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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kompas 'apology' backfires: Najib's denial on ring, Mafia in-laws fail to convince

Sulaiman Kamal | 9:15 PM | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Finally, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak broke his silence on his wife's alleged purchase of a US$24 million blue diamond ring and that his in-laws from Kazakhstan were part of a Mafia gang with Russian roots. But it may have been better if he had kept quiet after all.
He is now being accused of using strong-arm tacitics and imagery to whitewash his reputation over the the diamond ring and Mafia-in-laws scandal that scandalized the region after top Indonesian newspaper Kompas broke the news on August 4.
"Did Kompas retract their report and was the apology for misreporting and defaming Najib or did the Kompas editor who interviewed Najib merely apologize as a matter of courtesy for embarrassing Najib when they met. Also, why so convenient that Najib suddenly granted Kompas the interview. This looks like another ill-advised move for Najib, it's another banana skin for him," PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.

Indeed, a check with the Kompas website showed only a report entitled PM Najib Razak: Demokrasi Juga Terjadi di Malaysia or PM Najib Razak: Democracy also exists in Malaysia. It has also confirmed there was no retraction of its August 4 article.
Nonetheless, that did not stop Najib's bandwagon of advisers from rushing to insinuate that Kompas had admitted its report was false. Malaysia's national news agency Bernama even thundered out that Kompas had apologised for its "defamatory news report".
"It shows two important problems with Najib's BN government. One is the lack of transparency of financial dealings of the UMNO leaders and their families. And secondly, the endless series of money and property scandals involving. They can deny till the cows come home but the public has no more trust in them," PKR vice president N Surendran told Malaysia Chronicle.
Chance to rebut, not retraction
In the latest Kompas interview, Najib denied Rosmah had ordered the ring, which according to the scandal sheets was actually part of daughter Nooryana's dowry and a special gift to the Malaysian First Lady.
“The ring was not ordered by her whether to be bought or to be used for private display,” Kompas reported Najib as saying on Sunday.
Najib also denied the mother-in-law of his daughter Nooryana - Maira Nazarbayev - was linked to the “Russian mafia”. He told Kompas that the article was used by “certain political interests” and distributed with photocopies sent throughout the country ahead of elections that could be held as early as this year although Najib played coy over the timing of the general election.The Malaysian PM also said the Kompas report was detrimental to the federal government as it linked Rosmah and Perimekar Sdn Bhd, the company involved in the controversial commissions for the Scorpene submarine deal.
Journalists say in fairness, Kompas was giving Najib the chance to rebut their report. But they noted that the paper did not retract or admit its report was false. It is also telling that Najib too did not offer any explanation. The PM merely denied and expected his words to be believed.
But as PKR leader Badrul Hisham Shahrin has pointed out, there was visible evidence of Rosmah's connection to the ring. Import details of the ring appeared in the government's own Customs Department computer database.
Same stunt as Rosmah's, MACC silent as a mouse
Badrul has lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission but no action has been forthcoming. No explanation has been offered by Customs either. "Najib is doing the same thing that Rosmah did, sidestepping the real issue," said Badrul.
Rosmah had two weeks ago said she would not deign to respond to such speculation. She also tried to draw public sympathy by saying that she was already accustomed to being made the villianess by her foes.
But few Malaysians saw in her any heroine figure. Instead, she was lambasted for not issuing a direct denial and the government media slammed for making their own inference that she had denied connection to the ring.
Apart from that, both husband and wife have still not accounted to Parliament their exorbitant travelling expense bills, opposition lawmakers groused.
Khairy's footprints all over?
But the most interesting development out of the entire issue was the way UMNO Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin alerted the nation to the latest news. Using Twitter, he drew attention to the Kompas report by throwing blame on Pakatan Rakyat's de-facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, who cuts a popular figure in Jakarta.
Khairy had been quick to engage in prolonged Twitter dispute with opposition lawmaker Dzulkefly Ahmad when Najib and his family took a huge entourage on public expense to Kazakhstan for his daughter's engagement in June. Although that coincided with an official visit, most of the entourage appeared to be invited for the sake of the lavish engagement party rather than for official duties.
Even then, Khairy was accused of intentionlaly drawing attending to Najib's abuse of public funds. When the Kompas report on August 4 first broke, fingers again pointed at Khairy for allegedly supplying the news to Kompas.
"Well known that Indonesian paper Kompas cultivated by Pakatanis' Paramount Leader. Fed info by Pakatanis. Now caught lying. Padan muka," Khairy blared out on Twitter on Sunday.
Anwar's aide Eekmal Ahmad immediately shot back.
"Khairy, you lie! As of 3.48 KL time, Kompas stressed it has not apologised to Najib Razak. Kompas only gave an interview!" Eekmal tweeted.
"Khairy, don't spin, bro. You tweeted that Kompas apologised. You associate Kompas with Pakatan. You hate PR, I understand. But you smear Kompas' image!"

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