Najib Razak claims many people have apologised for slandering him but Mustafa K Anuar reminds us that the former prime minister himself has much to be sorry for.
Ever since Najib Razak embarked on his meet-the-ordinary-Malaysians sessions in the wake of his fall from grace, he has endeared himself to them to the extent that he has earned the moniker “bossku”, particularly from his young Malay working-class supporters.
And recently at a political ceramah in the run-up to the Rantau by-election, the former prime minister even claimed that many Malaysians came up to see him and apparently offered apologies for having believed the “slander” that was purportedly propagated by the Pakatan Harapan government, particularly over his alleged key involvement in the 1MDB scandal.
Malaysians, he declared, have now realised that these allegations aren’t true and, as a result, have become remorseful. This prompted him to say in jest: “I suggest we set up an ‘apology room’ for those who want to apologise to me.”
Najib’s apparent gloating in his effort to clear his name among the general public seems too premature, given that he had only attended the first day of what promises to be a lengthy SRC International trial. The final judgment has yet to come.
Although there might exist a number of people who have given support and offered apologies to Najib, one could not possibly assume that a huge number of people are indeed involved. The impression offered here is that a supposedly big number of people he met had vindicated him.
What we are certain about at this point, though, is that there were individuals who suffered as a result of having political views that were incongruent with Najib’s or those of his administration. In other words, those who were critical of his political leadership.
One example that easily comes to mind is political cartoonist Zunar. Always mocking the former prime minister and his flamboyant wife, Zunar bore witness to his cartoon books being confiscated and his art exhibitions disrupted. He had several legal charges levelled against him, and his overseas travel was banned.
Other examples: a local news outlet that was critical of his administration was shut down for three months, and journalists generally had to work under a cloud of uncertainty especially when any particular uncomfortable truth (to the powers that be) was expected to be tampered with.
Malaysian voters felt short-changed when there was gerrymandering occurring during Najib’s time as prime minister, dispersing certain constituents to areas away from their original residence. Why, certain voters’ names were reported to have disappeared from the list.
This is apart from the fact that voters were made to go back home to vote in the middle of the week, incurring various forms of inconvenience as a result.
Ordinary folks suffered too, particularly Felda settlers, owing to the mismanagement of the government agency. Similarly, there were ordinary people and members adversely affected by the mismanagement of Tabung Haji, Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (Armed Forces Fund Board) and so on, which occurred during the Najib administration.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was then leading the opposition pact prior to taking over Putrajaya, was not spared either. The nonagenarian was ill-treated in a contemptuous and infantile manner when the authorities directed that his picture in PH electoral campaign posters be cut out so that there were literally holes in those posters.
Furthermore, PH was prevented from using its electoral symbol at the last general election. They were forced to make use of Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s symbol instead, which was aimed at confusing the electorate as a whole.
With the terrible things that happened, such as the ones mentioned above, during Najib’s tenure as prime minister, we wonder who qualifies best to occupy the “apology room” that he imagined.