Malaysia’s AG: Whistle-blowing Detrimental to Health


Kevin Morais and Hussain Najadi would certainly agree

John Berthelsen, Asia Sentinel

Malaysia’s Attorney General, Mohamed Apandi Ali, appointed in July 2015, is turning out to be a jack-of-all-trades who appears ominously comfortable carrying out favors for Prime Minister Najib Razak and the United Malays National Organization. Apandi, who turns 66 on Feb.11, took over from Abdul Gani Patail when the latter appeared to be on the verge of filing a mass of corruption charges against Najib.

Apandi’s latest gambit, on Feb. 7, is to threaten to recommend that the Parliament amend Malaysia’s already-repressive Official Secrets Act to punish whistle-blowers and the journalists who print their information with life imprisonment and 10 strokes of the cane if they are caught passing information on corruption. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called the threat “an indicator of a government that is intolerant of criticism and fearful of accountability, and a case of shooting the messenger to distract from the real issue at hand, which is good governance and transparency in a working democracy. It is also signaling a government which is using all laws at its disposal to restrict and clamp down on our right to freedom of expression.”

Amnesty International has demonstrated similar concerns.  Apandi’s warning poses a direct threat to the handful of news portals, including Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider and Malaysia Chronicle, which continue to print information critical of the government.  Malaysian Insider’s editors were arrested last year for supposedly printing an erroneous report on a decision by the country’s nine sultans. Malaysiakini has been raided repeatedly by police.  Raja Petra Kamarudin, once the government’s most widely-read critic with the news portal Malaysia Today before he fled criminal libel charges, has reversed course from the UK, where he now regularly pounds critics of the government.

It’s a good thing Apandi’s reach doesn’t extend to the US, where a whistleblower this week leaked information that the US Department of Justice is investigating possible money laundering charges against the Najib family for allegedly providing the funding to Red Granite Pictures for the Hollywood blockbuster The Wolf of Wall Street, which was co-produced by Riza Aziz, the son of Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor by her first husband and which was the subject of a May 7, 2014 Asia Sentinel story.