John R Malott
Aug 27th, 2015
COMMENT Ever since he became prime minister in 2009, Najib Razak cut a very impressive swath overseas.
Armed with his impeccable English, a product of his British education, and dressed immaculately in his elegant bespoke British suits, Najib talked a good game. He traveled the world and spoke of how he wanted to reform Malaysia’s political and economic systems and transform his nation into a model for the world.
He spoke at the United Nations time and again of a Global Movement of Moderates, of which Malaysia would be the leader. He spoke of Malaysia as a tolerant nation that respected all religions and races.
In contrast to former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whose trips were primarily to Third World nations, Najib actively courted the United States and European nations – the lands of Mahathir’s dreaded “orang putih.”
Backing all of Najib’s efforts was a multi-million dollar international PR operation, paid for by the taxpayers. It was aimed at swaying international opinion. It spent untold millions on PR firms Apco and FBC Media. Their job was to puff up Najib and tear down the political opposition, along with anyone who dared to tell the truth about what was really going on in Malaysia.
And most of the outside world believed what Najib and his PR machine had to say.
But for the past few years, there were a number of people outside Malaysia, myself included, who tried to tell the world what the truth was – what really was going on in Malaysia. That Malaysia was no longer the country they thought it was, and that they should not believe Najib’s paid propaganda agents.
We wanted people to know that there were two Najibs. There was the fake Najib, the international Najib, the Najib who talked a good game overseas. That Najib was backed up by millions of dollars in PR fees. That man even fooled the President of the United States into a game of golf just last Christmas.
The real Najib
And then there is the other Najib, the real Najib.
He is the “domestic” Najib, the man who stifles freedom. The man whose police force tear-gassed people in the streets for demanding free and fair elections. The man who has arrested scores of opposition politicians and dissidents under the Sedition Act.
He is the corrupt Najib, the man who arranged the over-priced purchase of non-functioning Scorpene submarines, and most recently, the man behind 1MDB and its missing billions.
He is the Najib who received US$700 million into his personal bank account.
He is the Najib whose wife’s many Birkin bags and multi-million dollar emerald necklaces were the subject of a three-page expose in The New York Times.
Today, thanks to the most prestigious newspapers and magazines in the world, the whole world knows who the real Najib is. Now the world understands that there is only one Najib.
And it is not the dapper, suave, reformist Najib that they believed in.
So, it is game over for Najib Razak internationally.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of Malaysians will march in Bersih 4 to protest Najib’s authoritarian rule.
It is certain that Najib, the man who brazenly stood before international fora and proclaimed himself to be a reformer and a liberal, will send his police force in to break up the rally.
Najib will deploy tear gas, chemical-laced water, and police batons to ensure his rule.
The whole world will be watching – and finally will realise what kind of man he is.
It truly will be game over for Najib.
JOHN R MALOTT is former United States ambassador to Malaysia.