Najib Denies Instructing Division to Pen Letter to CIA

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Najib claims to have no knowledge of the letter painting the previous government positively and the Opposition negatively, seeking US’ backing if BN narrowly wins GE14. 

Letter to CIA:

  • Appealed for US support for Najib’s administration even if they won GE14 by just one seat
  • Described Mahathir as anti-West, anti-Semite, autocratic, having silenced dissent through force and disregarded human rights and rule of law
  • Praised Najib’s nine-year tenure
  • Suggested Najib would favour US, be a strong ally, continue to support US presence in the region especially South China Sea to provide balance towards China’s maritime assertiveness
  • Claimed Opposition spreading negative narratives through Malaysiakini and Sarawak Report
  • Alleged Opposition established NGOs such as Bersih Global to advocate Arab Spring-like uprising in Malaysia

Najib Abdul Razak said he did not instruct the Research Division in the Prime Minister’s Department to pen a letter to the CIA seeking US support ahead of the May 9 general election.

The former premier also claimed he had no knowledge about the letter and what was reported regarding the correspondence suggested it was about securing US’ support after, and not before the polls.

“I am surprised,” he told Malaysiakini this afternoon.

“I did not even know of its existence. Not all letters have to go through me,” he added.

Najib pointed out that agencies, especially those related to intelligence matters, have the autonomy to perform their duties for reasons they think would benefit them.

“While I have not had a chance to see the letter, what was reported by the media suggested that this letter was to seek that the US continues its support for the Malaysia government should BN win the election for reasons of the country’s stability post-election.

“What was reported about the letter does not seem to seek US backing to help win the elections – but after the election,” he added.

Najib said the letter could have been sent with the intention to preserve the stability of the government after the election in the event of a narrow win.

“Perhaps the media can reveal the whole letter so everyone including me can have a better understanding?” he added.

Earlier, Malaysiakini, which sighted the three-page letter dated May 4 to then CIA director-designate Gina Haspel, reported that the letter appealed for US’ support for Najib’s administration even if BN wins with a simple majority or a single seat.

The letter was penned by the Research Division’s director-general Hasanah Ab Hamid.

The letter painted Najib as a progressive leader and a staunch supporter of the US while describing Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad as “anti-West”.

A spokesperson for Mahathir’s administration confirmed the letter was authentic but declined to comment.

Meanwhile, a source close to Najib expressed disappointment with those accusing the former premier of treason over the letter.

“Actually it seems like this (the letter) was sent with the best of intention that the country does not fall into civil strife or mass demonstrations post GE14 in case of a hung government or narrow win,” he told Malaysiakini.

The news portal had earlier reported that five days before the May 9 general election, the Research Division in the Prime Minister’s Department, which is touted to be an intelligence unit, had penned a letter to then-CIA director designate Gina Haspel.

Acknowledging that the 14th general election could be the most tightly contested ever in Malaysian history, the three-page letter sighted by Malaysiakini, however, said former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak was expected to “win the election adequately to form the next government”.

Despite the confidence, the letter appealed for US support for Najib’s administration “even if we win the election by a simple majority or just one seat.”

The letter states: “I hope Your Excellency’s esteemed service would be able to report to the secretary of state on the complexity of managing this election by Prime Minister Najib and the need to have US support for the present government even if we are to win the election by a simple majority or just one seat.

“Any indication that the US government would continue to support Prime Minister Najib and his government would definitely strengthen our stability and enhance the existing cordial relationship driven by the strong rapport between our two leaders.”

In an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini yesterday, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, who claimed to be in the dark about the letter, said intelligence is supposed to be about ensuring the security of the country, and not elections.

“I don’t think intelligence should include winning elections.

“Intelligence should not have had anything to do at all in this (last) election. Election is about the will of the people, election is about democracy,” Saifuddin added.

The letter to the CIA director, who was appointed in late May under the Donald Trump administration, also touched on Mahathir working with the opposition.

“Your Excellency must be well informed that Mahathir, essentially, is not a reformer that could enhance Malaysia’s national interest as he joined the opposition for his own self-interest.

“Meanwhile, the opposition hopes to use his (Mahathir) prowess in politics to defeat Prime Minister Najib’s party,” read the letter by the division’s director general Hasanah Ab Hamid.

Pointing out that Pakatan Harapan had picked the 93-year-old former prime minister to lead it in the GE14, the letter added: “Mahathir in the past has been anti-West, anti-Semite, autocratic, silenced dissent through force, totally disregarded human rights and the rule of law.

“It was during his tenure that the Internal Security Act was heavily abused for his own political agenda and allowed him to rule Malaysia for more than two decades.”

On the other hand, the letter heaped laurels on Najib’s nine-year tenure, stating that he had a proven track record of not only practising sound and progressive foreign policies but also contributing to regional security through active involvement in promoting peace and stability in the region.

Though critics, including Mahathir, have accused Najib of pandering to China, the letter appeared to suggest that Najib would favour the US.

“Unlike Mahathir, Najib is known to be a strong US ally and would continue to support US presence in the region.

“Without Najib in charge of the country, the US stands to lose a reliable partner in Southeast Asia, given that the Philippines have broken away from Washington, Singapore and Brunei being too small to make an impact and Thailand as well as Indonesia immersed in their own domestic problems. Meanwhile, the Indo-China countries, except for Vietnam, are too inclined towards China,” it stated.

According to the letter, Malaysia also welcomed the US presence in the region, especially the South China Sea, to provide balance towards China’s maritime assertiveness.

The letter also mentioned Malaysiakini and Sarawak Report, claiming that the opposition was spreading negative narratives on the political and socio-economic policies through these portals.

“Earlier, they (the opposition) had established NGOs such as Bersih Global to advocate an Arab Spring-like uprising in Malaysia.

“In 2016, the opposition’s hope to wrest control of the government seemed a bit promising as Mahathir joined them.

“Ironically, the entire 20 years of the opposition’s ‘reformasi’ movement by Anwar Ibrahim was about opposing and challenging Mahathir’s tyranny,” it added.

Saifuddin, in his interview with Malaysiakini, said the current administration has a different view of what constitutes intelligence.

“If at all we have an intelligence unit or department, which is not unusual for any government… intelligence must be about ensuring the security of the country and its people, and not about politics,” he said.

The minister also revealed that the Pakatan Harapan government is reviewing the use of police Special Branch personnel to monitor politicians.

“I can’t speak on behalf of (Home Minister) Muhyiddin (Yassin) but I believe he is looking into this aspect, where the main business of the police force is about home security and not about ensuring certain parties will win the elections or something like that,” Saifuddin added. – Malaysiakini