Najib’s complete meltdown in Al Jazeera interview

Opinion  |  Phar Kim Beng
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Not since the Baling Talks of 1955 when Tunku Abdul Rahman decided not to continue with any further negotiation with Chin Peng - an avowed communist - has another Umno leader walked off.

By aborting the interview with Al Jazeera halfway, then lingering before sitting down again with the interviewer whom Najib Abdul Razak once kicked out of Malaysia in 2015, Najib showed the weakness of Umno to the core.

Not surprisingly, talk is now rife that as many as 40 MPs from Umno are ready to bolt. According to A Kadir Jasin, the media spokesperson for Bersatu, these members of Parliament may be "independents" first (before being accepted as members of Bersatu).

Although Najib confirmed that he is willing to return to Al Jazeera again for another interview, this was basically what Chin Peng wanted with Tunku too.

When Chin Peng sat down with Tunku, a Malay leader whom he admitted to being a shrewd and smart strategist, Tunku just wanted to hear one phrase from Chin Peng - was he willing to lay down arms and demobilise his armed units?

Chin Peng, according to his own biography, was indeed willing to do both and was hoping for a second round of talks after Merdeka to get the Communist Party of Malaya accepted as a legitimate party. Tunku capitalised on this weakness of Chin Peng and never granted him a second chance.

With Najib insisting to the interviewer of Al Jazeera that he was willing to sit down and talk on the "economic achievements of his administration," a point that Al Jazeera was no longer keen on since Malaysia was now again under Dr Mahathir Mohamad - it is clear that Najib went into the interview to consolidate whatever legacies his father Abdul Razak Hussein and his predecessors had left him. Yet he came out like a disaster that he is since his massive electoral defeat of May 9, 2018.

There are three strategic implications on Umno, none of which are positive, if the members of Umno exercise careful observation of the Al Jazeera interview. First, regardless how hard or stubborn Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will claim to be, even by going on a roadshow to explain his innocence - and that of Umno's – the members on the ground will know that Najib had lost the moral ground first. He lost his temper on Al Jazeera, then sensing this was a mistake, lingered on to get back on. By not walking off completely, Najib and Umno lost all local and international respect.

In contrast, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not only walked off the stage of the Davos Economic Forum years ago when he was prevented from making his point, but he also stormed off when President Donald Trump was about to make his speech on how great America at the UN assembly recently. Najib could show the assertiveness to do neither even though he was an occasional attendee at such events.

It was just a week before May 9, when Najib loudly proclaimed to Bloomberg that he cannot be easily bullied...

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