The Malaysian Insider
Posted July 5, 2008on:
For the sake of his political career, Najib has to provide more than just flat denials. He knows that you need more than just support from Umno delegates to govern Malaysia — you need to inspire trust and confidence of Malaysians and foreigners.
The Malaysian Insider
If this were a boxing match, Datuk Seri Najib Razak would be on the ropes and his opponent, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, would be ahead on points, poised to deliver the knockout punch.
But this is Malaysia and Najib could deliver his surprise counter attack before this bout is over. He is due to meet the press today and so is the military intelligence chief, presumably with enough ammunition to demolish Anwar’s assertion that the Deputy Prime Minister knew Altantuya Shariibuu, the Mongolian woman who was murdered in October 2006.
For the sake of his political career, Najib has to provide more than just flat denials. He knows that you need more than just support from Umno delegates to govern Malaysia — you need to inspire trust and confidence of Malaysians and foreigners. Otherwise, his stay in the top office, if and when it happens, could be short-lived, pockmarked by constant references to the past.
He was a picture of calm and serenity yesterday but there is no doubt that allegations by private investigator P. Balasubramaniam has rocked Malaysia to the core and put the country’s No. 2 leader in the dock. Officially, his aides and supporters say that the truth will prevail and Najib will proceed on his journey to becoming the Prime Minister of Malaysia, possibly as early as next year.
Privately, the cocksureness is missing. Najib’s supporters yesterday were making conciliatory gestures and noises to supporters of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, making a case for Abdullah and Najib to stay united in the face of the growing threat of Anwar and the Pakatan Rakyat. These overtures were in contrast to the drum beat on the ground in the past 10 days by Najib supporters in Umno, offering an ultimatum of sorts to Abdullah: specify the transfer of power date soon to Najib or expect a push from the Umno divisions to nominate Najib for the party president’s position.
Najib’s supporters have grown restless with Abdullah over his succession plan to hand over the presidency of Umno and premiership of the country to him. Yesterday, the tough posture was replaced with doubts over whether these allegations by Balasubramaniam would derail Najib’s path to the top.
And there should be doubts. To recap, Balasubramaniam was hired by Najib’s advisor Abdul Razak Baginda in October 2006 to stop Altantuya from harassing him. After her murder was discovered, he was detained and questioned by the police, eventually becoming a prosecution witness in the case against Abdul Razak and two police officers, accused of blowing her up with C4 explosives.
According to Balasubramaniam, Abdul Razak told him that he was introduced to Altantuya by Najib and that the DPM had been intimate with her. The private investigator also said that Altantuya also said that she had been introduced to Abdul Razak in Singapore and she, Najib and Abdul Razak had a meal in Paris.
This allegation counters Najib’s position from Day One — that he never knew the Mongolian woman. In his statutory declaration, the private investigator also alleges that he told police investigators about Najib’s connection to Altantuya but all that was omitted from his final statement.
Anwar has been pushing the private investigator to release this statutory declaration since the prosecution ended its case recently, knowing that it would put Najib on the back foot, create more uncertainty in Umno and the country and open up more possibilities for the Opposition to take control of Malaysia.
The cynical also argue that the Opposition alliance also needed a diversion from the problems which seems to be making its way to the pages of newspapers. So did Anwar who is also facing a trust-breaking sodomy charge by his aide. Najib’s troubles have certainly obscured some vexing questions about the sodomy charges and the events that followed, namely Anwar’s decision to seek refuge in the Turkish Embassy.
If anything, the sodomy charges by Saiful Bukhari Azlan only increased Anwar’s appetite to go after Najib. He believed that the DPM was behind the move by Saiful to shame him. Initially, Najib rubbished speculation that he knew the aide, saying that Saiful approached his special officer some time ago for a scholarship.
But yesterday he came clean, and said that a traumatised Saiful came to his residence and alleged that he had been sodomised by Anwar. He did nothing more than sympathise with the 23-year-old man. In all likelihood what Najib is saying could be true. The conspiracy theorists say that it does seem a mite coincidental that of all the politicians in Malaysia, Saiful chose to visit Najib, the No. 1 target on Anwar’s hit list and some say, the politician he fears the most.
Still, in the court of public opinion, the DPM was caught out with a white lie. Against this backdrop, the Altantuya allegations by Anwar and Balasubramaniam are gaining some traction. Najib has to respond with a solid counter punch today or in the next few days.
Otherwise, expect Anwar to press home his advantage during his nationwide tour of the country, starting on Sunday.
Too many assertions have been made for the DPM to remain nonchalant. Did Najib know that his aide-de-camp was helping Abdul Razak? Did Najib speak to the Inspector-General of Police about the case? Did Najib send an SMS telling Abdul Razak to stay cool and that all will be resolved?