Malaysia Cracks Down on Political Satire

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Malaysia Cracks Down on Political Satire

Also: Indonesia arrests first female governor, Sultan of Brunei’s ex-wife admits to gambling spree.

Some Tuesday ASEAN links:

Comedians are coming under fire in Malaysia, where the government has decided to get tough on those who post political satire videos on the Internet.

According to Chortle, one of the country’s most popular television sitcoms – 88 Kopitiam – has been taken off the air after claims that one of its stars took part in a satirical talk show that poked fun at current government affairs and the Malaysian education system. Police are currently reviewing the 11-minute clip to “determine whether it was seditious or defamatory.”

Radio Television Malaysia (RTM), the national broadcaster, released a statement saying that it “will not hesitate to take stern action against any actor involved with such programs.”

RTM’s leader, Datuk Norhyati, added that it would review any content that may be perceived as “tarnish[ing] the name and image of the country.”

Teresa Kok, an opposition politician who sponsored the video, allegedly posted it to draw attention to issues facing Malaysia’s Chinese community. Threats have already been lodged against her by several hardline Islamic groups.

One of them, the Council of Islamic NGOs, slaughtered live chickens in a protest and warned that the race riots of 1969 could be repeated. The group also offered members of the public cash rewards for assaulting Kok.

Over in Indonesia, the country’s first female governor has been put behind bars over charges of bribery and extortion.

Indonesia’s anti-graft authority, KPK, alleges that Ratu Atut Chosiyah paid a judge to favor her candidate in an election dispute. KPK seized many of Chosiyah’s assets, including a Lamborghini and a Rolls Royce. Local media have also lambasted her for initiating a half-million-dollar renovation of the governor’s private residence and going on overseas shopping sprees.

“Graft scandals have dramatically eroded [support] for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his Democratic Party-led alliance,” wrote Reuters. “The scandals, accompanied by rising prices and a slowdown in growth, have opened up support for the main opposition PDI-P party of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, who lost Indonesia’s first direct presidential poll to Yudhoyono in 2004.”

KPK is currently investigating more than half of the country’s 539 local leaders. Chosiyah, who became governor in 2005, presides over Banten – one of Indonesia’s largest provinces. The PDI-P, a frontrunner for upcoming elections, will likely capitalize on her fall from grace.

Brunei was also shaken by a scandal last week, when the Sultan’s ex-wife admitted to a gambling spree in London that racked up more than $1.6 million in debt.

Mariam Aziz’s admission surfaced during the criminal trial of her bodyguard, Fatimah Lim. Lim, who is accused of stealing nearly $20 million worth of diamonds from her employer, claims that she did it to pay down Aziz’s debts after receiving threats from various international casinos.

“The former wife of the world’s richest man would regularly visit venues in Singapore, Macau and London – including the Clermont Club in Berkeley Square where she had a $4.1 million credit limit,” said The Daily Mail. “Jurors were told that Aziz persuaded her female Muslim bodyguards to gamble despite their faith and that she would each provide them with gambling chips worth $2500 at a time.”

The prosecution claims that Lim committed the robberies for personal gain, replacing the expensive jewels with worthless glass replicas.