The decision by Malaysia's attorney-general (A-G) to absolve Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak of any criminal wrongdoing over alleged financial scandal only highlights the further erosions of democracy, human rights abuse and weak governance in the country, The Observer said in an editorial today.
It said there was "widespread scepticism" to the A-G Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali's findings that the RM2.6 billion donation from the Saudi royal family to Najib was above board, and to his declaration that the donation was a separate matter from other graft allegations involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The UK daily also called Najib's immediate response urging Malaysians to move on, a "fantasy".
"Najib says he has been vindicated and Malaysia must move on. This is fantasy. The scandal will live on in the minds of voters who have more reason than ever to distrust those who presume to lead them on the basis of privilege, wealth and inequality," The Observer wrote.
"And it shines a spotlight on Malaysia’s worsening democratic deficit, whether defined in terms of shady campaign finances, electoral manipulation and foreign interference, human rights abuses, weak and unreliable governance – or downright venality."
The Sunday paper said 1MDB remained the subject of investigations by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and by Swiss and Hong Kong authorities.
"Apandi's act of absolution" of Najib, therefore, had taken local investigators at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) by surprise, it added.
Against a backdrop of worsening human rights abuses in Malaysia, the A-G's decision had only heightened growing concerns about Najib's leadership and whether he was fit to rule, The Observer said, referencing the latest report by Human Rights Watch.
"His time in government, especially since the 2013 general election, has brought an expansion of repressive laws, multiplying human rights abuses and curbs on media freedoms more reminiscent of Russia than of a supposedly functional, pro-western democracy closely allied to Britain and the US," it said. – January 31, 2016.