OUTSPOKEN: At his first press conference for MH17 which had crashed in eastern Ukraine, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak vowed to establish the cause of the disaster and punish the perpetrators. He said, “No stone will be left unturned…”
His detractors groaned, “Haven’t we heard this before? The phrase is synonymous with cover-ups, lies and deceit.”
The cynics were alluding to 2009, when Najib raised the hopes of the family of Teoh Beng Hock, the murdered political aide, with the promise that in the investigation, “No stone will be left unturned.” The family’s expectations were dashed when they were denied justice.
As events have unfolded, Najib has surprised even his political opponents by successfully brokering a deal with the pro-Russian separatists to retrieve the bodies of the victims of MH17. He has also negotiated a deal to recover the plane’s black boxes and to provide safe access for accident investigators to examine the crash site.
Even the Western powers, including President Barack Obama, did not seize this opportunity. Najib overcame all odds. He is the man of the moment.
Many people, including Malaysians, believe that the Russians are the main suspects in the shooting down of MH17. They read Western news reports showing photos of BUK missiles criss-crossing the Russian border. The Western media, like many state-controlled media, just like our own Utusan Malaysia, is adept at spreading government propaganda.
The Americans have failed to stop Russia arming the pro-Russian separatists with missiles, troops and intelligence because the American sanctions are not effective.
The European Union (EU) is reluctant to impose stiff sanctions, in case the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, stops gas supplies to Europe and withdraws financial backing and investment in their countries.
Critics say that the UN is a toothless body, which many liken to a closed-shop, with colleagues cosying up to one another, making secret deals, whilst sipping cocktails.
Malaysians will stand behind Najib in his quest to find the person responsible for ordering the missile launch. The pro-Russian separatists are keen to hand the bodies and black boxes to the Malaysian delegation because they do not trust the Western-backed government in Kiev. The separatists suspect that Kiev and the West would try and manipulate events to place the blame on the separatists, or Russia.
Days after the MH17 crash, reports emerged that a Ukrainian fighter plane was seen close to MH17, minutes before the plane crashed. In 2001, the Ukraine military accidentally shot down a Russian civilian plane, Siberia Airlines Flight 1812, which was flying from Israel to Siberia. The Ukrainians only admitted their mistake nine days after the event.
Did Najib forge this deal with or without Russian involvement? How does Najib compare with the Russian Bear?
Najib has probably met his match in Putin who also lives by the mantra “lie and deny”. Although these two men are different, they share many traits. One is a former KGB officer who is noted for his ruthless streak, who is keen to hang onto power and revive the glory of the old Soviet Union. He denies he is supplying and arming the pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The other is a career politician, who is no less ruthless in holding onto power, but who is seeking to revive the glory of Ketuanan Melayu. Najib denies that his party has any links with extremist Malay nationalists.
Putin wants to maintain Soviet domination, just as Najib is keen to preserve Malay superiority.
Najib and Putin are autocrats. Both punish people who champion democracy. Both are ruthless against those who oppose their power. Both men crush political dissent with force.
Both like to present an image of superiority; Putin riding bare-back, exposing his six packs. The beefy Najib may not be a pin-up centrefold like Putin, or indulge in extreme sports, but he forces his image onto our daily lives by having his image on cans of drinks, on posters in railway stations and on portraits, which are hung in every shop.
Both like to cultivate friends in foreign countries. Both men have amassed great fortunes.
Putin and the Kremlin manufacture advanced weaponry, whilst Najib and his peers like to purchase weapons systems — the more expensive, the better.
Putin has the power to halt the violence in eastern Ukraine. He could order a ban on more weapons and troops entering Ukraine. He could stop funding the rebels and stop supplying the rebels with intelligence and intelligence officers.
Likewise, Najib has the power to order an independent and unbiased investigation into Teoh’s murder; but he has not. To heighten the family’s sorrow and insult his memory, the MACC officers who were linked to Teoh’s death were “exonerated”. Malaysians know that this was a gross miscarriage of justice.
The Americans and the EU have not been able to tame Putin, and the EU is afraid that tough sanctions will force Russia to invest elsewhere.
Obama saw Najib as an ally in South East Asia, but recently Najib praised the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), whilst senior MPs in his party praised Hitler. Did Obama make a serious error of judgment in trusting Najib? What sort of advisers does Obama have?
Timid western leaders are no match for Putin, and Najib rose above them.
We want justice for the innocent victims of MH17, repatriation of the bodies, compensation for the families of the victims of MH17 crash and an end to hostilities in Ukraine. We want governments to reclaim the skies and make them safe again.
Perhaps, Najib can show some of his quiet diplomacy to the victims of injustice in Malaysia.
Mariam Mokhtar is “a Malaysian who dares to speak the truth.”