Malaysia Arson, Intimidation Cases Mount as Election Draws Near; “The violence is much more than previous elections”

Malaysia Arson, Intimidation Cases Mount as Election Draws Near

More than 1,400 cases of arson, fighting and other election-related crimes have been recorded by police since Malaysia’s parliament was dissolved for polls which will determine whether Najib Razak’s government can extend its five-decade grip on power.

“The violence is much more than previous elections,” Irene Fernandez, co-chairwoman of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections’ code of conduct committee, said by phone. “The increased tension is being driven by the fear of racial riots” and broader implementation of Islamic law among non-Muslims that’s being created in the media, she said.

At least two more campaign offices were torched by suspected arsonists this weekend as politicians held rallies nationwide, the Star newspaper reported today, citing police. The authorities earlier confirmed they were investigating three similar incidents last week, including a small explosion at an event attended by 3,000 supporters of Prime Minister Najib’s Barisan Nasional coalition ahead of the May 5 vote.

Najib’s government is facing its fiercest challenge to date, after retaining power five years ago by its narrowest margin since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957. The markets have priced in Barisan Nasional retaining power in next month’s vote with a simple majority, though there is a growing risk of a hung parliament or the opposition gaining control, RHB Capital Bhd. (RHBC) said in an April 1 report.Stocks Rally

The FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index closed last week at a record after rallying 9 percent over the past 12 months. The ringgit has rebounded 1.7 percent against the dollar since Najib dissolved parliament on April 3 for polls and is now the third- best performing major Asian currency this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Race riots between ethnic Malays and Chinese left hundreds dead in the wake of the 1969 vote when the United Malays Nasional Organisation-led coalition government lost its two- thirds majority in parliament for the first time.

Najib, 59, was a teenager during that unrest. His father Abdul Razak Hussein became prime minister the following year and responded with a program to reduce Chinese dominance in business by giving preferential treatment to Malays and indigenous people, collectively known as Bumiputeras.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister under Mahathir Mohamad, has pledged to roll back those racial preferences if he takes power, while Najib is pledging to make them more merit-based.

Islamic Law

Anwar, 65, leads an ideologically disparate coalition that includes one party with mostly ethnic Chinese and another whose members support the wider implementation of Islamic law, or hudud, which includes stoning to death and amputation of limbs for certain crimes.

Election banners have been sabotaged, flags pulled down and Molotov cocktails thrown with a total 1,414 incidents as of April 26, resulting in 248 formal reports, according to an official police Facebook page.

“There have been isolated cases throughout the country, though it’s still under control,” Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf, assistant commissioner of police, said by phone today.

Lim Guan Eng, secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Action Party which opposes hudud, received a threatening text message last week saying his wife and children would be killed if he remained chief minister of Penang, the Star reported today, citing the state’s Police Assistant Commander Roslee Chik.

The opposition won control of five of Malaysia’s 13 states, including Penang, in the 2008 vote, when the government lost two-thirds control in Parliament for only a second time, prompting Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down as prime minister and hand over the reins to his deputy Najib. The government later regained control of Perak state following defections.

Violence Condemned

Both Najib and Anwar have condemned the violence. Anything but a strong mandate for Barisan Nasional could lead to market instability, the prime minister said in an interview broadcast on Al Jazeera yesterday.

An opposition People’s Alliance win could spell “catastrophic ruin” for Malaysia and the stock market and ringgit would suffer a “sharp decline,” Najib said in an April 17 interview, highlighting his track-record of boosting investment and economic growth since becoming leader in 2009.

Anwar, who has pledged to fight cronyism and monopolies, responded with a statement describing the prime minister’s comments as a “desperate and irresponsible act” designed to “strike fear” in the financial community.

His People’s Alliance coalition currently holds 75 of 222 parliamentary seats, while Barisan Nasional, also known as the National Front, has 137, according to the Malaysian parliament website. Anwar predicted a minimum 10-seat majority for his alliance during a March 8 interview.

To contact the reporter on this story: Barry Porter in Kuala Lumpur at bporter10@bloomberg.net

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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