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PETALING JAYA: The reputation of Malaysia as a moderate Muslim nation is going down the tubes as the government continues to attract attention and for all the wrong reasons, said Australian daily Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).

In an editorial, SMH cited the jailing of former Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, almost one year ago, for what it described as a “dubious charge of sodomy” so that he could be removed from the political arena and stopped from commenting on the “deteriorating state of democracy in his country.”

This “deteriorating state”, SMH said, included the arrests of seven Opposition MPs under the Sedition Act for remarks made against the “government, the judiciary and Malaysia’s sultans” and for participating in peaceful protests against debt-riddled 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Citing the “mind-boggling” donation of RM2.6 billion that the Saudi royal family donated to Prime Minister Najib Razak, it pointed out that Attorney-General Apandi Ali cleared the country’s leader of any criminal wrongdoing despite him having accepted such huge amounts of money in his personal bank accounts.

It noted that the AG had also gone further by ordering the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the agency tasked to investigate the case, to officially cease investigations into the donation as well as the RM42 million from SRC International that also found its way into Najib’s bank account.

“SRC’s role is politically explosive because it received a $US930 million loan, approved by Mr Najib’s cabinet, from the government fund that manages the retirement savings of Malaysia’s public servants,” SMH said.

It quoted former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a relentless critic of Najib’s, as saying “I am scared too” when commenting on how laws and rules in Malaysia no longer protected the people.”

The former premier was also unhappy that although the AG had said the bulk of the RM2.6 billion had been returned to the Saudi donor, Apandi had remained tight-lipped on what had happened to the amount that had not been sent back.

“How much longer can Malaysia be regarded as a modern, moderate nation in charge of its destiny? Its strategic importance as a moderate Muslim nation in the Asian region in a time of terror has so far spared it much international condemnation, but its reputation is sinking. It needs to step back from the brink,” SMH said.

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