The convicted Najib Razak is reportedly hiring a foreign global communications firm to provide “media relations support as former Goldman Sachs executive Roger Ng goes on trial in a federal court in New York”.
The firm will ensure Najib’s views and actions are ‘accurately presented’.
Communications and public relations professionals have much to say about this latest development, just as other groups have.
Here is a nation that is increasingly placing party priorities above principles.
When our nation puts principles in the backburner and expedites political agendas, we become a shuttered state in the eyes of the world. In doing so, we plant the seeds of a corrupt and unprincipled new generation, including leaders. We could end up just short of being labelled a lawless society.
We already have a former prime minister being shamed across the world as a “national embarrassment” and a “plundering idiot”.
Last July, Najib Razak was convicted in a Malaysian court and slapped with a 12-year prison term and RM210m fine. In December, the Court of Appeal upheld the guilty verdict.
Should we not then hold our judicial system in high esteem for its consistency, wisdom and impartiality in delivering justice?
The “Malu apa, Bossku?” (What’s there to be ashamed of, Boss?) sloganeering by Najib and his coterie seems to be gaining shocking traction among some people and the political leaders aligned to him. This runs afoul of our national sense of justice and honour. All the while, this group’s sense of shamelessness and their trampling of principles go on overdrive.
Surely people around the world, including our immediate neighbours in Asean, are noticing and are shell-shocked over how some Malaysians are celebrating their convicted felon – despite 1MDB etched as the world’s biggest sovereign wealth heist.
It is not farfetched to suggest that the machinations employed by a faction within Umno who are not shy or remorseful for championing a convicted felon appear to be nullifying the shame or remorse that would have normally greeted a guilty verdict.
In this context, Najib’s hiring of a foreign firm to molly-coddle him or window-dress is predicament – to “help ensure (his) actions and views are understood by US journalists” – is a travesty of ethics and principles that are indispensable in communications and public relations practice.
Even if Jho Low is cast as the sole culprit in the larger “scheme of things” related to the 1MDB scandal, how could Najib – who was the then-Prime Minister and Finance Minister to boot – absolve himself? The question anyone should ask is, what did Najib, as the then leader of the nation – and with so many checks and balances in place in government – do to protect the country from being derailed by just one man? Was he so powerless?
We have talked about patriotism. We have been repeatedly reminded about principles and ethical conduct as integral pivots of nationhood. We have paraded our national will for good governance to the world.
All this is collapsing now as principles are sacrificed, maimed and butchered – all to serve the political agendas of vested interests, seen and unseen.
Yes, some may even argue and defend Najib by asserting that there is nothing wrong in hiring PR consultants to carry out seemingly “effective communications strategies around complex legal and litigation-related matters” and that it is anyone’s democratic right to do so.
Others may say that there is nothing wrong with experts or consultants making some money by catering to the needs of their clients, even if they are deemed as felons.
Let us call a spade a spade. Communications and public relations are not weapons of deception; they are certainly not about making a wrong look good, let alone pulling wool over the public eye.
The meaning of ‘strategic’ in communications or public relations practice is being grossly abused by a desperate criminal and an enthusiastic business entity.
Ethical communication values freedom of expression, diversity of perspective and tolerance of dissent. In ethical public relations, honesty, forthright communication and responsible advocacy should be the fulcrum.
We cannot continue allowing certain individuals to shame our nation. We cannot pretend that nothing can be done.
We either put a stop to all their questionable intent – or we join this coterie in trying to make the practice of corruption, telling blatant lies and manipulating principles to suit despicable conduct, acceptable.