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Politics and business - fundamental differences between Dr M and Najib

COMMENT These are unprecedented times in Malaysian politics. On March 4, when the Citizens’ Declaration was announced, its signatories comprised such a large number of longstanding political adversaries that the event was deemed the coming together of extremely strange bedfellows. These adversaries included former Umno president and prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and former opposition leader and DAP secretary-general Lim Kit Siang.

What brought them together as joint signatories to this 37-point declaration was their similar goal to compel Najib Razak to resign as prime minister. Najib, according to this declaration, has refused to sue international news agencies that have made serious allegations of corruption against him involving 1MDB Bhd, a sovereign wealth fund he directly controls as finance minister, and he has curbed institutions from conducting an independent investigation into the charge that he has violated public office.

At the heart of these corruption allegations is the enduring nexus between politics and business that has contributed to numerous controversies. Mahathir’s critics, including Najib, contend that he too had to deal with allegations that he had benefited from political-business ties during his long tenure as prime minister. Political analysts have repeatedly stated that Najib is Mahathir’s protégé, groomed by him for high office and to continue his policy legacies.

Najib governs Malaysia through an unjust structure that Mahathir had created by undermining the autonomy of oversight institutions. There is merit to these criticisms. However, there are fundamental differences in the way Mahathir and Najib linked politics and business, including from a policy perspective. The table below illustrates the differences between these two leaders...

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