KUALA LUMPUR - Events since New Year's Day have given the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (Perc) the impression that "pressures are building and the entire situation is becoming much more unstable" in Malaysia.
In a report released last month, Perc also asserted that a group of elite minorities were dominating the national agenda to the extent that it was hurting Malaysia's attractiveness to investors.
The consultancy, which also publishes reports on the risk ratings of other Asian countries, said it is "probable" that no other country in the region is suffering from as much bad press as Malaysia.
Among the developments that caught its attention were the theft of military jet engines, detention of terror suspects from a number of African and Middle East countries following warnings that militants were planning attacks on foreigners at resorts in Sabah, renewed ethnic and religious "violence" that included arson at some churches and desecration of mosques, and controversy over the integrity of key institutions like the judicial system in the sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
The report noted that the government is blaming the international media for exaggerated reporting and Prime Minister Najib Razak had argued that the focus should not be on the fringe groups that are causing problems but on the majority of Malaysians who are coming together to condemn the recent acts of violence following the "Allah" controversy.
However, Perc maintained that Mr Razak was " wrong in saying that Malaysia is being defined by the way the majority of the population are coming together. It is being defined by the ability of a minority to dominate the political agenda, shaping policy and compromising the reputation of key institutions."
The report said that the elites from the United Malays National Organisation "who have been able to profit disproportionately from the policies of the ruling coalition" deserved the most attention.
"Their commitment to democracy is a major question mark. If they blatantly manipulate the system in order to remain in power, the public backlash could be worse than anything Malaysia has seen in its modern history."
Perc added Mr Najib's strategy is looking "increasingly unworkable" in defusing pressures in the country. "He is trying to be all things to all people, but in the end he might satisfy no one."
Malaysia's risk index as calculated by Perc rose slightly from 5.24 in December to 5.4 in January, out of a possible maximum risk score of 10. But it remained well below the risk index in January last year which stood at 6.42. The Malaysian Insider