Ex-Envoy Ticks Off Westerners Taking Credit for Najib’s Fall

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Veteran diplomat Dennis Ignatius says the US and Britain were once ‘cosying up’ to the BN government, yet now claim they somehow engineered the historic political change.

The remarks last month by the head of an American think tank linked to senior Republican politicians were not only insulting to Malaysians who voted out Barisan Nasional (BN), but also showed how some countries were quick to take credit when at one time they were backing the previous government, says a veteran diplomat.

Dennis Ignatius, a former Malaysian ambassador to Canada, said the comments by the head of the Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI), suggesting that its decades-long cooperation with opposition parties ultimately led to the downfall of the BN government, were “deeply insulting”.

“It’s both inappropriate and unbecoming of such groups to start claiming credit for the change of government and the restoration of our democracy,” Dennis told FMT.

At a forum in Washington last month, IRI president Daniel Twining recalled his meeting with senior Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders in the aftermath of the May 9 election, saying engagement with opposition politicians had paid off as the US stood to benefit from the new government’s policy to scuttle Chinese investments.

“I visited and I was sitting there with many of the new leaders of this new government, many of whom were our partners whom we’ve been working with for 15 years, and one of the most senior of them who’s now one of the people running the government said to me, ‘Gosh, IRI, you never gave up on us even when we were ready to give up on ourselves’,” Twining said.

Dennis said Twining was not the first Westerner to take credit for the historic political changes in Malaysia.

“The British high commissioner did something similar a few weeks ago. They held a few meetings, organised some seminars and then had the gall to claim that their work was critical to our success,” he said.

He said such claims downplayed the years of sacrifices by Malaysians and civil society groups.

“They demonstrated, they spoke out, they came out to vote. Some of them even went to jail,” he said. 

“So I think it’s deeply insulting to Malaysians to now hear suggestions that foreign groups were somehow instrumental in bringing about political change in the country.”

Dennis said some governments, including the US and Britain, had turned a deaf ear to criticism against the Najib Razak administration.

“Let’s not forget that while the people of Malaysia were struggling for their freedom, countries like the US and UK were welcoming Najib and cosying up to him.

“Now that Najib is gone, they suddenly have lots of stories to tell about how they stood up to him and fought for us.

“It is also not very helpful because it creates the impression, and falsely at that, that PH somehow owes its success to foreign intervention,” he said. – FMT

(Dennis Ignatius is a former ambassador and these are his personal views.)

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