PETALING JAYA: An organisation heavily linked to senior Republican figures as well as former top US intelligence officers has been working with the Malaysian opposition since 2002, including the Pakatan Harapan coalition which took power in the May elections, a forum joined by top American think tanks was told recently.
The International Republican Institute (IRI), a Washington-based outfit whose board of directors include Republican politicians such as John McCain as well as former National Security advisers and ex-military officers, said its efforts in Malaysia had finally paid off in the 14th general election, and benefitted the US in terms of its current rivalry with China.
“I visited and I was sitting there with many of the new leaders of this new government, many of whom were our partners who we’ve been working with for 15 years, and one of the most senior of them who’s now one of the people running the government said to me, ‘Gosh, IRI, you never gave up on us even when we were ready to give up on ourselves’,” said IRI president Daniel Twining in a forum organised by the Center for Strategic & International Studies last month.
Twining said during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in the aftermath of the elections, he told senior PH leaders that credit was to them and “not to us”.
His remarks are likely to further stir an ongoing debate over the role of US influence in the Malaysian democratic process, after it was revealed that a top intelligence officer under former prime minister Najib Razak had urged for support from Washington in the event of a narrow victory for Barisan Nasional (BN) in the recent polls.
Police are currently investigating a letter written by Hasanah Ab Hamid to her counterpart in the Central Intelligence Agency, in which she said that the US was better off with Najib in charge rather than an “anti-semite” and “anti-West” Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
PH leaders have meanwhile called for Hasanah to be charged with treason.
A quick check on IRI’s website shows the body is funded by the US State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an organisation whose declared aim is to “strengthen democratic institutions around the world” including trade unions and free market forces.
Twining told the forum that Washington had benefitted from the new government in Putrajaya from the very start.
“Guess what one of the first steps the new government took: it froze Chinese infrastructure investments because it had opened the book and discovered that there was a lot of funny money swishing around what had been this very corrupt, close, unaccountable system,” he said, in an apparent reference to reviews of several mega projects involving Chinese companies including the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).
Twining admitted that there was little chance of Malaysia becoming a US ally, but said PH’s victory would work in Washington’s favour.