When the going gets tough, UMNO jails the whistleblowers
Suaram, the human rights NGO that hired French lawyers to investigate bribes and kickbacks surrounding Malaysia’s controversial purchase of French submarines, will be charged for violations of the country’s Companies Act sometime during the next two weeks, Domestic Trade and Consumerism Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Saturday, according to the state-owned Bernama news service.
Some 66 Malaysia-based NGOs are expected to give a press conference tomorrow at 11 am expressing their support for Suaram, an acronym for Suara Rakyat Malaysia, or Voice of the Malaysian People.
Suaram in 2009 asked a French investigative law firm headed by William Bourdon in 2009 to look into what appeared to be huge bribes and kickbacks paid to Malaysian politicians by the French state-owned defense company DCN and its subsidiaries for the 2002 purchase of two submarines and the lease of a third.
The probe resulted in a raid on DCN’s headquarters and other company offices that exposed nearly 150 million euros in questionable funds paid to a close friend of then-defense minister Najib Tun Razak, now Malaysia’s prime minister. The documents indicated that the bribes had been paid with the full knowledge of Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, Mahathir Mohamad, then the prime minister of Malaysia, and Najib, who had negotiated the purchase. The evidence detailed a host of other sleazy dealings.
Some 133 documents listing the alleged criminal dealings were obtained independently by Asia Sentinel and posted here on June 25 on the Internet. Two Asia Sentinel stories detailed the allegations against French and Malaysian officials.
Suaram, accused of being “Anwar’s NGO” because of the presence of opposition members of its board of directors, has come under unprecedented attack by pro-government bloggers, party-owned newspaper and UMNO lawmakers who questioned its status as an NGO rather than a company and accused it of receiving foreign funds.
“Yes, they are going to try to charge us,” Suaram Director Cynthia Gabriel said in a telephone interview Sunday. We have no details yet, the first charge will probably be in a couple of days, we will see what happens.”
Gabriel said the first charge apparently involves allegations of money-laundering, although she said the NGO had voluntarily opened its books to investigators and that she felt there had been no wrongdoing.
Malaysia’s government-owned newspapers have blared headlines that Suaram received funds from the German government, and indicated that that the German ambassador would be called in and asked for an explanation.
The Chinese probably hold the record for jailing those who point out corruption, violation of environmental laws and other shortcomings. But Malaysia could be catching up. The Barisan Nasional has a considerable history of going after whistle-blowers who expose wrongdoing by government officials, and particularly of leaders of the United Malays National Organization.
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