Malaysia’s bumbling ruling elite: Column


(USA Today) – As errors, misstatements, retractions and head-scratching rationalizations tumble over each other in the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the world is coming to recognize what the country has known for decades — that Malaysia’s leaders are accustomed to getting away with murder.

Sometimes figuratively: For example, with elections looming and Prime Minister Najib Razak losing popularity, top opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim recently was sentenced to five years in prison on a sodomy charge. Two years ago, Anwar, who enjoys support in Washington, was acquitted after spending six years in prison on the same charge.

And sometimes perhaps literally: In October 2006, the gruesome remains of a human body were discovered on a remote hilltop outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s principal city. There was no corpse, really, just hunks of flesh and shattered bone. DNA determined that the victim was a 28-year-old Mongolian woman who had been involved in a long love affair with one of Najib’s closest advisers.

These instances of real-life political shenanigans and pulp-fiction-style crime share deep cultural and behavioral traits with Malaysia’s clumsy handling of the mysterious Boeing 777 and the 239 people on board.

Spinning dubious stories

In the cases of the murder and the missing plane, Najib and other political leadershave felt free to spin their own dubious stories. The big difference is that this time, the world is watching as the leaders repeatedly are caught in their own web of claims and denials, allegations and refutations.

Where does this arbitrary political culture come from?

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