Malaysia. According to
COUNTRYAAH, the controversial trial of former Deputy Prime
Minister Anwar Ibrahim resumed in January. He was charged
with committing homosexual acts, a serious crime under
Malaysian law. The defense claimed that the charges were
invented in a political conspiracy against Anwar Ibrahim. He
had been dismissed and imprisoned in 1998 after criticizing
Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad for corruption.
In March, former police chief Abdul Rahim Noor was
sentenced to two months in prison for an assault on Anwar
Ibrahim in 1998. Rahim has since admitted the prosecutor's
side agreed to mitigate the prosecution and thereby reduce
the sentence. Doctors testified that Anwar Ibrahim was close
to being killed.
In March, the government restricted the opposition
newspaper Harakah's opportunities to come out only twice a
month. Harakah's editor-in-chief was one of several leading
people in the opposition who had been prosecuted just for
the uprising. Another was Anwar Ibrahim's chief lawyer.
In April, a demonstration was held in favor of Anwar
Ibrahim in Kuala Lumpur. Kravall police dissolved the
protest with tear gas and water cannons, and many opposition
activists were arrested.
Four international advocacy organizations criticized the
government in April for interfering with the country's
judiciary. Particular concern was expressed about how a
corruption trial against Anwar Ibrahim was carried out the
year before. The same month, former Prime Minister Musa
Hitam was appointed chairman of a new Malaysian human rights
organization. During his active time, Musa was Mahathir's
foremost opponent in the UMNO ruling party.
In August, the verdict against Anwar Ibrahim fell. The
Supreme Court found him guilty of sodomy, and he was
sentenced to serve nine years in prison, once the previous
sentence of six years in prison for corruption has been
served. In addition, Anwar Ibrahim was banned from holding
political assignments for five years after the release.
Anwar Ibrahim's co-defendant, his adoptive brother, was
sentenced to six years in prison and four strokes.
Criticism of the judgment came from, among other things,
The governments of Australia, New Zealand, the United States
of America and Singapore, as well as of the International
Law Commission, which described the trial as politically
motivated. According to Digopaul,
a Malaysian protest demonstration in November was
dissolved by tear gas police. It was led by Anwar Ibrahim's
wife, and the demands were his freedom and the departure of
Prime Minister Mahathir.
Heavy monsoon rains in the fall made more than 8,000
residents homeless in northeastern Malaysia. At least ten people
lost their lives.
Under Mahathir's leadership for 22 years, Malaysia
achieved a standard of living which is among the highest in
Asia. He has received much of the credit that a backward
agricultural country with a sensitive ethnic balance under
his rule was transformed into an Asian "tiger economy". The
back of the medal was a corrupt judicial system and
restricted freedom of the press.
Development of infrastructure has been central. Petronas
Towers was completed in the capital Kuala Lumpur in 1996; at
that time the tallest building in the world with two towers
of 88 floors (451.9 meters). Among the government's mega
projects was the high-tech Multimedia Super Corridor,
a Malaysian "Silicon Valley" stretching from Kuala Lumpur's
new airport to Petronas Towers. The Cyberjaya IT center was
opened in 1999. Kuala Lumpur's new international airport was
put into operation in 1998 at a cost of around NOK 25
billion. Another very ambitious project was a new
administrative capital, Putrajaya, 30-40 kilometers south of
Kuala Lumpur. Putrajaya is estimated to cost around NOK 70
Construction of Asia's second-largest hydropower plant,
the Bakun Dam in Borneo, started in 2002 after postponement
due to the Asian financial crisis in 1997. The project has
been met with protests from environmental activists
worldwide; About 10,000 indigenous people have been forced
to relocate. Currently, the project is estimated to cost NOK
45 billion - 2400 megawatts to be transmitted via the
world's longest subsea pipeline (670 kilometers) to the
Malaysian mainland. The completion was expected to happen in
2015, but was postponed.
In the country's market economy, the state has assumed an
active governing role, with a tangible interaction between
political and economic power. Oil production, with the bulk
of the sea offshore Borneo, has contributed significantly to
the country's economic progress. In 1997, Malaysia was hit
by the Asian economy crisis, but less severely than
neighboring states. Unlike neighboring countries, Malaysia
failed to follow the IMF guidelines and advice. The economy
is highly export-oriented. Fluctuations in demand for
electronics products, not least from the US, have had a
significant impact since the turn of the millennium,
especially during the global financial crisis in 2008.
Ambitious long-term plan
On 31 August 2007, Malaysia marked its 50th anniversary
as an independent nation with the launch of a new long-term
plan. It has as its stated goal that by 2020 Malaysia will
be a fully developed industrial nation.
The most ambitious part of the long-term plan is the
Iskandar Development Region (IDR), farthest south of
Malaysia at the Singapore border. This is where construction
of a brand new city for the future-oriented industry started
in 2007, Nusajaya. The project management set the goal that
by 2025 Nusajaya will be "the most modern industrial
metropolis in Southeast Asia". Investments are currently
estimated at $ 100 billion over 20 years. A significant part
of the investments will be financed by revenues from the oil
sector - in 2007, oil and gas accounted for more than 20 per
cent of the state's revenues. However, the global financial
crisis led to the giant project being subject to cuts and
reassessments. In 2007, Malaysia recorded USD 9.4 billion in
foreign direct investment, compared with NOK 6 billion in
2006. A further increase was expected in 2008 with a view to
the IDR project, but failed.
During the 50th anniversary, it was pointed out that
Malaysia has reduced the proportion of the population living
at or below the poverty line, from 22.8 percent in 1990 to
5.7 percent in 2006, according to official statistics.
However, the financial crisis has also set a backlash for
the poverty struggle.
A major campaign against illegal guest workers has
received heavy criticism. Immigrants without a residence
permit can risk fines, imprisonment and even whipping. Of
Malaysia's total workforce of about 10 million, almost two
million have been guest workers, but only half of these have
had residence and work permits. With hundreds of thousands
of arrests and deportations, the campaign has led to a
strained relationship with neighboring countries, especially
Malaysia was ranked 62 out of 187 countries on the UN
Living Index for 2013. The country was ranked 50th out of
174 countries on Transparency International's corruption
index for 2014. Corruption poses a significant problem:
Malaysia was one of four countries blacklisted in 2009 by
the Organization for economic cooperation and development
(OECD) for lack of willingness to cooperate in tax matters.