Friday 22 July 2011

Wikileaks: US envoy says Umno abused security laws, institutions

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 — The United States ambassador here told Washington in 2008 that Malaysia was facing a “political crisis” caused by Umno’s control and abuse of security institutions and national security laws to remain in power.

US ambassador James R. Keith said in a leaked cable, released by whistleblower site WikiLeaks through the Malaysia Today news portal that “in good times Umno can maintain control by distributing power and money to get what it wants (but) in bad times, it uses the stick, and for now that means intimidation.”
The document, signed by the US ambassador at the time, charged that Umno “controlled” security institutions like the military and the police by appointing “party stalwarts” to head these institutions. The cable said that while the army would remain “loyal” to legitimate leadership, the police, on the other hand, took direct orders from Umno.

“Umno leaders, united behind but also in a sense using Prime Minister (Tun) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, have made it clear that they are willing to blacken Malaysia’s reputation to ensure the end to opposition leader (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim’s political challenge,” said the cable in reference to the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leader’s on-going sodomy trial where he was charged with sodomising an ex-aide on June 26, 2008.
“The ruling elite maintains control over the security apparatus through party stalwarts who run the security institutions, mainly the police but also the military. We believe the military will remain loyal to legitimate leadership and is not a likely tool to overturn an elected, royally-approved and Malay-led government from either the ruling or opposition side. The police, on the other hand, follow orders from the ruling party.

The document also stated that the government had “failed” to convince the majority of Malaysians that Anwar’s sodomy trial was not politically-motivated. — file pic
“The “commando-style” arrest of Anwar last week, the roadblocks and security checks throughout the city of Kuala Lumpur, the recent arrest of blogger Raja Petra (Kamaruddin), intimidation of Sabah politicians, and the authorities’ strident rhetoric are all part of a broad message to the Malaysian people that they had better not stand in Umno’s path. In today’s Malaysia, one can get along by going along (and of course one can go farther as a Malay rather than a Chinese or Indian), but it is also true that one can be run over,” said the US cable. 
The cable added that Umno defined national security as a means to protect the party’s “superiority” and to ensure that the opposition cannot take over the reins of federal power.
“Now the criminal law is laid bare as a political tool, just as useful to the ruling party as the national security law.

“Umno leaders may fail to grasp the consequences of upping the ante; they hear what we are saying, but do not understand sufficiently well how difficult it will be for them to overcome the shadows they are casting on the country. They no doubt thought they were choosing the more palatable path in using the criminal law, and thus the sodomy charge, rather than detaining Anwar as a matter of national security under the Internal Security Act. But contrary to their intent, many in the international community will take this as escalation,” said the cable.

The document stated that at that point in time the Barisan Nasional (BN) government had “failed” to convince the majority of Malaysians as well as the international community that Anwar’s sodomy trial was not politically-motivated.

“The authorities themselves betray that fiction on a daily basis in the pages of the domestic press, and barely one in 10 Malaysians are buying into the party line a survey tells us,” said the cable.

The report recommended that the US “exploit” every possible opportunity for “authoritative bilateral exchange” to ensure the BN government understood the costs of “efforts that diminish the rule of law.”

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