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SUARAM rejects appointment of two controversial ministers to Cabinet posts

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In a statement issued on 21 March, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) has expressed disappointment over the appointment of two ministers to the Malaysian cabinet, which they considered an act against the people’s call for a more democratic, transparent and accountable government.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), a FORUM-ASIA member in Malaysia, has expressed disappointment over the appointment of two ministers to the Malaysian cabinet, which they considered an act against the people’s call for a more democratic, transparent and accountable government.

In a statement issued on 21 March, SUARAM objected to the re-appointment of Najib Tun Razak to the post of Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister as he was allegedly involved in a RM4.5 billion (about USD $1.4 billion) submarine deal scandal.
The controversies surrounding the scandal were reportedly related to the gruesome murder of a Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shariibuu, who was blown to pieces by C4 explosives in a jungle clearing in Selangor. The three suspects, currently undergoing trial in Malaysia, are politically linked to Najib. Two were his former close aides (bodyguards), and the third, a political analyst in the government think-tank.
SUARAM also rejected the appointment of former chief minister of Selangor, Muhamad Muhamad Taib, who was caught with his pants down carrying millions of dollars worth of cash without declaring it to the Australian immigration department. Muhamad is currently Rural and Regional Development Minister.
“These appointments do not correspond to the popular demand of the voters for a more democratic, transparent and accountable government as reflected in the recent general election,” said the NGO, who is also FORUM-ASIA’s member organisation based in Kuala Lumpur. “In order for the Prime Minister to convince the public of the seriousness of his government in stamping out corruption, cronyism and nepotism, much more need to be done besides assets declaration,” they added.

The statement comes after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s announced that his ministers and deputy ministers will be asked to make a public declaration of assets. SUARAM has welcomed the announcement as “a step in the right direction in the fight against corruption”, as it was one of the 54 human rights demands made by 54 civil society organisations in the lead-up to the general election.

However, while welcoming the move, SUARAM added that more action needed to be taken to ensure a truly democratic, accountable and transparent government. The organisation also urged all state governments under the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) to adopt similar measures involving the declaration of assets, and that the measure should be enforced through legislation.

SUARAM recommended that other anti-corruption measures that needed to be enacted included the establishment of an open tender system for all procurements and contracts at both the federal and state government levels under the control of the BN, the abolishment of the Official Secret Act (OSA) and the introduction of a Freedom of Information Act, the independence of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) and legislative protection for whistleblowers on corruption, cronyism and nepotism.

Please visit the SUARAM website to read the full statement.