Bhargav Reddy – APAC Assistance Operations Assistant
Major Issues In EAST ASIA PACIFIC
WEDNESDAY, 3 April 2019
President Widodo stresses neutrality of armed forces. President Joko Widodo stressed that he had repeatedly said in meetings with the Armed Forces and the National Police that they must maintain neutrality. President Widodo was responding to claims by former Pasirwangi (West Java) Police District head Sulman Aziz that he had been told to mobilize votes and support for his presidential candidacy. Responding to the allegation, Garut Police Chief Adj. Grand Commissioner Budi Satria Wiguna denied he had issued such an order and said it might be Sulman who misunderstood an order. Claims of irregularities in the conduct of the campaign and in the preparations for the April 17 elections are increasing. The accusations are mostly directed against the incumbent presidential candidate. The camp of Widodo’s rival, former military general Prabowo Subianto, could be laying the ground for questioning the legitimacy of the outcome of the elections as he is substantially trailing Widodo in opinion polls.
Army Chief warns the political parties. Army Chief Apirat Kongsompong yesterday made a warning against any attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy. Apirat said: “Those who graduated from abroad shouldn’t bring extreme leftist ideology to topple the Thai democratic regime with the monarchy as head of state. Why don’t you follow rules and fight in the parliament?” Apirat’s warning indicates that the military is concerned about the prevailing political conditions in Thailand. Tensions between competing political parties, namely the Pheu Thai Party and its coalition of seven parties and the Palang Pracharat Party, are mounting. The campaign to impeach members of the Election Commission over alleged irregularities in the counting of election results is also gaining traction. The military chief’s warning signifies that the military will tackle any protest against the announcement of the official election results on May 9 and the election of the prime minister after that. Clients in Thailand are advised to employ caution and avoid any post-election protests.
Najib’s trial begins today. Malaysia’s ex-prime minister Najib Razak will go on trial today over the multi-billion-dollar 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal. Najib will face seven of 42 charges over his alleged involvement in the misappropriation of USD4.5 billion state funds from 1MDB. In today’s trial, Najib will face charges of corruption and money laundering over the alleged theft of USD 10.3 million from the SRC International, a former 1MDB subsidiary company. The trial was originally scheduled in February but Najib’s lawyers managed to postpone it. On April 1, the Najib camp again attempted to delay the trial. The 1MDB scandal is believed to be the main cause of Najib’s and his Barisan Nasional’s defeat in the 2017 general elections. Najib has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him related to the scandal. The trial of 1MDB cases will be a test of the effectiveness of Malaysia’s judicial system. Clients are advised to avoid the Kuala Lumpur court today as traffic congestion is possible around the court, where protests could be launched by Najib’s supporters.
The NLD wins municipal elections. Candidates of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) dominated Yangon’s municipal council election. The NLD won 89 of the 105 seats up for contest. The rest of the seats were garnered by independent candidates. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party did not win any seat. The election outcome indicates overwhelming popular support for the NLD and its push for constitutional change in Yangon.
General elections today. More than 350,000 registered voters are expected to participate in the Solomon Islands’ general election today. There are 333 candidates contesting 50 seats in parliament. The Solomon Islands has a multi-party system, with the United Democratic Party and Democratic Alliance Party presently leading the parties in parliament. Clients are advised to exercise extra caution near polling stations in the Solomon Islands.