By : NILE BOWIE
AS MALAYSIA gears up for its most critical general election ever, a prominent opposition figure has come forward with allegations American foundations organized protest rallies and channelled funds to opposition political parties.
In early May 2013, Malaysia will face its most competitive political battle since its independence in the form of an election that pits Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which has governed the country since 1957, against the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition that has received extensive training and backing from US government-funded foundations.
Washington has often seen Malaysia’s leaders as stubborn, and as the unpopularity of the ruling coalition increases, organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have significantly greased the wheels to improve the US-friendly opposition’s chances of coming to power through multi-faceted media campaigns and support for anti-government street demonstrations.
On one side, Malaysia’s former PM Dr. Mahathir Mohamad often caught the ire of Washington for his unceasing criticism of Israel and US foreign policy, while the incumbent PM Najib Razak has toned down the rhetoric and has pursued a business friendly approach with the West, while deepening economic ties with China.
On the other side, de-facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who formerly served as Deputy PM under Mahathir’s government, leans closely to the United States.
During his political tenure, Anwar was sacked for implementing IMF austerity measures while Mahathir spearheaded Malaysia’s recovery from the 1997 Asian financial crisis through currency controls and protectionist measures.
After his political fall, he served as Chairman of the Development Committee of the World Bank and IMF in 1998, and later chaired the Washington-based Foundation for the Future, a US-funded think-tank established by Elizabeth Cheney, the daughter of the former US Vice President.
Anwar enraged many in Muslim-majority Malaysia when he stated that he would support a policy to protect the security of Israel in an interview with the Wall Street Journal – a stark contrast to the ruling coalitions’ firm stance in support of Palestine. Anwar’s unique credentials and close ties to the US political and financial establishment make him undeniably preferred in Washington
The National Endowment for Democracy or NED, is a Washington-based foundation that supports democratic initiatives and US-friendly opposition groups abroad, provides over $1 million to various projects in Malaysia each year.
The NED has regularly come under fire because of the overtly political nature of its programs, and because senior US political figures have leading roles in the foundation.
In addition to funding electoral watchdogs, human rights monitors and news websites that slant toward the opposition, the International Republican Institute has received millions for its Malaysian programs, which assist “political parties and their associated think tanks in being effective representatives of their constituencies.”
IRI is chaired by conservative Senator John McCain, known for his extremely aggressive position in favor of Israel and US conflicts overseas, while other leading figures have held senior foreign policy positions in the Reagan and Bush administrations. “IRI works in countries important to U.S. interests, where we can make a difference… IRI focuses on three tasks: helping political parties broaden their appeal, ensuring that they rule justly once elected and aiding civil society in guaranteeing good governance… IRI can help catalyze the efforts of democratic activists in a country -- so long as they want change more than we want it for them,” writes IRI’s president, Lorne Craner, who previously held a position in the US State Department.
(NOTE : Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).