Malaysians slam Chinese group for inviting ex-PM Najib as keynote speaker – BenarNews
A Chinese organization faces a gun battle in Malaysia for inviting a convicted felon and former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as a keynote speaker at a forum this week, with some calling it “an insult to health. nation”.
Only the Chinese government could have authorized the invitation extended to Najib by the Chinese World Economic Forum (WCEF), said Dennis Ignatius, a former Malaysian diplomat who observed with acidity that the former prime minister “remains the boy with the blue eyes from China”.
The invitation is “[a] a calculated insult to our nation’s honor, ”Ignatius, a critic of his country’s current government, led by Najib’s party, said in a blog post on Monday. On that day, Najib delivered the opening speech of the China World Economic Forum, co-hosted by the China International Chamber of Commerce (CCOIC).
“This is a staggering blame for Malaysia’s legal process and an insult to all Malaysians. Never before has a foreign country acted with such contempt for a neighbor, ”wrote Ignatius, who works as a diplomatic advisor to First Step Forum, a Helsinki-based NGO.
In July 2020, Najib was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption and money laundering linked to a massive financial scandal at 1MDB, a state fund he created during his tenure. Earlier this month, an appeals court upheld the ruling but postponed his sentence pending a decision on Najib’s appeal to Federal Court.
The Chinese World Economic Forum, held in Petaling Jaya on Monday, was jointly hosted by the China International Chamber of Commerce (CCOIC), which is affiliated with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), and the ‘Institute for International Strategy, a Malaysian think tank.
Najib gave the opening speech and local media reported that he was the guest of honor at a gala dinner and awards ceremony.
Due to his conviction, Najib should not have been invited, said regional political analyst Tunku Mohar Mokhtar.
“With Najib sentenced, to be invited to such an event, understandably, is an insult to the nation,” Tunku Mohar, a political scientist at the International Islamic University of Malaysia, told BenarNews Thursday.
“[T]hey are free to invite anyone. But inviting Najib does not do much good for the image of the conference and its organizers.
Najib is also on trial in other 1MDB-related cases, which are ongoing or are expected to be tried next year.
BenarNews was unable to contact Cheah Chyuan Yong, the chairman of the economic forum, who previously told local news site Malaysiakini that Najib was invited due to his involvement in Sino-Malaysian relations. Najib’s criminal convictions were not taken into account by the organizers, Cheah Chyuan said.
Iganatius, the ex-diplomat, was certain that Beijing had approved the invitation to Najib, due to the affiliation between the CCOIC and the Chinese Council for the Promotion of International Trade.
“The WCEF [World China Economic Forum], sponsored and funded by a number of organizations in the PRC, is an important platform for highlighting and promoting China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It is impossible that the PRC embassy here consented to Najib’s invitation without high level permission from Beijing, ”Ignatius wrote.
“So it has to be seen for what it is – a calculated decision by the government of the People’s Republic of China to give a place of honor to a convicted felon.”
BenarNews could not independently verify that the council was an organ of the state, but his website says that it was established in 1952 and that its responsibilities are “to implement the relevant major national development strategies and to promote foreign trade, bilateral investments and economic and technological cooperation”.
“Najib remains China’s blue-eyed boy. They do not see his conviction as an obstacle to working with the man. China’s strategic interests prevail over Najib’s crimes, ”Ignatius said.
“By providing him with an international platform, China hopes to redeem the man and launder his criminality.”
Corruption, a crime punishable by death in China
A Malaysian investigative news portal, Edisi Siasat, noted that China imposes severe penalties on those convicted of corruption and corruption-related activities.
“China is a country that imposes fairly severe and strict penalties for corruption offenses. Those convicted of criminal offenses in China have no choice but to die, ”he wrote in an op-ed Wednesday.
Najib was friends with China, Mokhtar, Ignatius and another analyst noted.
“It’s no secret that Najib during his reign was very friendly with China with many gigantic projects awarded to Chinese companies. It is therefore not surprising that he is invited to the China-related forum, ”said Oh Ei Sun, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Affairs in Singapore, who was a former political secretary to Najib.
During his tenure as prime minister, Najib made several deals with China, including the $ 12 billion East Coast Rail Link, which is part of Beijing’s global infrastructure building program, BRI .
The current Malaysian government, led by Najib’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party, recently revived the project which was halted in 2018 by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on the grounds that it was too costly and not viable.
Cynthia Gabriel, director of the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, an NGO, said criminals should not be included in Malaysia’s quest for economic success.
“In the rush for post-pandemic priorities and foreign investment, let’s not forget that anti-corruption rules must play a central role in due diligence in our pursuit of economic success. Criminals should not be included in any capacity, ”she said on Twitter.