There is little they will shy away from doing to protect their respective strong personal interests
It was at best a sanctimonious blog entry by Prime Minister Najib Razak hours before he was set to meet United States president Donald Trump at the White House.
The posting had Najib soft selling Malaysians about the nation’s strong record of democracy and free speech.
Truth however does have an uncanny way of unveiling itself and whilst the premier wasted no effort and time in trying to whitewash the rakyat into believing there is no country greater than Malaysia and no government as reliable as his, the narrative throughout Najib’s nine years as prime minister speaks otherwise.
Was the premier turning delusional or is the ‘democracy and free speech” palaver a propaganda stunt is for Malaysians to decide.
In the interim, it is Najib’s eagerness to rub shoulders with Trump, America’s flamboyant-cum most notorious and least popular president, that has left a bitter taste in the mouth of conscientious Malaysians.
It was Trump who in August had extended an invitation to Najib, a gesture which turned out to be injudicious, given the fact that both the Malaysian premier and the American president’s reputations precede them, respectively.
That explains why Najib’s Sept 10 -12 visit to Washington was no less a bombshell, drawing much condemnation from activists and opposition politicians alike.
Even the Wall Street Journal in a recent write up opined that the US had little to gain by hosting Najib.
On the home front, DAP leader Lim Kit Siang had called on the cabinet to veto the trip while PKR president Dr Wan Aziz Wan Ismail asked that the government declassify the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB before Najib travelled to Washington.
Both concerns however were of little interest to Putrajaya.
Then there was an opinion piece by Malaysia’s Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) and published by Washington Post on Sept 9 where C4 decried the red carpet invitation as a “terrible idea”.
Without mincing her words, C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel said Malaysians were flabbergasted that Najib was singled out for this honour in light of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) suits to seize assets allegedly bought using money diverted from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
She said the timing of the visit was questionable since the DOJ announced last month that it was proceeding with a criminal probe into 1MDB and suspending the civil suits.
Cynthia said Malaysia’s authoritarian system made it difficult to demand accountability on the scandal, and the country’s mainstream media had stopped reporting about it.
“So why would the White House deem it appropriate to invite a leader who is potentially implicated in one of the largest corruption cases the Justice Department has ever launched?” she asked.
Cynthia said Malaysian journalists were left wondering whether Najib would use the visit to press Trump to drop the 1MDB probe, to show Malaysians that the United States authorities are not after him.
The disquiet raised by Lim, Wan Azizah and Cynthia troubled both Malaysia and her people. Likewise, Americans who swear by democracy and justice are appalled by the disrespect Trump, their 45th president, has repeatedly shown for the rule of law and civil liberties.
Befitting a tragedy as the Najib-Trump tete-a-tete is at the end of the day strictly about two leaders going about manipulating circumstances to favour their political agendas.
After all, their chequered reputation in spite, there is little they will shy away from doing to protect their respective strong personal interests.