Malaysia. When the ruling UMNO ruling party, which has dominated Malaysian politics since independence in 1957, held a congress in March, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who did not wait for reelection to the post of party leader. According to countryaah, the reason was mainly fierce internal criticism of him after unexpectedly bad results in the 2008 election. He was also considered to have failed to fulfill his promises to stop corruption within the state apparatus and make government work more democratic. Instead, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was unanimously elected as new party leader. Since the leader of UMNO is traditionally the country’s prime minister, Abdullah was also replaced a week later by that post by Razak. When Prime Minister Najib Razak, a trained economist, presented Madagascar’s acting president, the opposition leader’s new government in April, it turned out that he has chosen to also assume the position of Malaysia’s finance minister. In his installation speech, Razak promised to improve the economy, change the leadership style within the government and work for the betterment of Chinese and Indian minorities in the country.
After several years of strong economic development, the economy entered a recession during the year. The downturn was a result of the global economic crisis that caused the country’s heavily export-dependent income to decline significantly. In March, the government decided to launch a stimulus package to avoid a regular depression. The package had a value of SEK 145 billion and included investments in infrastructure projects, job creation measures and support for the companies.
In June, Prime Minister Razak announced that the government was abandoning parts of the controversial so-called Bumiputra policy, or New Economic Policy (NEP). This was introduced in 1971 as a direct result of rattlesnake two years earlier. The purpose of the NEP was to reduce poverty among the country’s Malaysian majority through positive treatment of the Malays (bumiputra; sons of the earth in Malaysian) vis-角-vis the Chinese and Indian minorities who generally had better health and were more educated. The new changes meant, among other things, that most state-owned companies no longer had to reserve 30 percent of jobs for Malaysians, with the exception of strategically important companies in the energy and telecom sectors, for example. The ratio of reserved places would instead be 12.5 percent. Bumiputra policy is highly criticized,
A trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim began in July. Anwar Ibrahim was charged in 2008 by a former employee for performing homosexual acts (sodomy), which is illegal in Malaysia. Anwar Ibrahim denied the crime and said the prosecution was politically motivated to eliminate him from the political scene. The opposition leader was imprisoned in 2000 for sodomy and corruption, which prevented him from acting politically for many years. He was later cleared of all charges and was awarded a large damages.
The 32-year-old Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a nurse and photo model, was sentenced in July to six strokes with a stick for drinking alcohol. Kartika thus became the first woman in Malaysia to be sentenced to impunity. A judge ordered – against Kartika’s own will – that the sentence be reconsidered. In September, however, the Court of Appeal ruled that the controversial penalty should be enforced. Kartika himself requested that the punishment be carried out in a public place. By the end of 2009, however, the disputed bar codes had not yet been distributed. According to analysts, the government was behind the delay, as it feared that Malaysia’s image as a moderate Muslim country would be harmed by the impasse.
In September, twelve Muslim Malays were prosecuted for demonstrating illegally when on August 28 they paraded with a cow head through the streets of Shah Alam city. Six of them were also indicted for manslaughter. The men risked being sentenced to up to three years in prison. The manifestation was carried out in protest of a Hindu temple being built in their neighborhood. Cow is a sacred animal for the Hindus and the demonstration had severely weakened relations between Muslims and Hindus in the area.