PETALING JAYA: British journalist Clare Rewcastle-Brown cancelled her trip to Singapore last week fearing that she will be arrested and eventually extradited to Malaysia.
The founder of the Sarawak Report whistle-blower website had planned to come to the island republic before proceeding to Sydney, to join Global Bersih’s rally in conjunction with the main Bersih 5 rally held in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday, The Australian reported today.
However, she had been warned by her lawyers that she risked being arrested in Singapore.
“The case about 1MDB and (Singapore’s) BSI bank has been a major case in Singapore. They have special extradition arrangements with Malaysia, and I was told that Malaysia had been putting enormous pressure to try one way or another to get their hands on me.
“The threat of arrest had become quite real, so the lawyers told me it just wasn’t worth the risk,” Rewcastle-Brown was quoted as saying by the Australian daily.
This latest incident follows her continued reporting via the Sarawak Report on the 1MDB scandal, that has plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak both home and abroad, with his former mentor Dr Mahathir Mohamad being among his fiercest critics.
Malaysian authorities had taken action against her blog, blocking access to the Sarawak Report, and also threatened to arrest her.
In September last year, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said police had issued an arrest warrant for Rewcastle-Brown.
Khalid had later declared that the police would be applying to have her placed on Interpol’s Red Notice list. It was later reported that the application was rejected by Interpol.
The 1MDB scandal has global implications over alleged money-laundering and the use of funds allegedly embezzled from the state-owned investment firm to buy assets worth up to US$1 billion in the United States, among other things.
As such investigations and other legal action have been taken in the US, Switzerland and Singapore, among others.
Rewcastle-Brown, who was born in Malaysia, also weighed in on the actions by Malaysian authorities in clamping down on media organisations, saying it justified her need to tell the world about the 1MDB scandal.
“Malaysia is full of very good journalists, and if they were free to write about these issues then my actions wouldn’t be necessary.
“This very week, we’ve seen Malaysian online newspaper Malaysiakini’s entire management dragged up before the newly-created cyber crimes court,” she said, according to The Australian.
Rewcastle-Brown was referring to the police charging Malaysiakini founding members Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran with two counts of uploading two videos, in Malay and English, of former Umno Batu Kawan vice-chief Khairuddin Abu Hassan calling for the resignation of Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali.
“For filming that press conference, they have charged the Malaysiakini management for publishing offensive material. Basically anything you say that they find offensive can get you one-year imprisonment. That’s how bad Malaysia has gotten for journalists,” The Australian quoted Rewcastle-Brown as saying.
She was very critical of the Malaysian goverment’s control of the media saying the internet is the game changer.
“I’m an old-fashioned journalist. When I was starting, the internet hadn’t taken off. But the internet was something I got into when I started looking at the problems in Malaysia. It has been absolutely pivotal.