If Najib Abdul Razak were a washing machine, the sales pitch would sound like this: “The machine is good at laundering and has an advanced spin cycle.”
On July 28, the curtain came down on one of the most infamous political families in Malaysia, and the son of Abdul Razak was shown to be nothing more than a common thief.
When the disgraced Najib was found guilty on all seven counts after the long-awaited SRC International trial, members of the Razak clan must have been humiliated. The nation had never before experienced the ignominy of having a former prime minister who was convicted, who had brought Malaysia to its knees and shamed the country.
Najib ‘s rent-a-mob converged outside the Kuala Lumpur High Court complex and failed to observe social distancing; but there was one notable absence.
Despite his many crimes, one of the most insidious aspects of Najib’s rule was his reliance on sound-bites, slogans and spin.
On Tuesday, after both the defence and prosecution had completed the mitigation process, Najib wanted to present an off-the-cuff speech and promptly whipped out a prepared text! He talked about ensuring a fairer and gentler society for Malaysia and claimed that under his tenure, the economy was robust and booming. Najib is so consumed with spin, that he has lost touch with reality.
During his rule, the mainstream media touted his line as he attempted to shape the news. He cannot distinguish real life, media spin and political reality.
Najib and his co-conspirators left the nation crippled with debt, a rising cost of living, crumbling public services, endemic racism and rising intolerance and extremism with people disappearing, high levels of crime, human trafficking and an explosion of unregistered migrant workers.
You may recall that graphic artists and cartoonists were harassed and arrested, as were those who sported yellow T-shirts and yellow balloons. If not for the 14th general election, we would have sleepwalked into a worse disaster.
Does Najib think we would have forgotten about Paul Stadlen, his public relations consultant, a.k.a chief spin-doctor, who together with Apco Malaysia, won a contract from the Malaysian government to spin Najib’s fairy tales?
Stadlen is in to Israel to escape the clutches of the Malaysian authorities. He faces two counts of laundering over RM15 million that allegedly came from 1MDB.
With his own version of Tales from the Arabian Nights, Najib spun 1,001 versions of his money stories – from a generous donor who was an Arab prince, to “it’s all Jho Low’s fault. He duped me.”
As the SRC International trial showed, Najib sometimes found it difficult to tell fact from spin, and would revert to, “I don’t know.” When Malaysians realised that he was spinning, he just went back to old-fashioned lying. “I did not realise the money had been deposited into my account.”
His, mainly Malay, supporters failed to realise that Najib had reduced their ability to think. (memperbodohkan orang Melayu). They only wanted to hear good things from him, like the old woman in a wheelchair outside the High Court Complex, who screamed that the SRC money was used to help the disabled and single mothers, or the angry man at the gates of the court complex, who said that Najib had been framed by the cruel Mahathir Mohamad and the thieving Muhyiddin Yassin (his words, not mine).
Why was he not stopped?
Too much spin is bad for prime ministers. Najib never learnt how to deal with journalists and their probing questions, or the truth. He only knew how to skillfully avoid them or have them harassed or deported. He had Mary Anne Jolley and two Australian reporters from ABC television deported. French and British lawyers who were visiting Malaysia to talk about the Scorpene scandal were also deported.
Najib was obstreperous and walked out when after GE14, Jolley gave Najib the opportunity to present his side of the story. Najib was unable to handle the tough questions and walked out; but by that time, the damage was done.
Najib’s spin was a feature of his misrule. Any news that seemed incredulous was a sure indication the spin was to distract the public from news that he wished to be hidden from the public eye.
So, why did Najib’s siblings and cousin, Hishammuddin Hussein for one, not see Najib’s imminent fall from grace and attempt to stop him? Why didn’t members of the cabinet stop Najib?
Najib’s father, Abdul Razak Hussein, Malaysia’s second prime minister, left Felda as a legacy which many Malaysians can be proud of. Felda empowered many poor Malays from the rural areas, and they became proud landowners and earned a living from the land; but six decades later, a highly diversified Felda had moved away from its core business. Najib and former Felda chairperson Mohd Isa Samad had systematically cannibalised parts of Felda.
Our task now is to debunk Najib’s spin and persuade his supporters to accept the truth.
Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali has proven that Najib is not untouchable. This is crucial for the future of Malaysia. The all-important message is that crime does not pay.