Malaysia Now a Highly Regarded Country, PM Says, But…

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Malaysians want to believe our country looks good on the world stage, but with “scandal” dogging our leader, it is hard to see how we can be highly regarded.

Bernama

Malaysia is now highly regarded by the world despite the fact that it was formed only 54 years ago, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said today.

He said Malaysia was an unknown country on the world map before, but now, the country was regarded by world leaders as a successful nation.

“As we celebrate Malaysia Day today, let us recall how it was 54 years ago.

“Who knows about Malaysia then? An agricultural state with small population. But today, we are a successful country.

“The warm welcome and respect were given to me by world leaders, including the latest by the US president himself (Donald Trump), because they see Malaysia as a successful nation,” he said when launching the Malaysia Day celebration In Kota Kinabalu.

Najib said as a sovereign state, Malaysia was now capable of becoming a capital exporter.

“That is why when I met with the US president, I brought forth what I described as a value proposition, I told him that we were planning to purchase Boeing jets from the US, including eight Dreamliners (Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners), not merely to give easy profit to the US as bandied about by the opposition, but to enable Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to have state-of-the-art aircraft,” he said.

He said not only the move would enable MAS to replace its old planes, but also to be among the top players in the world’s aviation industry.

“We cannot let MAS lag behind. We want to it to be on the front line so that we can bring more tourists to Malaysia, including Sabah,” he said.

Boeing

Najib also explained the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) investments in the US, which had been questioned repeatedly by the opposition, saying that the move would enable the EPF to make more profit, hence increase dividends to its contributors.

“When I said that the EPF wanted to invest in the US, they (opposition) said it was no use and it was better to invest in our own country.

“They (opposition) are so shallow, not that smart,” he said.

Bernama

The prime minister explained that the EPF had funds totalling RM760 billion which could be invested not only in the US but in 39 other countries.

“The decision was not made by politicians, it was made by its investment committee.

“That is why the EPF is capable of giving a satisfactory amount of dividends to its contributors,” he added. – Bernama

The Week That Was the Najib-Trump Meeting

Bad Press

Unfortunately, the Najib-Trump meeting while it was in the global spotlight suffered some pretty bad press.

Even before Najib set foot in the White House, the international media were taking swipes at the meeting.

When the invitation was announced last month, major news organisations ran stories with headlines such as ‘Malaysian Leader in Billion-Dollar Scandal Is Invited to White House’, ‘Donald Trump Meets Politician Embroiled in a Corruption Scandal’, ‘Trump to Meet Scandal-hit Malaysian Leader in September’, and ‘Scandal-hit Malaysian PM to Visit White House’.

These reports did not cite or quote dissenting voices from Malaysia, unlike those often published by critics such as The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, yet they all alluded to the prime minister’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal.

The critics were harsher.

The Washington Post ran a story with the giveaway headline of ‘Trump’s Hosting of Malaysia’s Prime Minister Marks Another Setback for the Rule of Law’.

The Wall Street Journal ran ‘Trump’s Malaysia Swamp’ where it said it was a “mistake” to accord Najib a White House visit, depicted him as an authoritarian and called him a suspect in a global corruption scandal. It even suggested finding “a diplomatic excuse in Hurricanes Harvey and Irma” to cancel the meeting, saying “any embarrassment is better than giving a scandal-tainted leader a White House photo-op”.

The most brutal article was Newsweek’s ‘Trump’s Meeting with Malaysian Crook Najib Reeks of the Swamp’, which first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute site.

It cited an Australian expert on Southeast Asia saying in a New York Times report: “From a pure public relations point of view, it’s a meeting the White House should avoid….Even a photo op with Kim Jong-un would be better.”

It also made reference to The Washington Post editorial that said the visit “sets a new low” for the Trump administration.

Newsweek had published an earlier story tagging the event as Trump “meeting another scandal-ridden, golf-loving leader at the White House”.

There was more bad press from Reuters’ ‘With Trump Meeting, Malaysia’s PM Seeks to Put 1MDB Scandal Behind Him’ and The Washington Post’s ‘Trump Welcomes an Authoritarian to the White House’ at the threshold of the meeting.

The loudest noise was on the day of the meeting itself where a story from AP News, ‘Trump Meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Under Scrutiny’ was widely published.

Bernama

Half of the story covered the White House meeting, while the half dwelled on the US Justice Department’s probe of 1MDB and Najib’s involvement, his stay at the Trump International Hotel “to curry favour with Trump” and how with the White House visit Najib “hoped to dispel the corruption scandal and secure political legitimacy”.

Other contempt-laced coverage included Bloomberg’s ‘Najib Set to Meet Trump as 1MDB Probe Deepens’, Nikkei’s ‘Najib’s Visit to Washington Breeds Controversy’, and CNN’s ‘Trump Meets Malaysian PM Under Investigation’.

There was just no letting up on the prime minister’s links to the 1MDB investigations, the biggest foreign kleptocracy probe in the US.

In addition, the media had a field day on how Najib and Trump “ignored the large elephant in the room” and “skirted the scandal”.

The bad press from the international media ended the next day as the world moved on with other news, but not before Nikkei declared in its headline that ‘On US Visit, Najib Dances to Trump’s Tune’.

Glowing Reports

In sharp contrast, the local media carried glowing reports, construing the warm reception from Trump and the presence of his senior line-up as recognition of Malaysia as a significant global player, and that it was a “triumphant visit”.

The prime minister himself said the trip was a huge success.

At Odds with Perception

Going by the buzz on social media, a lot of Malaysians did not buy into that hunky-dory perception.

It was not because it was so alien from what the rest of the world was saying but it was hard to see the sense in giving away so much to a richer nation and getting nothing back except a “Thank you” from Trump, at a time when many are struggling to get by.

Of course, Opposition leaders condemned Najib’s financial proposals to Trump, but the billions that will be flowing out of the country really did not sit well with many people.

A flood of questions was raised on social media by baffled and concerned Malaysians.

  • Why are we not focusing on our own country’s flagging economy instead of “strengthening” an economic superpower?
  • Why are we funding US infrastructure while seeking China funding at home?”
  • Why is Najib giving Trump the impression that we have a lot of money to spend when we are so cash-strapped?
  • Why is MAS buying so many planes when it is still struggling to recover from its massive debts and deficits?
  • Can MAS even afford so many new planes when not too long ago it had to resort to laying off thousands of employees and cancelling foreign routes?
  • Why is Najib publicly offering to “persuade” AirAsia to purchase GE engines?
  • Why is Najib speaking for EPF, which is supposed to make its decisions based solely on what will benefit pensioners? And for that matter, Khazanah?
  • How are the deals going to benefit the ordinary Malaysian?

Najib said that there is no truth to the claim that Malaysia is currying favour with Trump’s administration through the purchase of planes and increased investments in the US.

He said, “They are spinning it as if I am here to buy US influence. That is another negative spin which is not true at all.”

In his address at the US-Asean gala dinner, Najib told the audience not to pay heed to the criticisms raised by some Opposition members in Malaysia on the 1MDB issue.

Now with criticisms from some ordinary folk, people hope the prime minister will pay heed to the public’s need for answers and clarifications.

Trump earned brickbats from his domestic critics over the coveted meeting.

While it is a fact that the American president was very warm and personal in receiving our prime minister, some can’t help but feel we were too subservient and desperate to win the favour of the Americans.

Malaysians want to believe our country looks good on the world stage, but with “scandal” dogging our leader they can’t see how we can be highly regarded.


Related reports:

Sept 13, Najib-Trump Meeting: Invest More in the US, Fight Terrorism

Sept 12, DoJ 1MDB Probe Apolitical, Independent of Najib-Trump Meet, Says White House

Sept 12, Najib Arrives in US Ahead of Meeting with Trump