Head of Malaysian Youth Party Found Guilt of Corruption

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Head of Malaysian Youth Party Found Guilt of Corruption

The conviction comes two months after Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman pulled his party out of the ruling coalition due to graft concerns.

Head of Malaysian Youth Party Found Guilt of Corruption

Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, the leader of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA).

Credit: Facebook/Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman

A Malaysian lawmaker from the youth-oriented Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA) has been found guilty of corruption and sentenced to seven years in prison, two months after pulling out of the ruling coalition over concerns about graft.

In a hearing yesterday, the Kuala Lumpur High Court found Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman guilty on four charges of criminal breach of trust, misappropriation of property, and money laundering, Reuters reported.

According to a report by BenarNews, the 30-year-old was found guilty because the defense “failed to raise reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case for all four charges,” Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Azhar Abdul said in delivering the verdict in the case. The 30-year-old was also fined 10 million ringgit ($2.13 million) and two strikes of the cane. (He is the first politician to receive a flogging sentence, an archaic holdover from the British colonial period.)

The charges related to Syed Saddiq’s alleged abetting of a former official of the Bersatu party’s misappropriation of 1 million ringgit (around $213,000) of party funds. The offense was alleged to have taken place in March 2020. Syed Saddiq said during the trial that he was unaware of the withdrawal of the funds, and alleged that he was being prosecuted for his refusal to support then-Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

According to local media, the High Court has allowed Syed Saddiq a stay on the execution of his sentence pending the appeal.

As a member of the Bersatu party and the head of its youth wing, Syed Saddiq, 30, was elected to Parliament in 2018. He was subsequently appointed the minister of youth and sports in the Pakatan Harapan government led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, making him the youngest federal minister in Malaysia’s history.

After the collapse of the PH government in February 2020, Syed Saddiq left Bersatu to form his own party, MUDA, a word meaning “young” in Malay. The party positioned itself as a representative of Malaysia’s youth, and as a “disruptor of the status quo” that would break from the country’s entrenched history of patronage and clientelism. However, MUDA failed to make much headway among youth voters, despite the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18 prior to the 2022 general election. Competing as part of the PH coalition, it won just a single seat in Parliament. It also performed poorly in the six state elections held earlier this year, which it contested independently, losing all of the 19 seats in which it ran candidates.

Back in September, Syed Saddiq pulled MUDA out of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s ruling coalition and vowed to join the opposition as a “third force.” The move came after a raft of corruption-related charges were dropped against Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, a key member of the coalition.

“Who would have thought they would be this so-called reform government that would end up dropping corruption charges for the sake of power?” he said in a video posted on Facebook. “I will not and will never allow Malaysia to normalize corruption.”

Yesterday evening, following the court verdict, Syed Saddiq announced his resignation as president of MUDA, saying that the party’s leader must be ‘whiter than white.’”