at the centre of a wide-ranging crackdown on corruption mounted after his administration was voted out in a historic 2018 election.

    Last week, Najib began serving a 12-year jail sentence after Malaysia’s top court upheld his conviction in a case linked to a multibillion-dollar graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). He remains on trial in four other corruption cases.

    Rosmah, 70, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of soliciting and receiving bribes between 2016 and 2017 to help a company secure a US$279 million (S$390 million) solar power supply project from the government when her husband was in power.

    Prosecutors say Rosmah sought a bribe of RM187.5 million (S$59 million), and received RM6.5 million from an official of the company that won the project.

    The charges carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of at least five times the amount, though Rosmah could seek a stay on sentencing by the Kuala Lumpur High Court pending appeals to higher courts…..”Unquote.

    Response : Corrupted evil b**** backside woman Rosmah Mansor charged in Malaysia court for corruption.Will she be sent to jail for 12 years like Najib or even more jail for her ? Let’s see how Malaysia court sentenced woman for corruption !

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